Sound studio

‘You can hear the sound of Sigur Rós. I like to describe him as being a bit introverted’

Lyrics by Ollie Midson

Sigur Rós was once considered by the general public to be one of the weirdest bands in the world, hailing from one of the weirdest lands in the world.

Iceland is, after all, a country where darkness shrouds the country for nine months of the year and the summer days seem to never end. This however never hindered the career of Sigur Rós, who returned to the world stage, announcing a new album to come and a world tour which will take place in Australia this month.

We caught up with Georg “Goggi” Holm on Zoom to talk about this upcoming series of shows and what’s happened in the past, present and future for Sigur Rós.

Read Melbourne’s most comprehensive range of articles and interviews here.

BM: First of all, welcome to Australia, we are delighted to have you. Are you all happy to be back on tour after the last few years?

G: Yes, absolutely. We originally planned to start the tour we were on a little early, but, you know, plans have changed, like everything that’s been going on lately (especially in the music industry music). But, that didn’t matter much, it wasn’t that big of a difference. It was a little scary at first, stepping out into this “semi-post-COVID” world. We hadn’t played a gig in years, so it was a bit strange and nerve-wracking. We weren’t 100% sure what was going to happen. But when we first got on stage and played that first note, that was exactly how it was supposed to be. Everything went very well.

As you mentioned earlier, COVID has presented many challenges for everyone around the world. While Jónsi was stuck in Los Angeles, were you able to continue caring for Sigur Rós, despite the circumstances?

For most of the COVID time, we weren’t doing much music together. There is always communication between us but it was definitely strange, especially for Jónsi to be stuck in Los Angeles, while his family is in Iceland. It was kind of weird for him to be away from everyone for so long. Even before COVID was…not really “over”, we had already started working a bit, and it was definitely weird, meeting in the studio and playing with masks and doing COVID tests. But we got it and in a weird way it also became completely normal.

This tour also marks the return of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson to the band. How was this first studio session with him after his nine-year absence?

It’s a good question! It was really interesting for us. When we started rehearsing for the tour, we made a really long list of songs that we wanted to try out and see which ones we would play live. As soon as we started playing, it was really natural. It’s hard to describe, but it was like he never left. It was…I’m not going to say it didn’t seem “special” – it was very special – but it was completely normal, in a weird way. It was kind of like “this is the part that’s been missing for a while”, like finding something. Certainly fantastic.

Sigur Rós seems like a musical chameleon who covers several different musical ideas with every album you release. For example, 2012 Valtari is a very ambient and ethereal album while your 2013 record Kveikur is very dark and abrasive. What sounds and tones can we expect to hear on this new album you recently announced?

It’s always interesting for us when we start a record. It has a life of its own. We usually try to mix the methods of making the album, and this album is definitely different again (laughs). You can hear the Sigur Rós sound in the music, I don’t think you can ever pull it off. Kjartan actually described it earlier as “simpler”. It’s not as rhythm-based as our last records, and it’s more expansive. It sounds big and it wraps you up a bit. I like to describe him as a little introverted.

This year marks the 20e anniversary of your third album “( )”. Do you have any exciting plans to celebrate this milestone?

Yes, we certainly have plans. I’m not 100% sure I have the right to talk about it yet, but there will be things happening this year to celebrate the record. I promise that. I recently listened to the entire record again for the first time in a long time. In fact, it surprised me a bit. In my head, it was just the pain of creating it, because it was a very difficult record to make. We ended up scrapping it about four or five times, and it was a very slow process, to make this record. And when I listened to it again twenty years later, it just took me by surprise how good it sounded and how good it was..

In 2020 you released a lost recording from 2002 titled Odin’s raven magic, which was an hour-long orchestral piece inspired by the ancient Norse poem of the same name. What was the writing for that like compared to your typical Sigur Rós record?

Odin’s Raven Magic was recorded so many years ago that it was weird stuff. A friend of ours came to see us for a festival in Iceland and asked us to create this piece of music for him. We did it, I think, five or six times altogether. It was something that was supposed to come out years and years ago.

It was shot in Paris and was to be released as a film. We tried more than once to get it to work, but it never went well. So we decided to, maybe, let it go. It seemed such a shame that he was sitting there collecting dust, basically. So we just had to take it out. But to answer your question, it was a very different project. We’ve done projects before where we had to create music for something else, like dance pieces and movies. It’s always a different approach.

With Kveikur, for example, the change of method dictated what happened. We didn’t have a studio at the time, so we rented a loft in Reykjavik and started writing songs. And they were very basic at first; they sounded more like an attitude than a song. We started creating all kinds of different sounds and atmospheres and it was just a matter of putting it together. It was an interesting album to create and it was definitely louder and more aggressive than anything we had done in the past. I don’t know where that came from, but it was interesting how things turned out.

The art direction for your new live show, designed in collaboration with Bruno Poet, Sarah Hopper, Damian Hale and Matt Daw, is unlike anything we’ve seen before. What was the inspiration behind the geometric light and rope sculptures that envelop the stage?

Whenever we start thinking about a tour, it’s always something that comes up. What do we do? What does the show look like? In fact, we originally thought we weren’t going to do anything, just have very simple lights. But it kind of evolved (in typical Sigur Rós style) into something completely different. I don’t remember exactly how the geometry came about, but I remember when we first saw it, we were like, “Wow! Alright, that’s great. We should play with that. You can twist and turn these things and they will just change the whole atmosphere. It’s a very simple way to make a visual impact, I think. It kind of ties into our original idea of ​​making everything really simple.

Sigur Rós continues his world tour along the east coast of Australia this week, more details below.

Sigur Rós Australian Tour Dates

  • Tuesday 09 August 2022 – Fortitude Music Hall – Brisbane (EXHAUSTED)
  • Wed 10 August 2022 – Fortitude Music Hall – Brisbane
  • Fri August 12, 2022 – Aware Super Theater – Sydney
  • Sat August 13, 2022 – MCA – Melbourne

Tickets available here. Keep track of the band here.