Sigur Rós: Interview
Color Songs

When I told my friend that I was going to interview
Sigur Rós for TMT, he didn't believe me.  He said he just couldn't picture Sigur
Rós as real people who actually sit down and answer interview questions. He
couldn't even picture anything other than icebergs melting when he listened to
their records, so how could he possibly imagine someone fielding questions about
such ethereal music? But this is the beauty of Sigur Rós. They're not about
trying to impart one specific idea to the listener; their music defies universal
truths and instead bursts rigid interpretation into a million subjective
insights.

I asked Georg, the bassist of Sigur Rós, about this, among other aspects of the
music they play, on the beginning of their U.S. tour in January.         

So, how was playing on Conan?

Yeah, we did that just the day before yesterday. It was very interesting, it was
actually really good. I think we all really enjoyed it, probably one of the best
TVs we've ever done. It's normally very difficult, but they were really nice
people.

Yeah, I saw you guys on another late night show and they cut one of your
songs in half.

Well, they didn't cut it in half but they just cut the end off of it, which we
had told them we weren't going to do the show if that would happen. (laughs)
It's like someone has a gallery and you have a painting or something and the
person asks for the bottom right corner of it.

You guys just started a tour of the states with some of the east coast cities.
What can somebody expect to see at a Sigur Ros concert?

Well, hopefully…I hope that going to our shows are an experience more than just
a show. For me every show is different…we just do the best we can every time. 

About how much planning and preparation goes into your live show?

It depends- last night when we played New York, we actually had played New York
not that long ago so we thought we really have to make it different because it
would be a lot of the same people and it would be really boring for them to see
the same show- well, hopefully not (laughs).  We wanted to do something special
so we had a full brass section and we played some songs that we haven't played
in years- it was a lot of fun. We're actually going to do the same tonight in
Atlantic City.

I've heard about people being so overcome by your performances that they are
moved to tears or will even faint.

Um... yeah that does happen actually (laughs). It seems to be a habit of people
fainting at our shows. The last time we played in Iceland, our first show in
three years or so in Iceland. I remember standing on the stage right in front of
me (laughs) there were these two girls just crying their eyes out. (laughs) I
found it quite hilarious, but it was sweet, you know.

That's amazing.  To what do you attribute that to?

I don't know…I think maybe our music means a lot to people. I think people put
their own meaning into our songs and when they do it probably has some sort of
emotional impact- its complicated I think. It's pretty great to be actually able
to move people to tears (laughs) it's an honor.    





"I remember standing on the stage right in front of me
(laughs) there were these two girls just crying their eyes out. (laughs) I found
it quite hilarious, but it was sweet, you know."





Do you think there is a spiritual aspect of
your music that causes people to go into trances, faint?

Yeah, I have seen people faint and I've seen some people jumping around, acting
all weird but I thought that they were just being weird (laughs).  But, yeah,
sure, I think there is something spiritual about all music- not necessarily just
our band.  I think for some people music is a religion.

I saw a video on your website where you were playing in front of a translucent
screen and there was this really beautiful layering of light and colors.  How
did you guys come up with that and how do you connect visuals to your music?

I guess we just film a lot of things…. Well, when we think about a song we
actually think about it as a color a lot of the time.  I guess certain feelings
or emotion have a sort of color, which might sound weird.  But we might say
well, this song is sort of blue or this one is sort of red.  When we play we
like our images to be rather obscure- you can't really tell exactly what it is
except a texture.

Is thinking in textures and colors a large part of how you guys create music?

Maybe…I'm not quite sure (laughs).  We like to say that our music is quite
accidental- it's something that creates itself.  When we are writing a song-
when we can actually feel the song we sort of drift off and get mental pictures
in our head.  That's when we know that this might be a good song…it feels silly
saying it. 

Yeah, I understand it's probably hard to talk about.

Yeah, quite hard.  I was doing an interview once in Iceland and the guy was
asking me about our music and I said to him, well I don't really want to- I used
the word “dissect” the music.  He said well that's a good point because to
dissect something it really has to be dead.  So I don't want for our music to be
dead, if you understand what I mean.

You mentioned earlier that you want people to put their own meanings into
your music.  Is that another reason why you discourage “dissecting” it?

