To read the Spanish version of this interview, click here.
The Icelandic band Rökkurró is determined to break with their past on their new album. At least musically. And although they are very reserved and avoid disclosing every detail about it, we can tell you that their sound will be more danceable and less ethereal. Even though their second album Í Annan Heim (In Another World), published in 2010, managed to be among best selling albums in their native Iceland for more than 64 weeks. The record was produced by Baltimore artist and musician Alex Somers (Jónsi, Sin Fang) and provided confirmation of the excellent reviews debut Það kólnar í kvöld í (Tonight It’s Getting Cold) received three years before. Our interview with band singer Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir begins with this background and big intrigue about how the ‘new Rökkurró sound’ will be.
More than seven years since the band formed and now you’re working on your third album. Have you guys experienced many changes since the start? I mean, not only musically.
There have been lots of changes, naturally. The original line up has changed some. When we started, we were five members that knew each other a little from high school. We had no specific plan on what kind of music we wanted to make when we were starting, so of course that aspect has changed drastically. Since then, two of the original members dropped out, but we have gotten to new members with new influence instead. Today, we know what we want to do musically and we’re exploring new grounds on the new album. Our style has changed with each album and on this album we’re trying out new things that we’re really excited about.
How are these changes being reflected in your music? Are there any references to current economic and political situation on your songs?
There are big changes, but I don’t want to spill the beans before we release anything! I think now we’re more just letting the ideas come to us and working them in the way the come, not trying to adopt them to some certain “sound” that is the ‘Rökkurró sound’. We want to have the new album more versatile. The landscape around us has also changed, both the situation in our home country and then also for my part, my perspective has broaden because of living in Japan and experiencing different things. I would though say that the situation in our personal life affects us more in our music creation than the economy or politics around us. Iceland’s economy has been bad, but it hasn’t changed our music. Maybe it has only changed the fact that we’ve not toured as much as we could before.
The band got into hiatus when you (Hildur) went to Japan for your thesis. There you formed Lily and Fox and even recorded an played gigs in Tokyo. Did the rest of the band use that time to compose new songs for this upcoming album? Have you decided the title yet? Is it going to be published by 12 Tónar?
Yes, it was actually both me, and Helga, our pianist that went to Japan. We were both stuyding Japanese and that’s were we got to know each other and she joined the band afterwards. But yes, that year was hard. It was weird being away from the band that had been such a big part of my life for the last five years. But all the members were mainly doing their own music projects for that year. I think this did us good, taking a break from doing everything together and experimenting on our own. So we didn’t write any new songs for that year and this new album consists of songs we’ve been writing the last half year. The title is not here yet, no! We’re not giving anything out yet about where and when it will be released, just stay tuned!
What influences are behind this new album? What kind of music do you listen to? Do you feel comfortable with any ‘label’ or genre regarding your music?
In the new songs we’ve noticed that new influences are starting be heard in our music. I would name older rock and pop artists like Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, David Bowie and Kate Bush. These artists do all have some kind of parts in our new songs that are named after them. We all realized that our new music is not as soft and ethereal as the other albums have been but that’s exactly how we want to change. I listen to all kinds of music and I like to take inspiration from very different artists. For example I listen to Hip Hop quite a lot and I’m always hearing things there that I want to try out in our songs, even though that idea may sound insane! Same goes if I hear a random Taylor Swift song in the radio, it can really inspire me to do something new. I think the best way to be inspired is to completely drop all your ideas of what is “the best” music or “cool” music and just let the most random things inspire you! I’ve heard people label our music in all kinds of way and I really don’t care what people call it, in the end ou music it’s just the outcome of what six very different people (Axel, Árni, Björn, Helga, Hildur and Skúli) put together, not music in any specific genre we wanted to fit in.
Í Annan Heim was produced by Alex Somers. Who is in charge of production this time? Do you think that the producer must previously know the band before getting into the studio to accomplish the sound you are looking for?
We’re working with a new producer this time, called Helgi Hrafn Jónsson. He has been linked with various music projects as well as making his own music. It has been wonderful working with him and he’s been very creative in this cooperation. I think the main challenge is to agree on the vision the band has for the new material and what the producer thinks. I don’t think it matters that he knows the old material or the band well, just that he has a good feeling about what he wants to do with the music. And that is really going great! We have added new elements into the sound, like synthesizers and more keyboard and we’re having less of string instruments. I’ve taken a break from the cello and that was one of the main instruments on the last two albums, so in that way the sound is definitely changing. Also I would say we have a fresh change in the drum section and bass as well. Many new and exciting things are to be excited!
Your last record was a huge success in Iceland for months. Do you feel any kind of pressure with this new one? Is there any goal that you’d like to reach?
Our last album has been sold in way more copies than we thought it would so we’re extremely happy about that. But I don’t feel any pressure. We can notice that a lot of people are waiting excited for the new album but I don’t take it as pressure. It just makes me more excited to be able to showcase this new music sooner than later! The goal for our new album is just to reach out to more people than before, try to get the album sold in more countries than before, play shows in countries we’ve not been to and yes, I think there are songs from the new album that we can hopefully get played in the radio and people to dance to!
Are you planning a European Tour? Not to mention iconic musicians like Björk, múm, Sigur Rós, etc. bands like Of Monsters And Men have recently had a huge success around the world. Do you think this could happen to you too?
Yes, there is a definite plan of going on an European tour after the release, but we have no settled dates yet. As for Of Monsters and Men, I’m so happy for their success. They are great people and deserve this very much. This is the fastest an Icelandic band has risen so I have great doubts that any Icelandic band can follow their footsteps any time soon! But of course it would always be a dream come true to get to travel around the world and get your music heard at the same time, so I’ll just hope that anything could happen.
I don’t know if any of you know anything about Spanish culture or if you are planning to visit Spain into the new album promotion. What can we say to your spanish fans?
Well I’ve been to Spain a few times so I know a little bit about the culture! It would of course be great to stop there during a tour but I won’t promise anything, just so I don’t get your hope too high! But it would be great to visit. I just want to say thanks for listening, your country is beautiful and nice and I wish I would have learned Spanish in high school instead of French! Spanish is way better 😉
To read the Spanish version of this interview, click here.