There’s something about long, dark winters, midnight summer sun and out and out isolation that seems to nurture creativity and collaboration in people, and there’s plenty of all of that in Iceland. Every year, around the end of October the musical elite of the island (and the rest of the world) hits every venue Reykjavik has to offer. Iceland Airwaves is a five day festival that showcases some of the best musical talent around. Sin Fang (aka Sindri Már Sigfússon) is a one of the major players in the Icelandic music scene. Teaming up with some of Iceland’s indie alumni, his band Seabear started making music in the mid 2000s and he released the first album, Clangour, under the moniker Sin Fang in 2010, followed by Sumer Echoes in 2011. Now, he’s set to release his third solo album, Flowers, at the beginning of 2013. The album is his most accessible album to date, recorded with Alex Somers (Sigur Rós & Jónsi) on production duties. Somehow, he has managed to do all this in between collaborating with other musicians, curating exhibitions and being a full time father. We caught up with Sin Fang during the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik to talk about how he manages to keep it all together as an Icelandic renaissance man.
The music scene in Iceland seems to be pretty cohesive. There are lots of musicians playing in each other’s bands. Is this something that’s common in the Icelandic music scene?
Yeah, the drummer playing with me is also playing, like, twenty other shows this weekend with like five different bands. Sóley is also playing with me and in her own band, and there are quite a few members who play in Sin Fang in other bands.
You’ve got quite an eclectic sound. Is that something that you set out to do or does it happen through osmosis?
I don’t sit down and think I need to write a song in a certain way. I think if I did that it would not be very good or turn out the way I want it to. I think the music I listen to sort of seeps into my head.
You’re releasing your third solo album, Flowers, in February next year.
Yeah, I’m really excited about that. It was actually supposed to be out now but I just had a second child, so when we found out about that I had to postpone it a bit because you can’t really have a child and an album at the same time.
How do you find juggling family life and being a musician?
It’s fine. Touring is a bit hard, but my day to day life is good. I take my kid to kindergarten and then I’m in the studio from 9am until 4pm, then I pick her up so I have something like a normal work day. I find that to be really productive. It works really well for me. I tour a few times a year, which is hard, but it all works well.
It sounds like those two areas of your life fit together pretty well.
Sure. They do. It’s not like we play shows every weekend because there’s not really the market for it in Iceland. We usually play together once a month or something, so most of the time I’m in the studio working on stuff. I mean, I’ve been doing music ever since I finished school and treating it like a normal job.
So the album was put on hold.
Yeah, it was actually finished in May this year, but it’s ready to be released now.
The songs on the album sound a lot bigger and more polished than the previous two Sin Fang albums. Was this something you intentionally thought of when recording it?
It was the first time I had worked with a proper producer. I’ve always worked alone and we just decided to do it differently this time. I usually record music in my basement studio so my music has always been a bit on the lo-fi side, but I wanted to try something else, so we decided to go all out on the more pop side of things. We got a whole string section and a brass section. Alex (Somers) is much more of a producer than me. I just put the mics somewhere, record it and say ‘Yeah, that sounds fine’, but Alex will try 10 different takes. It was really great for me to not be both the producer and the musician. I could just focus on playing the guitar and singing and Alex focused on getting the sound as good as possible. It sounds a lot more grown up than the other stuff I’ve done. I’m really, really happy with the way it came out.
Was it a natural progression going from a DIY, lo-fi sound to recording music that’s more produced?
I’ve maybe had a bit of a problem imagining working with someone I don’t know very well, but Alex and I have known each other for years. When I originally talked to him I was going to get him to mix with me, but in the end we decided to do a full three months of demoing and re-recording. I don’t know if I can go back to the DIY thing after doing this album. I’ve actually started talking to Alex about working with him again on the next album.
Have you started working on any new material for that yet?
I have some demos that I’ve been working on for it. Because the new album was finished in May I’ve had time to record some ideas for the next one.
The artwork you use for your albums is pretty distinctive and you’re wearing a beard on the cover art of all three of them. What’s the significance of the beards?
It’s a trilogy.
A trilogy of beards!
(Laughs) Yeah. I do all the artwork with my girlfriend Inga. We both graduated from the same art school and we decided to work on the album art together. I do all the cover images and t-shits with Inga, I do the videos with my brother and my father is a photographer. He takes all the photographs for the covers. For the album cover for Summer Echoes, my mum made the beard. She’s a tailor.
It all sounds like a really family orientated process.
It’s great. We all have a pretty similar aesthetic. Inga and her sister Lilja also did the artwork for the new Sigur Rós album. We don’t have to look very far for good artists to work with.
Is that something specific to being an artist in Reykjavik?
Maybe. You think it’s a cliché, but when you think about it, maybe it’s true.
What sort of stuff are you listening to right now?
Well, I’m listening to a lot of dance music. I don’t think I like dance music though. This summer I‘ve been using the computer a lot more as an instrument. I actually told my manager I was making dance music and he said that sounds interesting and he asked me to send him some. When he got it he said it was good but it definitely wasn’t dance music! (laughs). A few of the songs I’m doing under the name Pojke.
Is Pojke a vehicle for the new dance music?
Yeah, it’s a bit of an experiment. I decided to put a song up on soundcloud. I posted the stems and invited anyone who wanted to remix it. I’ve had 14 remixed in like two weeks, so that’s good.
Would you post stems again for other songs?
Definitely. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. I thought it would be fun. I just wanted it out there to see what happened. Some of the remixes have been really varied. Some deep house, some metal versions. It’s fun.
So what’s happening over the next 12 months?
We’ve got the album coming out in February and there’s a single coming out in December. We’ll also be touring to support the album so I’m looking forward to that. It’s nice to go on the road and play songs to new people, but’s also really nice to come home.
You can listen to some more Sin Fang on his gogoyoko page and see what he’s up to HERE or HERE. Morr Music releases Sin Fang’s records, as well as lots of other amazing Icelandic bands. They deserve your love. Check them out HERE.