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Sigur Rós: Same Energy, Different Sound

18 March 2013

Icelandic enchanters Sigur Rós have returned after four years off. They’ve a new sound, and a world tour that is sure to build on their reputation for spectacular shows, but some things do remain the same – such as an unrelenting passion for our capital city – as London Calling discovers.

One of Iceland's biggest musical exports of all time, Sigur Rós, have enchanted millions of fans around the world with their unique, unmistakable sound.

After the release of their 2008 album Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, the band went on temporary hiatus with frontman Jonsi Birgisson embarking on a solo career, but the band returned with an astounding sixth studio album Valtari last summer, which shifted over 11,000 copies in its first week of release.

Having just kicked off a world tour at Brixton Academy, the band will take in dates in the US, Canada, Japan, China, Germany and Belgium before returning to headline a spectacular Eden Session on Sunday June 30 at Cornwall’s Eden Project.

And while their time in London was more fleeting than lead singer Jonsi would have liked, he’s quick to declare the capital as the arguably the music capital of the world.

“Does anywhere come close? Really?” he begins. “We see so many different cities and take in so many different cultures, but London has a bit of absolutely everything, and I’m not sure there’s any other capital city that can boast that. It’s a great place to pick up influences and inspiration from, and it feels alive. You can sense it in the air – there is always something exciting and different.”

It was a four-year break between albums – why did the band take so much time off from each other? “It was long but we always knew we would get back together – that was always the case. I just think we needed a long break after we had been touring so much, for many years.

“We were all so tired and we had a break because everyone was having a baby. Personally, I used the time to make an album with my boyfriend and released my solo album, so we took a good break but it was really nice to come back with the guys again and start working. It felt like a big reunion.”

Going back to last year’s album, and Valtari actually has its roots earlier still, in a 2003 collaboration with the 16 Choir at London’s Barbican Centre on the band’s unreleased orchestral work Odin’s Raven Magic.

“That’s what I mean about London influences. You’ve got to side with people from the music scene here because their interpretation will always be original and different. They will bring the fabric of the city into their music, and subsequently, into your music. It’s a global scene these days, but London is at the heart of it.”

And what about the band’s favourite venues?

“I’ll often think of Camden, but of course Brixton Academy has been rocking for years and years. I also like the open-air stuff. Hyde Park gigs have the sanity of their surroundings but they’re mammoth events.”

Back to the music, and on their new material Jonsi’s lead vocals perhaps make less of an impact perhaps than in previous albums. Does that create an unusual dynamic for the live shows that followed, and can we bank on a return to the capital later this year? “There are a couple of instrumental tracks on the album and maybe there’s more soundscaping going on. I think you have to move on from one record to the next, for your own sake really.

“As for coming back to London, well there’s no doubt we will. Nothing is set in stone yet but it won’t be another four years until we return, that’s for certain!”

Sigur Rós are clearly in a happy place right now, albeit for one thing... The band has not been best pleased about the frequent inclusion of their signature tune, Hoppipolla, on British television. “The national TV here doesn’t have to ask permission to use songs in the background of TV shows, so they can just take it and use it and that happened a lot with Hoppipolla.”

Has this left the band a little disillusioned given that their music is used so much? “No, but you become self-conscious,” Kjartan chips in. “You think this doesn’t work well with the scene, if it’s in a movie.”

However, the band had no problem with Hoppipolla being used to promote the pioneering 2006 BBC nature show Planet Earth. “The David Attenborough show was cool, though,” he continues. “We’re all big fans of his. We reserve the right to be picky!”

 

Sigur Rós will headline a 2013 Eden Session on Sunday June 30 at Cornwall’s spectacular Eden Project.

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