Like a shy, fragile child Sóley Stefánsdóttir asked me to explain further the first question in this interview, and like that of an enthusiastic ingénu after my explaination, I got a lengthy response but on the tone of a serious, trained and conscious adult, a mature musician at that. She has surrounded herself with like-minded musicians from her native Iceland and a member of two other acts, as one of the seven collective in Seabear and a stepback work in Sin Fang with Sindri Már Sigfússon. Looking at her pictures, it is discernable that Sóley clearly has an idea what sort of image she wants to project, if she is trying to “project” any thing at all. The child and the driven, her talent and the future she plans with it, and experiences in crazy venues are all in this interview. In her world, she might have looked at me like an outsider trying to peer in though from where I stood, I was singing her songs in my head like I was chanting in presence of a muse.
For a foreign audience who have not heard Icelandic music outside of Björk and Sigur Rós, how do you usually introduce your music to them? Do you feel distancing yourself and the music you make from these iconic artists to avoid being stereotyped as “Sigur Rós-like” or “Björk-like”?
SóLEY: I listened a lot to Sigur Rós when I was young. Ágætis Byrjun was my first CD which was not “crap”. Also I listened to the band Múm everyday when I was teenager, they were my idols. Now I know them and I have toured with Múm, so you never know what happens in your life! Long before I started my solo project as Sóley I made music which is extremely like Múm´s music. I sang with this whisper voice and so on. I still have it somewhere and it´s really funny to listen to it. That´s when I was young and had not found my personal style because it takes time. In 2007, I started studying composition in the Icelandic Art Academy and there I was taught to find my personal style. And now I´m here still going to do better on next album, better lyrics, better songs. It´s best when you finished something; take a look at it then ask yourself what was good and what could get better. To answer the question for Icelandic artists, I think we are so few and everyone play with everyone so if you are in three different bands, you don´t want to play the same music in two bands. And I think icelandic musicians do not want to be simulated with Sigur Rós and Björk, that´s too embarrassing!
I dug up that it took some time before you actually found your own singing voice, probably asked a lot to you but what specific event or particular “shining moment” that made you take up the mic and own the stage, so to speak.
SóLEY: I have always loved singing, but I never thought I could (sing). When I started playing with Seabear, I had to sing backing vocals and for two or three years I was always very far away from the mic, makes no sense because then you don´t hear yourself. So when I started my solo project I had to be close and then I realized it wasn´t so difficult, it was on the other hand, really fun! Now I love it.
The songs that I had the chance to get my hands on- “I’ll Drown,”We Sink” and “Theatre Island”- are characterized by organic, simplistic instruments that seem to be in the same range of power as your voice. Is this a constant decision and can be an element that we can expect in your upcoming full-length release?
SóLEY: Yes, most of the songs are based on piano layers and percussion. On the new album I used a drum set, bass and electric guitar but I tried to keep it kind of lo-fi. I record almost everything by myself so because I´m not an expert in recording it becomes really lo-fi.
You mentioned in an interview that your art is an influential factor in the music your making, separate from your fascination of creating characters that are outside of your personal life, how do you handle these two disciplines (visual and storytelling) and create a tapestry of songs in your record? Do you follow a particular routine, form or everything is continuous and transcendent?
SóLEY: For me it´s good to go somewhere else in my mind when I make lyrics. When I start to write lyrics to a song I start to imagine the environment, weather, etc. I think no one will listen to my lyrics and experience it the same way I do. And that´s the fun part of it. People see my world differently, I think and I hope. I do not follow any form of how to make the songs, lyrics but I try to think as I would be dreaming. I love dreams because they don´t make any sense. I write about dreams, laughing houses and fighting trees. None of that makes sense in the real world but then you can make your own world where it makes sense!
We Sink will be out in less than two weeks, I have a couple of songs from it and I must say it is enchanting. How do you feel about this release? Are you gonna tour around in promotion of the album?
SóLEY: I am looking forward to the release! I finished the album in May so it´s always a long wait until it is released and now it´s happening. I am going on tour with another band I play with called Sin Fang. My friend and band member in Seabear has his solo project called Sin Fang. So we are going on the 31st of August to Europe. I will open up for him, and play with him! Double night on stage for me.
Is there any dream venue you hope to play in the future?
SóLEY: Not any where spectacular but I´m always in love with these small churches or small sitting and cosy venues. These punk, rock venues we always play are funny and dirty.
Hahaha, when you say punk/rock venues you mean to say festivals, right? But it can sort of be fun at times, right! Has anything crazy happened to you during one of those kind of shows?
SóLEY: Well yes, festivals and also most of the venues we play are dirty. When we arrive, we are welcomed (with) old beer smell. Love it. That’s tour life. Festivals are great! I love playing festivals, often you see other great bands and it´s just lovely. We have a rule, what happens on tour stays on tour but of course many crazy things happen all the time. The best part is when someone is dancing in front of the stage the whole set. I´m so bad to hold my face when it comes to funny people like that. I laugh all the time. I´d say last time with my other band Seabear in Schaffhausen, Switzerland was a bit crazy. I say no more.
Thank you for your time and I wanna say how thankful I am in this opportunity you have given me. For the last question, I am curious what are your favorite records so far this year, the one that you would recommend me to get my hands on ?
SóLEY: Hmm Tune-Yards’s new album: w h o k i l l is really good. Also new album by a musician called Chad Vangaalen called Diaper Island. Sin Fang´s new album was released in march is really good, it´s called Summer Echoes. and many more…
Sóley “I’ll Drown”