Something kinda oooh
They started out as a bunch of low-key songs filed away in the back of his mind, but but the time Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi Birgisson completed his solo album, the energy levels were an awful lot higher, he tells Brian Boyd
JÓN “JÓNSI” Birgisson has a lot of compartments in his head. “There’s one for ambient stuff, one for electronic stuff, one for acoustic stuff and one for rock stuff,” says the 35-year-old Icelandic singer. With his band Sigur Rós on downtime at the moment, Jónsi (as he’s known to everyone) took the time to flick through what he had stored in these compartments over the years and to his astonishment he found that he had 27 songs. A solo album was already there.
“It’s funny, but I do put songs into different categories, it’s the only way I can remember which song is in which category,” he says. “These are songs which I would have written over the past 10 years of being in the band but were never going to be Sigur Rós songs. With the band we do everything together, we’re like a very democratic small commune. You don’t arrive in the studio with Sigur Rós with a song already written – that never happens. That’s just the way it works. So I had all these songs – some very old, some very new – ready to go.”
The only thing he really knew about his Go album was that he wanted to get away from, what he describes as “that sort of floaty, dreamland sound Sigur Rós are associated with”. He’s been angered of late by how he feels the band’s Hoppipolla song has been “raped” by TV. “We allowed the Planet Earth programme to use it, but it seems that TV in Britain doesn’t have to ask permission to use a song if it’s in the background – and it seemed to us that every single programme was using Hoppipolla.”
He thought the best approach for his solo album would be a folky/acoustic affair. “This was mainly because most of those 27 songs were from the ‘acoustic’ compartment,” he says. “However, things didn’t quite work out as expected.”
Two people were vital to the final shape and structure of Go – producer Nico Mulhy (who comes from a contemporary classical background) and the drummer Samuli Kosminen (who, although Finnish, plays with the Icelandic band Múm).
“The first time I met Nico he came around to my place and he had this laptop with him. All the songs I had were written either for acoustic guitar or a simple piano, but he started messing around with strings, brass and woodwind – but using these sounds in a very different way – and we did up the basis of five complete songs that night. So, already, the album had altered from how I initially