Jónsi at Coachella 2010
Go(ing) it Alone
May 05, 2010
Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Web Exclusive
Earlier this year Sigur Rós bandleader Jónsi Birgisson released Go simply under his first name. The nine-song solo outing is filled with vibrant colors, dense orchestration, and Jónsi's ethereal falsetto. The music inspired an equally theatrical stage show, featuring sets and visuals from Fifty Nine Productions.
Under the Radar caught up with Jónsi at Coachella where he told us about his new solo sound, surprising dream collaborators, and the unexpected bands he enjoyed growing up.
Laura Studarus: How does touring with yourself compare to touring with Sigur Rós?
Jónsi: It's a little bit different I'd have to say. It's strange to be playing with a new band. But in a good way. I really like it. It's just healthy for me to try new players and stuff like that. It's strange to be playing your own stuff, like only your own songs. I haven't thought about it that much, I'm trying not to think too much about things. I'm kind of just going with the flow a little bit. I think if you start to think too much about things you get really scared. So I'm trying to just enjoy all this.
Are you enjoying it?
Yeah! It's been amazing. It's really funny, we've only played like six shows so far on the tour, and it's been really really fun. I'm really enjoying it.
How would you describe your solo sound verses Sigur Rós' sound?
I think the main thing is there are different performers. Different players, different musicians. Working with different people and producers and engineers. The drummer, the Finnish drummer, he brought a lot of different drumming. He's a little bit different than our other drummer. He's more percussive. Like, percussive drums maybe. And also Nico Muhly, the arranger for the album, is more crazy. You know? Crazy arranger, like "lalalalla!" all over the place. So it's much more crazy. In a good way, I think. Sigur Rós is more like dreamy landscapes and floaty. This is much more like, "Ahhh!" Like crazy.
Tell me a bit about your special touring sets. The photos are pretty incredible.
It's been really cool actually, really exciting. The guy who did it, the English guy comes from an Odeon theater background. They worked on a lot of productions and animations and things like that. They came to Iceland, I showed them songs and told them about the lyrics and what the song was about, told them about the animals lurking around in the background when I was doing the album, wolves howling, and birds flapping their wings, and bees buzzing, and all the animals in the background. And they went from there and created their own show. It's really really, really beautiful. I'm really excited about it.
Did you choose them or did they approach you?
We chose them. We went to see some of their live theater shows and we were really impressed by them.
About a year ago you did the Riceboy Sleeps album with Alex Somers. Are you planning any other collaborations?
Yeah, maybe in the future. It took us five years. So maybe in the next five years we'll have some other album out. I don't know, it was fun though. Really cool.
Are there any other people you're hoping to collaborate with?
If I do another solo album it would be fun to do some kind of beat thing, with Jay-Z or something like that.
Are you thinking of doing another solo album?
I think it would be really fun. In between this touring I'm doing now and the rest of the year I'm definitely going to work with the Sigur Rós guys. We'll work on a new album. Maybe a new album in 2011. But in between that it would be fun to do a solo. It would be really fun.
So you you're definitely looking to go back with Sigur Rós?
I think so. Definitely.
I know a lot of people who are holding their breath for that.
Yeah, definitely. It'll be really cool.
So when you have so many projects and you're busy touring, how do you stay inspired?
I don't know. I think it's really inspiring to be on tour. You do a lot of traveling, see a lot of different places, meet different people. I think it's really exciting. Playing for different people, it's nice to get your music out there for people to hear. It's really fun.
Is there anyone here today that you're particularly looking forward to seeing?
I want to see Owen Pallet. I've seen him play before, it's really fun. But I think we have to leave quite early, so I can't see that much. And Sly and the Family Stone is here. That's kind of amazing!
Did you grow up listening to that kind of music?
Yeah, I listened to them a lot. I really like them.
What other music did you grow up listening to?
Metallica, Iron Maiden, and AC/DC. I used to grow up listening to heavy metal.
Really? I wouldn't have guessed that!
Yeah, I know, kind of crazy. I used to be a big metal kid when I was growing up. Then very slowly I started to listen to my parent's record collection, all the hippie music, then to grunge, and then to ambient. There's a lot of different genres you go though.
What do you think is the thing people would be most surprised to know about you, other than your metal past?
Humm, I don't know. Gay? [Laughs]
[Laughs] I know! Shocking!
Gay and grew up on Metallica.
Yeah, that's good! I don't know, I'm also a secret techno lover. I love Euro trance techno. I think it's the gay man in me that comes out.
Is there anyone you'd recommend?
No, I don't know the names of the bands actually, I just like when I hear it on the radio!
Are there any bands from Iceland that you think should have more exposure in America?
Yeah, there's one band called Seabear. And Sin Fan Bous, which is his side project. I really like that stuff. It's really good.
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