We first wrote about our obsession with the music of Icelandic artist Sin Fang on these pages back in 2013. Sin Fang has long been associated with a favorite label of our’s, Morr Music, an independent label out of Berlin that specializes in nuanced electronic music and glitchy pop; in short, our bread and butter. We’ve been fans of Sin Fang—née Sindri Már Sigfússon—ever since. Early last year, Morr announced that Sindri would start collaborating on a monthly musical experiment with some good friends and fellow Icelanders—multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter Sóley and Örvar Smárason of the band, múm.
This month, the twelve songs the trio recorded and released for once a month in 2017 were put together and released as a new full-length—the appropriately named Team Dreams. We took the opportunity to talk again with Sindri (above, middle, upset) about the idea behind the band and process, what’s to come for them all, and (briefly) tourism in Iceland and how hard it is for foreign artists to tour the US.
raven + crow: So, last time we talked, way back in 2013, after Flowers but before Spaceland, you ended the interview saying that you’d hoped to do something more collaborative in the future. Is Team Dreams the realization of that hope?
Sindri Már Sigfússon: Yes that’s one of them. Since Flowers, I’ve worked on a lot of different stuff with different people. I think it’s good for people who do music on their own to collaborate; I get inspired by other people and everyone has their own way of doing things. Sometimes I’ve been working with someone and they have such a radically different method than me to get to a place that it astounds me. I think I’ve learned the most over the years from working with different people and adopting methods, climbing into their brain for a little when we work together.
I know Sóley played with you in Seabear and you all toured with múm in that band—is that how the three of you first met or does the friendship pre-date that tour?
I met Sóley when she joined Seabear, but i’ve known Örvar since before I started making music. He was friends with my friend’s older brother and we used to hang around them and they would allow us to come to their parties even though we were tiny teenagers. We’re all good friends. We also have kids at the same age that play together.
And how did the whole idea to collaborate on an album together first come about?
It was after I did Spaceland—it had taken a long time and I had made lots of different versions of each song and when it was finally finished I still had to wait a few months for it to come out. So I thought it would be a fun project to just make a song and release it straight away without having to change it a million times.
Right, to be clear, the songs on this album were recorded one-by-one, correct? A month or so at a time?
Yes—sometimes we had more time, sometimes we had almost no time and sometimes we were in three different continents so every song was a different process really.
What was the reason behind doing it that way?
Just to do something fun and spontanious and challange ourselves.
Cool. So where did everything end up being recorded?
We all have private studios of our own, so we mostly recorded in our own spaces and then I mixed the songs at my studio.
Home studio + long, cold winters = creative productivity. Got it. And did the song-writing take place when you all met up—virtually or in person— or did someone walk in with a partially written song?
Most of the time one of us had an idea or demo that we then all worked on.
That seems like a good path forward, especially given the talent in the room at any given moment. How did you see the song-writing and evolution of the work differ when you had these self-imposed breaks between creative meetings instead of writing and recording things all at once?
We talked a lot online, actually, even though we live very close. We all have our own studios that we work out of so we did a lot of the work over the net.
It’s like when I text my wife from the other room—sometimes it’s just easier, right? It might be hard to step out of your own mind here, but does Team Dreams sound to your ears like an album of singles or is it more cohesive than you expected going in?
I still havent listened to the whole album from start to finish, actually. I also find that you need to get at least two years away from an album to really hear it with fresh ears. I’m constantly working on music and it’s more of an impulse for me than a thought-out thing. I often listen back to stuff I’ve done and go “Ahh, okay, that’s what I was thinking about/going through back then.”
Totally makes sense. Looking back, though, does it seem like each one of you naturally took on certain roles in the song-writing and performing over time or in certain particular songs?
No, it was just mixed but depended on each song, kind of. We’ve all done lots of music with other people and were all quite diplomatic so there was no problem if someone wanted something done differently or whatever. We just always tried to come to a conclusion we were all happy with.
We’re American—what is this word you use, “diplo-matic”?
Do you think this experience will change how you or Sóley or Orvar write or record music going forward?
I cant speak for them but, for me, I feel like I’m always changing ways of writing and working. I don’t think I could make music like I was doing 5 years ago anymore, for instance. So no, I don’t think so. I’m working on a Sin Fang album now that I started recording, like, 2 years ago.
Oh, that’s exciting. Am I correct in assuming you all are keeping your touring to Europe? I know it can be cost-prohibitive, but any plans to come stateside?
No plans for US at the moment, but we all really wanna go. Hopefully we can do it somehow this year. If a wealthy industrialist wants to sponsor a US tour for us, that would be great. For us to go play in the US, we would need three working visas—that’s like a few thousand dollars just to be able to play in the US; then it’s flights, car, gear, etc. It’s just not viable for band our size to go to America, I’m afraid. Sucks because I love playing/touring the US.
Yeah, WHY do we make it so fucking hard/expensive for artists to come here‽
This is wildly off-subject, but I feel like since last we talked, Iceland’s become this insanely popular tourist destination. I mean, it was always has been to some extent, but it seems to have really blown up, especially as far as Americans visiting—I think about half the people I know have been in the past four or so years. I’ve seen some things written about how all the tourists are kind of ruining Iceland in a way—have you seen any of that?
No, I like having more people around. There are more nice bars, restaurants, and the whole place feels a bit more metropolitan. The bad thing is greedy people push up the prices of everything and the average Icelandic person’s salary has not gone up.
Yeah, sounds pretty familiar. Not to pressure you or anything, but anything else you can tell us about the coming solo work?
I’m releasing a EP under my own name (Sindri Már Sigfússon) that’s some instrumental music real soon, and working on the new Sin Fang album that will probably come out late this year. Örvar has his first solo album coming out and Sóley is working on a new album as well.
All very exciting! Well thanks for making the time to talk, Sindri—love the album.
You can listen to and buy the new album Team Dreams via bandcamp (where the lion’s share of profits go to the artists), iTunes (where they don’t…but maybe you have an Apple gift card burning a hole in your iTunes account), and in local discerning record shops. Photo by Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir.