Sigur Rós on Their New Norður og Niður Holiday Arts Festival

Mixed Media

May 08, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Their ethos could be called mixed media. For as long as Sigur Rós has been recording and releasing music, since the mid-'90s, the Icelandic band has complicated their craft, each album steeped in intensity and intimacy, heaviness and delicacy, darkness and light. Their live show creates transcendent moments of beauty even as projected images haunt and disturb the audience.

Consider it par for the course, then, that Sigur Rós' latest undertaking, Norður og Niður, is a six-day festival at Reykjavik's Harpa venue from December 26 - 31 celebrating light and life, according to founding member Georg Holm. It's also translated "everything is going to hell." It's art and music, dance, and interactivity. There's also something to do with Christmas songs, although as Holm says, it's "not at all what you'd expect."

If anything, that's the only thing any of us would expect from Sigur Rós.

Matt Conner (Under the Radar) You've got a bit of time before you leave again for some tour dates in North America. How busy are you feeling?

Georg Holm (Sigur Rós): Yeah, we leave in a couple weeks again to start the tour again and there are always the logistical things. You need to ship equipment to another place and so on, so there will always be gaps. There are so many things that we're currently working on as well at the moment. We're planning an event here in Iceland. We're also trying to work on new music, very slowly. [Laughs] It doesn't help that we're currently on tour, but at the same time, Orri [Páll Dýrason] is currently living in London. Jonsi [Birgisson] is in L.A. for half the year and half the year, he's in Iceland. I live in Reykjavik, so we're juggling time and distance.

Is that a newer hurdle for the band or have you learned to navigate this for a bit?

It's definitely been done before. I used to live in England, myself actually, and then me and my family lived in Spain as well. We've always had to deal with us being sometimes in separate countries, but it's usually not that complicated. But you know, it's really not that complicated. We decide, "Okay, we should take two weeks now and work on some new music." Then we do. Maybe the new hurdle is that we're doing it on tour while we're on tour at the same time. [Laughs] So it's extra difficult when we're touring and we live in separate countries at the moment while we work on new music. We've made a lot of new music and we have a lot of stuff at the moment. It's just a matter of finishing it. We're in good shape, musically.

You've been at this for some time and you said you're in good shape, musically. Do you still connect now to the act of making music as you did when you were first starting? Or does some of the motivation change?

When you're young and you form a band and you're making music, you're very idealistic about everything that you're doing. I guess we still are in a lot of ways, but it also changes a bit. We still enjoy it a lot.

As much as you did?

Absolutely. But the way you do it changes because your life changes at the same time. You have a family and you grow up and you get older. Time schedule is different. All of a sudden you can't make something because you have to pick up your kids, you know? [Laughs] But there's definitely still enjoyment in what we're doing. We still love it.

I just asked because you mentioned having to hurdle this or that to make new music and it made me wonder whether you ever stopped to consider whether there was even going to be new music before you decided to hurdle something?

For us, it's like, "Should we get together and make something new?" Usually if we get together, we make something new. It's usually easy like that for us. We might, like at the moment, have a hard time finding the time to finish what we created, but we always have loads of ideas. There's always something new coming up. We always have the want to create something new, so it's really just about finding the time to do it.

That seems rare, what you're saying, in the life of a veteran band. I've talked so many bands that talk about the ease of the first album and the difficulty to continue to find new musical ideas over time.

That's not hard. I guess what becomes harder is keeping the focus and finding the time to finish it. The music and the notes and the ideas are all easy to find. To completely finish a song or an album for that matter becomes harder to do, or maybe we're just becoming a bit lazy as well. [Laughs] You just want someone to come in so you can say, "Hey, here's this great idea. Can you just finish it for me?" [Laughs]

You mentioned the upcoming Icelandic event: Norður og Niður. Is this because you haven't played in Iceland for a bit?

The last time we played in Iceland was on our last tour back in 2013. Iceland is an island in the North Atlantic, so logistically it can sometimes be difficult because we like to put on a show. We like people who come to our show to have an experience, so it's usually difficult to do that in Iceland because we need so much equipment. The logistics are always in our way. We don't play a lot of low-key shows. We like to put on the full visual and audio experience.

Playing in Iceland is something we discuss almost from the beginning when we're planning a tour. It's not always that we can do it in the beginning but usually at the end when we're shipping equipment back to Iceland anyway, so it usually becomes the last show on a tour. This time we wanted to do something different. We didn't want to do the show we always play. We wanted to do something unique.

We have an amazing concert hall in Iceland and it's a special building, but we've always felt, all of us, that it's not used in the right way. We wanted to give it a new life, basically. We're going to take over the building. [Laughs] There will be loads of events you can go to. While you might have to buy a ticket for some, there will also be loads of free events. All of it will be unique and it will be going on all over the building.

You've got art installations and other sorts of elements, right?

We've got loads of ideas, but there are not many I can confirm right now. We will be playing four shows but we're still working on everything else. I can definitely promise a very unique experience and some of the ideas, to be honest, are quite outrageous. [Laughs] It's going to be fun. We don't want it to be too serious but fun. It's not a music festival or an art festival, but we'll definitely have art installations and dance pieces and bands playing and events that will be kind of weird. There will also be something involving Christmas music. I can tell you that.

By the way, will you guys ever record a Christmas album?

We did a song once, but it was a cover. Maybe one day. We're always talking about writing a Christmas song, actually, and we came close once, but we never finished that one.

Once again, finishing is the problem. [Laughs] The name of the event, Norður og Niður, means something akin to "everything is going to hell," is that right? What's behind that?

Yes, it's called Norður og Niður. You can use this phrase in at least a couple different situations. You can say it as if everything is simply going to hell or everything is going wrong. You can also say it to a person as a person, as in the person can just go to hell. We tried to come up with a concept or name for the event and Christmas is, at least in old Icelandic heathen times, a celebration of light. It's the winter solstice and the light is coming back. We thought, "That's interesting. Maybe we should celebrate light in some way." But it's also a little Satanic in some ways. We should celebrate light and life in this very serious concert hall and make it not so serious. Iceland has a dark humor, so it really fits in with everything. [Laughs]

www.sigur-ros.co.uk

 

 

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May 22nd 2017
12:45am

Each album of Sigur Rós steeped in intensity and intimacy!