SÓLSTAFIR is most certainly one of the most prominent bands from Iceland, who steadily and patiently build their way up. The new album “Berdreyminn” brought them at least one step closer. Dark and serious, emotional and touching, it intrigues on so many levels. Aðalbjörn Addi Tryggvason, the singer and one of the band’s composers talked about the new album and how the band creates their music.
Your new album has got a very good feedback right when it comes out. Everybody loves it.
Addi: Oh, thank you, that’s great!
It seems that you’re a band that doesn’t disappoint!
Do you think about that people are expecting a lot from you when you write new music?
Addi: No, no, you cannot be really writing music like that. All our albums are different. It’s not like we try to make them different. You are a few years older, you go through more stuff. But I guess we have high standards, we are our own critics. We don’t usually write a lot of music. Normally we write around eight or ten songs every three years, that’s not a lot. There is a lot of filtering. We’ve never been confident that we would write a masterpiece in four days.
But when you write music, how do you do it in a three-year period?
Addi: Obviously, we don’t have three years because ten years ago we became a touring band. Before that we could use a year. We wrote our first album in three months. Now we put a lot of time and effort into it. We sit down to write when everyone is available and we write music constantly for three months. You can build a house or make a movie in three months if you want, three months is a lot of time. Someone comes with a part which is going to go through dozens of filters and ideas bouncing. A drum fill can be talked about for days. Anyone would come up with an idea, but the idea disappears, but it evolves into something bigger. “I wrote a song, let’s try my song”, that has never happened. The magic of being in a band.
So, everyone has his part in composing?
Addi: Yes, but sometimes a member would write the core of the song, all the parts, but then there is a discussion how should this be choired and so on.
Are you all perfectionist?
Addi: Em… I’m probably the boring one. I’ll nag the most or I’ll interfere the most. It’s always been like that, everybody in the band knows it. When I get too picky, they tell me. Being in a band is like being in a marriage. It can be complicated.
How have you progressed as musicians? The new album is kind of different from the previous one but everyone can still hear that it’s Solstafir and not some other band. How do you manage to be different but authentic?
Addi: We never decided to be far or close from the last album. We’ve never even been close to that discussion. I don’t know if any of us has progressed as a musician, we feel like we are the same musicians with a bit different mind. You can discover a new band, or you can lose a loved one… I know we will be the same musician on the next album, we’ll just write different songs. We always try not to repeat ourselves in song writing. Having a standard beat has become weird for us, we are used to so many variations in trying not to repeat ourselves. I think we are more confident after writing music for fifteen years. I know that if we sit down we will write a good song.
So, you’re confident in your experience basically?
Addi: Yeah, but it’s like a good marriage. The sex life is not going to be the greatest after one day, but when you know each other you can sort of communicate without talking. You can write music without talking. That’s the magic.
How was the recording process?
Addi: We recorded some demos. We just went to the studio and obviously recorded the drums first. We don’t really plan, we just decide on the spot what we are going to do next. We know we are going to come up with an album.
But do you stress a lot while you’re in the studio? Are you perfectionist there too?
Addi: Yes, of course. I don’t like calling myself a perfectionist, somebody would probably call me an asshole. Some people are more vocal than others, but if it doesn’t bring bad blood, if you still can maintain friendship and respect, it is fine.
All the lyrics are in Icelandic. How does that influence your musical expression?
Addi: Well, the weird thing is that we seldom hear complaints and people asking us why we don’t sing in English. We don’t hear those questions.
Yes, but that’s because Icelandic is a very charming language!
Addi: Yes! It sounds like an effect, like a guitar effect. It’s like an effect pedal, you put an effect pedal for the guitar, language is the effect for vocals. Rammstein wouldn’t sound as good in English. I don’t think Sigur Ros would have sounded as good if they sang in English. But we don’t really use it because we think it sounds better. The reason was basal that I started singing cleaner in Icelandic, and for that, it needs to be more personal to be true for myself, I needed to feel comfortable. When I sing, it should be from the heart and it’s easier and more comfortable to sing soft stuff when it is from the heart.
Does that mean that you prefer to sing soft stuff?
Addi: It’s the same as with big gigs or small clubs, I like it all. I like both. Solstafir is my favorite band because we write our favorite music. I don’t really listen to slow music, I’m not a fan of slow music, I like up-tempo music, but I like playing slow music. I don’t like to listen to it. That’s why I like being in this band, I can sing soft or I can go all over to Tom Araya singing “Angel of Death”. The variation of vocal range is what I like.
What is your opinion about music from Iceland, about an artist from Iceland? Is there something you all have in common apart from the country and the language of course?
Addi: Apart from that we all believe in Odin’s raven magic.
Does everyone from Iceland believe in that?
Addi: (laugh) Everyone believes in Odin’s raven magic. That’s why we’re all so fucked. I think the isolation creates a certain mentality.
So, you don’t think it is more difficult for bands from Iceland to tour other countries? Since it’s an island and you must fly whenever you want to go?
Addi: It’s always more difficult being a band from Iceland and going on tour than being a band from Holland or Germany, that’s the downside but the upside is sounded sexier and more exotic being from Iceland than a band from Dusseldorf in Germany. Our friends say they envy us for being from Iceland because it sounds more exotic.
I read somewhere that your music was described as “moody metal that’s heavy on atmosphere”. Do you agree?
Addi: I agree on so many terms and I disagree on almost as many terms. There is so much stuff that’s been used to describe our music…
But it’s very complicated to describe it, don’t you agree?
Addi: Yes, but I’ve always thought about the time when a band reaches that point when people stop to describe. You would say that Nine Inch Nails is Nine Inch Nails, you wouldn’t say it’s industrial. You wouldn’t say that Pink Floyd is hippie rock. It’s Pink Floyd. So, if people would say that Solstafir is Solstafir, I would say thank you, that’s the greatest compliment ever.
I would like you now to choose one of the tracks from the new album and tell me the story behind it.
Addi: Well, “Bláfjall” is certainly one of my favorites and it’s the last track. I had this idea from a long time ago that I really wanted to combine church organ with drums beats. I’ve always wanted to try those things. We managed to do that. I have both soft and yelling vocals, which I both like doing. I’m really pleased with that song. The lyrics is some sort of – imagine if you grow up somewhere and you hate the place, you really hate it, you think it is the worst place ever, the worst place on earth. You think it stands for everything that’s rotten and evil and you leave that place and swear that you’ll never ever come back. Never! But on your journey, something happens, so a few years later you decide to come back to the place you hated. And when you come back to the town you think it’s the most beautiful and peaceful place on earth. Something has changed, but you can’t really tell what it is.
Is there something you wanted to say about the new album that I haven’t asked about?
Addi: I think this is not an album you’re going to love after hearing it for the first time. I think it’s an album you must listen a few times to decide if you like it or not. All the tracks are so individual, they are different from one another… We had no idea which song to put out first, so we decided to put out the most obscure tracks. We put “Ísafold”, more obscure than anything that we’ve done before, but if you listen to the album you can hear that it’s not an obscure album. It’s still the same band. Some people say it’s completely different, some say that it is a perfect continuation of “Ótta”. I don’t know if either is true or false, it’s a new album. If you expect us to make the same album as before, then you’re listening to the wrong band. We’ll never make the same album twice. You were really mistaken if you thought that this album would sound like “Ótta”.
But, anyway, people around me are very satisfied and they love “Berdreyminn”
Addi: Thank you! I’m pleased to hear that!