your new album is finished now and understandably much expectation. has that affected you guys and the making of the album?
jónsi: no, just our own expectations, we just had to get the album out this year. we never think about this kind of thing, like the expectations towards us. we released a good album last time and we did even better this time.
kjartan: when we finished ágætis byrjun we were done with it, didn't think more about it. just started making the new album.
any favourite songs on the new album?
kjartan: it changes a lot. right now my favourite song is number five.
jónsi: i'm not gonna say anything like that. we've listened to the album so much that we can't really say which ones are the best. we're still too involved in them.
kjartan: you know, it changes from day to day.
didn't you have any working titles?
are the working titles a secret?
jónsi: it doesn't really matter, that's just between us in the band. it's also a little fun confusing people, the the songs are just named what the listener hears. we of course have our names for the songs but we interpret them in a different way than for example you do. do you know what i'm saying?
yeah but i'm really curious. jónsi, do you sing in hopelandic?
jónsi: this is a funny journalist obsession, which the biggest fans have gotten dragged into too. on our first album von [hope], i just babbled the vocals to the title song spontaneously. we had lots of fun with it and called it hopelandic. maybe it's a language, who knows. i think each and every person can interpret it in their own way. this hopelandic thing is kind of funny, maybe icelanders will adopt it one day.
do ( ) and ágætis byrjun have any similarities?
jónsi: to tell you the truth i don't really know, it's difficult for us to determine that kind of thing. it's always most difficult for the musicians themselves to make the connection, i think that's mainly something the listener should do. hard to say. there's probably a similar feel to them. a lot of this album is live, like we're playing at a concert, which is a bit different from ágætis byrjun, which was a studio album.
kjartan: i think the songs on this album are stronger, more "individuals". they stand strong by themselves.
so there are no lyrics. don't you think that's kind of uncomfortable?
jónsi: no, not at all. the booklet is empty so people can write down or draw their interpretations of it. it's a kind of "human experience". everyone has their own opinion. when people buy the album it's kind of unfinished and people have to finish it themselves. it's not the singer telling stories, it's sort of a soundtrack for each person's life. so they can make the lyrics for their own lives.
are there any collaborators on the album?
kjartan: yeah, the amina string quartet performs and arranges the strings.
jónsi: it's really nice and simple. we just have a string quartet now but on the last album we had mastered the disney-style strings. it's a lot simpler now. we tried taking the notes away from the girls [in the string quartet] and let them play from their heart and it came out much better, a lot more sincere, although it did take a lot more time.
how would you describe the album in two words?
jónsi: two parts. it's actually kind of a concept behind the album. it's called ( ), which is a pair of empty parentheses. and then the listener fills in the parentheses. the album is also divided in two parts. the first four songs are really light and uplifting, then there's a half minute of silence, and then the last four songs are a lot heavier and more dramatic, they play more with your emotions.
do you have any interest in or time for following icelandic music?
jónsi: yeah, of course we try. but you always fall out of the loop when you're away overseas for a long period.
what icelandic stuff do you like the most?
jónsi: unfortunately, i don't like all too much of it. but some if it is good. we really like siggi ármann [he did a country cover of flugufrelsarinn]. múm are great, bent and 7berg are really good rappers and lokbrá is a good band. you're always objective when it comes to icelandic music but i'm fairly critical of music in general.
kjartan: i think the funerals are really cool but i'm a bit objective.
jónsi: his sister is in the funerals. they suck bigtime. just kidding.
kjartan: i haven't been observing icelandic music very much lately. it's too bad but i just haven't had time. there's always so much happening that you might be missing out on.
what's sigur rós doing this year?
jónsi: we're touring in october and november.
where are you playing?
jónsi: we're playing in europe in november and then american and maybe japan in november. we're very busy preparing for that, lots of stuff we have to finish.
do you look forward to the tours?
jónsi: sure. it just takes a while to learn how to tour because it's kind of difficult. it's not like some people think, just rock and roll and partying the whole time. it's a lot of work.
kjartan: you can, of course, party the whole time but then the rest gets left out.
jónsi: one has to learn how to tour, you get so little privacy. it's tough always waking up in a new city every morning.
kjartan: and it's always the 10 same people in a bus the whole time. kind of difficult.
are there any plans for a concert in iceland?
