Interview: NOËP’s Andres Kõpper
15. June 2017
“Two years ago, I had a problem: I saw Rhianna in my dreams, every night in a row, for a week.” Andres Kõpper had only been off-stage at Tallinn Music Week for twenty minutes, but already things were getting weird. The one-man success story behind NOEP had just debuted a new single, Jennifer Lawrence, and was explaining why he seemed to like naming songs after women. “In one dream Rhianna performed here in Tallinn. I thought, maybe I should do something, so I thought about covering a song, then I wrote one.”
He didn’t meet J-Law in his dreams, though. “In Jennifer Lawrence, there’s a story in the song, where I meet a girl – in the song – and play this game of giving fake names. She gave the name Jennifer Lawrence, because she thought that was extra-cool. It just so happened that it fitted well into the song, too! But that’s not something I do in real life, though…”
Kõpper, a tall, slim man with a fashionable slicked-back combover and the kind of chiselled male-model looks that would make him a must-pick for any Scandinavian boyband, seemed to wear his recently-found fame well. It wasn’t arrogance – he spend a long time posing with fans and tried to fulfill every last selfie request before coming backstage at Tallinn’s Club Venus for the interview – but the Estonian singer-songwriter-producer just seemed comfortable in his skin, as if he had come to terms with his songs being sung loudly back at him.
Those songs are high-end dancefloor-fillers, too. Rhianna is a raucous stomper with Kõpper narrating through a pitch machine his imagined conversation with the superstar. Rooftop is perhaps his most recognisable song, a nostalgia binge that everyone can relate to, taking it back to those free parties with a portable CD player and a gang of mates on the roof. Move was the breakthrough, though. It’s electrifying live, with Kõpper playing the audience as he hits his drum-pad and sings the surprisingly plaintive melody. Kõpper might be confident and calm these days, at least outwardly, but fame wasn’t always a given.
“At first it surprised me. I remember a year and a half ago, when Move had been out for almost half a year, my friend called me from Spain and told me the track was in the Spanish Viral Top 50 [on Spotify], in ninth place! I checked other countries, and it was in the Viral chart in 20 of them! Since then it’s been about getting the next songs out, and it’s been cool.”
Though Estonians are patriotic about NOEP, and will support their favourite act wherever he goes on tour, Kõpper felt his songs hit home even with audiences unfamiliar with them. “One of the coolest gigs I’ve had was Finland – I played at Flow. The crowd was super-supportive. Considering it was a foreign country, and there weren’t that many Estonians in the crowd – I asked – the atmosphere was great. French people have always seemed really receptive to my music, too.”
The journey to being a one-man band, producing, DJing, MCing and singing for himself, came “quite naturally,” Kõpper said. “I used to be in a band, and I made demos for them, and I thought after a while, ‘damn, I like the demos more!’ I released Move, and it went from there.”
Even so, inspiration was sometimes easiest to come by when working in a team, he explained. “I had a quite productive songwriter’s camp recently, where I managed to produce two pretty neat tracks. I’m not sure who will perform those – maybe a Latin girl and an Estonian boy-band, but they sounded cool. I love writing together with other people, because there’s instant feedback, and if you click together with someone and you trust their taste, the pace of work gets 50% faster. Sometimes you run out of ideas… those fantasies and ideas come much faster when you’re in a situation with other people and you have to write something. Sometimes people say one line, and it gets you started on a thought that might become a song.”
The plan was to tour through the summer with Jennifer Lawrence and NOEP’s other singalong bangers, and then to bring the audience some new thrills. “There are still a lot of tracks that I haven’t released, because some of the other songs [released instead] have been more radio-friendly, so there might be a portion of songs later on, too.”
In some ways, Kõpper is Estonia’s answer to Calvin Harris, the DJ who stepped up and became his own frontman, and is now a megastar. Like Harris, being part of the mainstream wasn’t something that bothered Kõpper. “ I have thought about it, but the thing is, I listen to quite a lot of mainstream songs. There are a lot that I don’t want to reach my eardrums, but I’ve thought that, as long as I like my tracks, I don’t care if it’s mainstream of alternative or whatever.”
TEXT STUART GARLICK, PHOTO MART VARES