In Conversation With Ásgeir
As well as reviewing his show at Gorilla in Manchester in May (link below), we got the chance to pose some questions to the Icelandic singer-songwriter making a big impact on 2017.
How would you say this album differs from your debut record, ‘In the Silence’?
Main difference is the sound, it’s much more electronic and more dramatic. This time around I think I spent much more time focusing on the sound than on the first record. I felt like I needed to progress. I feel like when you’re touring it’s difficult to evolve, because of too little time to reflect. When I started making this album I almost felt like I needed to prove to myself that I had evolved musically so I dove into something new.
As many of us cannot understand Icelandic it is difficult to tell but the English versions seem amazingly smooth. Is the translation process as easy as you make it seem? Have any of the new tracks been particularly difficult to translate lyrically?
We usually have some difficulties when translating into English but we manage to figure it out. I think the main thing is you want to have a certain flow in the melody, that flow is often made with words, just like rap, and when you change the language the flow changes a lot, that’s usually what most of my time goes into in the translation process.
Your lyrics have included “fjords”, “rivers”, “snow” and other natural elements. Does Iceland’s amazing natural scenery play a large part in inspiring your music?
I’ve lived in Iceland all my life, it has been a source inspiration through the years, even without noticing it. I think all things can be inspiring if you’re open to it.
Many of the songs from the new record (‘Afterglow’ in particular) have a blend of acoustic and electronic instruments unlike the heavily acoustic first album. Did the songs begin acoustically or did the fusion seem to come together simultaneously?
My primary writing instruments are piano and acoustic guitar, for this record especially I didn’t have any idea of how they were supposed to sound. The end result was usually after experimenting with many different sounds. Some songs on the album took months to finish and some were finished in a day.
‘Nothing’ is probably my favourite track from the new album yet it’s beautiful minimalism lasts less than 2 minutes! Was there a reason this track is significantly shorter than the rest?
Thank you, it really just felt like it didn’t need to be any longer, didn’t call for it.
In ‘Fennir Yfir’ the lyrics mention following “the northern glow”. Is the album’s afterglow a reference to the northern lights by any chance?
I’ve always been fascinated by the northern lights and when I was younger it felt like I was in a fairy-tale story or animation or something like that when I saw the skies glowing. I always used to think that this was an Icelandic thing that you couldn’t see anywhere else in the world, which is of course not true.
I heard your father wrote lots of the lyrics for ‘In The Silence’. Did he write/play a part in writing any of the tracks of ‘Afterglow’?
Yes he did, he wrote a few lyrics for my songs on this album originally in Icelandic, which were then translated into English… My father’s way of writing has become a big part of this project, and always will be.
When the single ‘Stardust’ came out I was shocked – the melancholy of the first album is caught off guard by this louder, punchier confidence. Was it difficult to transition into this new sound?
Didn’t feel like I was ever transitioning into anything, I just tried to stay true to myself like I always do and my music is always going to evolve accordingly.
The album seems to have a strong sense of progression. The upbeat ‘Stardust’ moves into the deep electronic sounds of ‘I Know You Know’ and then concludes with the acoustic ‘Trust’ – Did it take you some time to arrange the order of the album?
It took some time to arrange the order of the songs so the album would have nice flow to it. I wanted the listener to feel progression and see a different side of Àsgeir.
‘Heimfõrin’ is one of my favourite untranslated tracks from your first album and the effect of the Icelandic language is amazing. Will we get our greedy hands on an untranslated album of Afterglow?
I might do some untranslated alternative versions of some of the songs from Afterglow one day. I don’t know when that’s going to be.
Afterglow is available now on One Little Indian Records