jónsi: we kind of don't have time though, unfortunately.
kjartan: we want to hold a concert in november or december. we really want to do a big concert for the release of ( ) in iceland but we'll see how it turns out.
jónsi: i want to hold a christmas concert here but things don't always materialize when we're so busy. we'll just have to see how it turns out.
is óðin's raven magic going to be released?
jónsi: we want to release it eventually, we've just yet to review it. the recording was successful but we need to go over it, think about it a little bit, when we have time. that would be really cool.
do you have any interesting stories for us, anecdotes from a tour or something?
kjartan: i got stuck at a gas station in holland once. i was the only one awake in the bus and i needed to pee so we stopped at this gas station. then when i came back out, the bus was gone and i stood there, barefoot, abondoned somewhere at this gas station in holland. but it worked out in the end.
jónsi: it was also funny when we gave some foreign journalists a demo of our new album on cassette cause our record company is so paranoid about about the album leaking to the internet. we don't care though. but maybe we should release it on cassette?
now the third sigur rós member plus one child arrive to the scene. it's the two-year old girl vaka and her father, orri.
you mixed your album in peter gabriel's real world studios, what was that like?
jónsi: it was cool. it was a nice change of atmoshphere. and we made peter gabriel do background vocals for us. when we were leaving, robert plant showed up and i think björk is there now. it's a great studio and very cozy.
have you had any time to rehearse?
jónsi: no, we haven't had any time for it. the only time we've rehearsed recently was when we were mixing at real world studios. we decided to hook up all our stuff and we wrote this one amazing song. we're gonna be rehearsing in an empty theatre soon though, to get in good shape for the tour. that should be fun.
has your popularity and fame gone to your heads?
kjartan (ironic tone): totally!
jónsi: we've become complete assholes now. no really, we don't really think about it. fame is bullshit.
what the best and worst thing about fame?
jónsi: the worst part is people are always watching you. also the expectations and stuff. it's funny that we've become a sort of icelandic private property. kind of weird. everything we do goes in the papers. the best thing is that all options are open now, we can do whatever we want. as a band we're doing everything we've always wanted to do.
were there any differences in the processes of making ( ) and ágætis byrjun?
jónsi: the process was faster on ágætis byrjun, for example we did the bass and drums in only one weekend. this time we spent more time finding the right sound and mood. the songs have become really old now and we've played them so many times so it was a bit difficult to get in the right gear to start recording them. besides that it was pretty similar, wasn' it?
kjartan (yawning): yeah.
i see you're tired, what's sigur rós been up to these past few weeks?
jónsi: we just came from an interview tour around the world. we went to i think 160 interviews in two weeks, complete madness. but afterwards it felt really good, i had gotten so much off my chest. it was like going to a psychologist for two weeks. there was this one funny guy who interviewed us in france. he didn't understand a word in english and hardly managed to sputter out his questions. he knew nothing about us and when we talked he just nodded though we knew he had no idea what we were saying, although we were explaining everything in the simplest possible way. really funny interview.
i know you guys are homeloving people, how do you like travelling so much?
jónsi: i love travelling actually, getting to know new people and places. but sometimes you miss your family and friends and want to just go home and watch a video instead of going to some afterparty.
is the the business like you expected?
jónsi: the music business? probably not like you thought at first, when you were starting. in the beginning it was exciting and adventurous but now it's just a mean and corrupted business. it's all about the money (he says with disgust).
kjartan: it's not too pretty sometimes.
jónsi: there are lots and lots of phoney people. you just try to find people you like and after some time you start getting more familiar with the whole thing. we try to surround ourselves with people that are natural and true to themselves.
are sigur rós happy?
jónsi: sure, i think so.
jónsi: super happy!
kjartan: yeah i guess so.
jónsi: we've been so busy lately, we're getting tired. we're starting to long for a private life. but that'll come. soon.
orri: i don't think we can complain. we're doing what we love.
jónsi: yeah we're very privileged.
jónsi: we're extremely lucky to have so much freedom.
you don't need to pull four jobs at once to support yourselves like most other icelandic musicians.
kjartan: nope, which is fantastic.
jónsi: sigur rós is in a way four jobs at once though. but they're of course much more fulfilling jobs than conventional ones because we're working on something that's really close to our hearts.