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We Built an Album

Jun 22, 2010 Seabear
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The music of Icelandic collective Seabear does nothing to counter the common misconception that all the country does is pump out ethereal harmonies with otherworldly grace. The Jónsi-recommended band has gathered a string of positive reactions from fans and press alike for charming recent release, We Built a Fire, their first since bandleader Sindri Már Sigfússon expanded the project from a solo affair to official full band.

Under the Radar caught up with bandleader Sigfússon via email, who told us about his forays into visual art, a childhood filled with Michael Jackson, and the (potential) calming effects the new album might have on misbehaving kids.

Laura Studarus: Describe the recording process for the new album. I understand it was very “back to basics.” Has it changed as you evolved to a full band?

Sindri Már Sigfússon: Yes it was pretty much standard band way of making a record. Making them up in the rehearsal room, playing a few live and then recording them. When I was doing the first album and my solo album it was more made up as it went along with the recordings. For the album we, of course, tried a few different things, so the songs don’t sound exactly like they do live but they’re pretty close.

The new album feels a bit more aggressive than your previous work. Did you bring any new influences to the table this time?

I think when you are touring and playing live, a lot the songs tend to get faster and louder, so I guess that probably influenced the new songs. We all have pretty different music taste so it all mixes together, I guess.

Describe the evolution from solo project to seven-member band. Was it an “everyone in” kind of moment, or did you add member by member?

Everyone started out as session players but as we played more live we just all of the sudden had a set lineup of people.

How does collaborative songwriting compare to solo-songwriting? Was there a bit of a learning curve?

I think it was pretty easy to write together as we have played a lot together the last few years. When I’m writing for my solo stuff it takes a bit shorter though, and it’s more made up as I go along.

Tell us about the title We Built a Fire. Does it have a particular meaning for you?

We wanted to use something from the lyrics of the album. I guess it kind of means we did this together. But it also just sounds nice and I think the words are funny together. To build a fire sounds kind of strange.

How do the new songs translate to a live setting?

It’s changed quite a bit over the years. Now we always have a horn player with us. Some parts are really slow and delicate while others are upbeat and fun.

How do you balance Seabear and your solo project (Sin Fang Bous)? How do they influence each other?

I’m doing my solo thing most of the time. We do band stuff when we’re together now. Like practicing together and stuff. In the day when I go to the studio I just work on my solo thing.

Why did you choose to sing in English?

No special reason. I guess when you start making music you want to do something like your musical heroes and all my favorite musicians sing in English. And I mean since I was 5-6 years old (Michael Jackson and Prince at that time). But singing in Icelandic isn’t out of the picture for me at some point. I think the most important question with music is always just, is it good?

What are your first musical memories? Which songs, albums, music defined your childhood?

Listening to Michael Jackson a lot and singing along in my Sony recorder thing. Also trying to convince my mother that Bruce Springsteen was singing “Born in a USA” not “Born in the USA.”

Iceland tends to be generalized as a place filled with ethereal music. How would you describe your sound?

I’m not sure how I would describe our sound. I think the songs on the album are a bit here and there, style-wise. I don’t know if we break the mold in any way but when we are working we like to think, ‘how would we do this in a way that it wouldn’t be typical,’ but I’m not sure if that translates out in the music or if it’s just some hidden stuff for us to enjoy.

You’re an amazing visual artist, what’s your favorite medium? How do you feel your art and your music inform each other?

Well that’s very kind of you to say. I like to draw and paint and when I’m doing that I like to listen to music a lot. Some people have compared my music to my drawings as being lots of layers put on top of each other.

In several interviews with other magazines. [Seabear member] Soley Stefánsdóttir, has mentioned the importance of the “tour tattoo.” How did that tradition come about?

The boys in the band have a few tattoos that we’ve gotten on tour together and we’re always drawing in a little book in the tour. Sometimes the drawings end up as tattoos.

Where do you see Seabear heading in the future? Do you have a five or ten year plan?

We’ll be touring a bit now and then starting to work on a new album when we feel like it.

In an Internet-filled world, it seems we can get our hands on any info. What would your growing fan base be surprised to learn about you?

The German musician Scooter called our first album “Music to calm down naughty children” in a German music magazine intro.



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square peg web
June 22nd 2010

When I was doing the first album and my solo album it was more made up as it went along with the recordings. For the album we, of course, tried a few different things, so the songs don’t sound exactly like they do live but they’re pretty close.

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April 16th 2012

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Helen Nicole
July 2nd 2012

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