The Snoop-Around team met with the Icelandic singer/ songwriter ÍRiS the other day, to discuss her upcoming album, the mysterious debut album that will release early 2013. We met at Babalú, the cosy café on Skólavörðustígur, where ÍRiS took the time to explain a thing or two about her music, the process of recording her first solo album and how the overall experience on how it is being an independent artist.
So, when did you decide on being a musician?
I started out learning classical music when I was younger, playing the violin. When I got into Jazz, things started to change for me as far as thinking outside of the box goes. I realized that it is ok to be different, and it inspired me a lot. I started out writing my songs on a small keyboard that I had borrowed from a friend. I didn’t decide on becoming a musician; it’s just something I felt that I wanted to do.
I was around 23 years old when I started my first ever singing lesson. I couldn’t stop, I think the musical expression is so strong through the voice; you are revealing a part of you especially when you are performing on stage.
Do you write all your songs on the keyboard?
No, not always. I normally start out by writing the lyrics, I carry this little book in my bag that I carry around all the time. Sometimes the ideas come to my on obscure moments so its very handy for me to have my book on standby.
“I am all about metaphors and stories”
My ideas can be very fractured, therefore the book contains little sketches, poems and so forth, but sometimes I get a really clear vision for a whole piece or a song that I then write down. I am all about metaphors and stories and my music is often about each person’s interpretation of it, although its origins come from a very personal place.
Your lyrics are mostly in English; do you think it’s harder to write songs that are not in Icelandic?
No, somehow I don’t think so. I have not written many songs in Icelandic, but there is one song on my album that I am very proud of. The Icelandic language is very complex; I feel that you have to be very selective on what words you choose whilst writing. I think it’s also because I am Icelandic and you are somehow more naked with your creations if the lyrics are written in your mother tounge. Do you know what I mean? But the Icelandic language is very precious to me.
Daybreak, the single of the album that you have newly released. What is it about?
Daybreak is the first song that I wrote, and it is about this particular feeling, that you don’t want the moment to pass or to be over. We all know this feeling, I think; it’s within human nature. Its about the reality that is upon us, even though you want to live in this special moment forever, you know it’s not possible.
I think writing music is a revelation in itself. It is just like if someone was watching a painting, nobody sees or feels the same thing. The same applies to music, each person experiences it for it’s a personal thing, for me and for the audiences.
The lyrics are the core of the music, is that what I sense?
Not necessarily, but they are very essential to me. At the same time you can also say a lot without words and let the music itself deliver the message. It intertwines; I think is very revealing to write music. One song on the album helped me in a way to understand myself better and that is a good example on how sometimes I feel when I write music.
Video/editing: Ása Baldurdsóttir
How was the work in the studio, was it a great experience?
I was so lucky to work with brilliant professionals, musicians and audio engineers, in the recording process whom I’m very thankful to. I had a strong vision for the whole project, and you could say that I was the artistic director as well as playing on all instruments that I control, in addition to vocals. I just wanted to capture the right sound, my sound! But yeah, I decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and made it happen. It was a great rollercoaster ride for me to produce my first solo album. The instrumental recordings went very smoothly, but when I had to sing I was a little stressed because my voice is my most important instrument.
I think it’s easy to become overly critical, in this kind of process but I learned to relax, as we got closer to finishing the recording. The album contains nine songs; they are very multi –layered in a way. I wanted to make my own music because that was the thing I knew I had to express; I had to make this album, also for me to evolve as an artist.
What inspires you as a musician?
Sometimes I am listening to music that inspires me in a way that I start to write something totally different or if I see a word that inspires me I start to write something in a complete opposite way of the words original meaning. The flood of ideas is based on many different things. I am very connected to the nature here in Iceland; the environment often has an influence on what I express. When I am asked to describe my music, I am not very descriptive of it because it does not belong to one clean-cut category in my opinion.
“We experimented with a lot of elements that made
the sound seem unexpected and dreamy”
The instruments we use on the album are experimental in a way, my music is pop with influences from rock and jazz and so many other genres. We recorded for example a lot of different instruments, a few keyboards and pianos, synthesizers and a harp to name a few. There are many sounds that you hear on the album, that you don’t know what are, for example in Daybreak you can experience something that sounds like a broken music box. Well, that is at least what I hear! I think if I would describe the album in few words, it’s about the contrasts from different ways; the songs contain a lot of bass and are high ended. I am really inspired when I can play with contrasts as much as a can. We experimented with a lot of elements that made the sound seem unexpected and dreamy.
I used a variety of techniques to create a sound world in addition to the classical sounds because I wanted to explore the ways in which the instruments could be used for purposes other than what they are intended. For example, I recorded debris and defects in wood instruments, noises and air sounds, piano, percussion, the noise from shaking my keychain, and of course my body, stamps and claps. I wanted to keep the number of imperfections in the instruments, and hold debris, exercise, and other noises. I didn’t want to overproduce the songs either.
The voice played such a strong role: as well as the actual recording of the melody, sometimes I wanted to create a wall of sound, using the voice as a bass, to create this manifold (multi-layering) effect.
When is the album out?
It is out early 2013. This album is connected to the winter, so yes; it’s coming out in the next months. Even though I’m solo, I sometimes play with other musicians and bands and I am really looking forward to my release concert as well.
We wish ÍRiS all the best for her future,
her Daybreak, and her release early next year.
Video/editing & Interview: Ása Baldurdsóttir
Photographs: Nanna Dís