Yes.  We all find that very important that people actually put their own meaning
into it.  Also, you know, we sing in Icelandic, and not a lot of people
understand Icelandic.  Even when we write the lyrics we sit down and write what
we feel when we're listening to the songs.  It can be anything like a memory or
a feeling or a thought, just something.  It's funny, when we sit down to write
the lyrics- especially for the last record we sat down in a corner and listened
to the songs.  When we showed each other what we'd written it was actually very,
very similar.  So I guess the music speaks for itself.

On the Untitled album the pages of the liner notes were all left blank. Was that
intended to be another invitation for people to put their own meaning into your
music?

Yeah, or put in whatever they want- draw a picture or anything.

Is participation important part of the music you make?

Yeah, I think it is.  Especially on that record- like I said we had been touring
those songs for years and sometimes even when we were playing live we actually
saw people singing along to the songs.  It was actually quite amazing because
the songs had no lyrics.  We sort of felt that people already had certain
attachments to the songs- so we felt that we would ruin that for people if we
started putting our own interpretations of the songs into lyrics.  We
just thought, well we will just leave it out, instead just ask people to put
their own thoughts into it- almost like paint by numbers.  We sort of drew the
pictures and said, ok, color it in.  That's the reasons for the brackets- it's
an invitation to fill in the gap.





"I was doing an interview once in Iceland and the guy was
asking me about our music and I said to him, well I don't really want to- I used
the word “dissect” the music.  He said well that's a good point because to
dissect something it really has to be dead.  So I don't want for our music to be
dead, if you understand what I mean."





Your music has famously been used in a couple
movies and documentaries so far- are you concerned that connecting the music to
concrete images that it will detract from fans creating their own images?

Well…actually yeah maybe it does.  It's like when you read a book and then you
see the film, a lot of the time you will be disappointed if you have already put
your own meaning into it.  There is a lot of music that you can associate with a
movie or a TV ad or a brand even, which is not necessarily good.  It can be bad
quite often.  Some films are really good (laughs) so maybe you want your music
to be associated [with it].  I guess 50% of the time we are not that pleased
with it, the rest was actually- I actually really enjoyed them.  People either
love it or hate it, I've never heard anybody say, “It was all okay.” We licensed
the song to Life Aquatic which was a really enjoyable experience- we just saw
the clip that they were going to use the music for and thought, “Wow, this is
really interesting.”  We [also] saw some photos and read the script.  When it
came out in Iceland I went to the cinema to see it and I was just blown away,
it's a hilarious movie, I really loved it.  I was very happy.

Yeah, I thought your song worked perfectly in that scene at the end.

Yeah, it was just beautiful.  I guess that's the other reason why we don't
license our music to a lot of films- when we listen to it and watch the image it
becomes something so detached from the feeling or the emotion that we put into
creating the song.  That sort of sticks out- it doesn't fit together.  When you
are creating music, mixing it for example; balancing things, getting the big
picture together- sometimes when you watch a film that has our music synched to
it it just doesn't fit together. So most of the time we say no to it.

Since you guys have been a band for over a decade now has it become easier to
come up with a similar visions and directions for songs?

Well, I don't know…We don't really communicate that much when we are playing-
well we sort of just communicate through the music. I guess touring is another
aspect of playing together a lot. That can be hard- it can actually kill
creativity, I feel.  When it starts feeling too much like a job you start to
want to get away from it. It should never be something that you have to push
yourself it should just come naturally.

Is that part of the reason why there were three years between the release of the
Untitled album [( )] and Takk?

(laughs) That's definitely one reason. That was a difficult time. We actually
wrote some of the songs from the untitled album years and years ago. We toured
[with those songs] for maybe three years and when it came to recording them we
found it very difficult to walk into the studio and record it. But we still felt
a need to finish it and get it out of our system.  After we released that record
we toured those same songs for another year or so.  After that we just felt we
needed a break; relax, have babies (laughs).

Did you have a child?

Yeah, she's almost two now.

Aww, that's so nice. Congratulations.  Does your daughter come on tour with
you?

Occasionally, they come out on with us, yes.

That must make it easier?

It does actually, yeah. It's also difficult though- you're working late (laughs)
and you have to wake up very early.  But yeah, it's very enjoyable.


  

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