Interview: Sóley – Dreams, Darkness and Lullabies

Whilst we were at Iceland Airwaves, we listened to a lot of music and saw a lot of bands.  Following on from our interview with Sin Fang, we were lucky enough to catch up with label mate (and musical collaborator) Sóley. Even though they are pretty closely connected, (they share the same label and play in a few bands together), Sóley creates music altogether different from any of the bands she plays with.  Sóley started her solo career back in 2010 with the release of the Theater Island EP, and it wasn’t long before her full debut album, We Sink, was released in September 2011. Her ethereal vocals, coupled with swirling vocal loops, interweave with lyrics that conjure up images of sinister, fairy tale scenarios. Listening to Sóley is a bit like being immersed, head-first, into a dream – weird, tender and a little bit scary. Sóley has been pretty much continually on the road for the past year in support of her debut album and she is about to embark on an extensive tour of the US supporting fellow Icelanders Of Monsters and Men. We caught up with her to find out how it was all going.

You’ve been pretty busy over the past 12 months. 

Yes, very busy!

You’ve been touring a lot… 

Yeah, I’ve been travelling and touring a lot. It’s really fun but it’s also really tiring. I just think it’s a part of my job. You have to think like that, otherwise you’re always homesick. The tours have been really successful, which is nice. I can’t complain! [laughs]

You’ve had a really big response to your music in and around Europe. Is there anywhere in particular that you think you have an affinity with when you’re on tour? 

Germany, I would say.  I went there in September when the album came out, and then I went back in May to tour for a month.  Then I toured Europe in July and all the German shows were sold out, which was nice. [laughs]  So I think Germany is on top right now.

You’re about to go on a tour of the USA in support Of Monsters and Men.


I imagine you’re looking forward to that.

Yeah, yeah, it’s going to be interesting.

How do you think you’re music’s going to translate in America?

It’s an interesting way to kick off in America, to open up for Of Monsters and Men, because they’re getting huge… or already are!  So it’s mainly going to be their audience who I’m going to play for.  And I think, also because the tour was kind of announced on their website and all the shows are sold out.  Now, I’m getting messages from people who want to come to my show and everything’s sold out.  So, I’m like, ok, sorry.  Which is kind of bad.  I could have gone to America and played small venues and maybe got the people who already know my music.  But this is maybe a chance to get new fans.  And then, I can go back next year, and maybe do a small headline tour or something.  It’s a good way of entering America.

Have you got any funny tour stories?

Well, we have this thing…what happens on tour stays on tour! [laughs]  No, no, of course, something funny always goes on.  But I’m not going to say anything because then someone will  get angry with me.

There are lots of bands playing together in the Icelandic music scene in general.  You play in Sin Fang as well as Seabear and you have a solo career. Do you think that collaboration is important to the music scene in Iceland?

Yeah, the scene is quite big.  There are many bands and musicians, but still it’s mainly the same people in all of the bands.  It’s like everyone plays in three different bands. Which is quite nice because then if you’re in three different bands, you don’t want to be playing the same music in two of the same bands.  So that’s maybe why there is this diversity, many variations of people trying to find their own path and their own style.  Rather than one band going really popular and everyone becomes like Björk or something. When you are making an album, you maybe call your friend to play bass on the album and then you repay the favour by playing piano for that person.  You can always get mics from someone.  It’s a small family I would say.  Everyone kind of knows each other and especially the group that I am in, we’re all in this Morr Music family, which is quite nice.  I really enjoy it. Of course, there’s always competition but it’s really positive. It’s really hard to try to live on making music and only playing at one venue and always for the same fifty people.

There’s been quite a lot in the press recently about Nasa closing and now Faktorý is under threat too.  It seems like there’s quite a big backlash against the closing of music venues in Reykjavik. Is that something you’re on board with?

It’s really a pity, and I’m really angry about Nasa closing because they’re closing everything and building hotels everywhere. Nasa was a really special place. It was quite big and it fitted about 700 people, I think. By closing that, it makes the queues longer, especially now for Airwaves, because we’re missing a really big venue.  Now we only have Iðnó, which is a theatre and it doesn’t have a proper sound system.  If you want to have a concert there, you have to rent your own. We have Harpa, but I don’t even want to know how much money I would have to spend if I wanted to play there.  So, Nasa was always a really nice venue for smaller festivals and for bigger shows. It’s a pity.  It’s a pity that Faktorý might be closed.  It has been a concert venue for a long time.

So, with the closing of Nasa, and possibly Faktorý too, do you think that the music scene in general is finding it hard?

Well, I don’t really play that often in Iceland.  We did one show, me and Sin Fang, this summer at Faktorý and it was so crowded.  You never get paid anywhere if you play in Iceland.  It’s not like anywhere else where you get a little bit of a fee.  You have to sell tickets yourself.  It’s very DIY they just offer the place and then you have to get really creative with coming up with ideas when you have concerts.  You can have shows in churches and stuff. There are other places to play, but it’s always a matter of how much money are you going to spend because you always need to rent stuff.   So, I think… it would be nice to have venues that are there and you don’t need to do anything.  Especially, because there are so many bands here.  And I don’t know if normal people in Iceland know how much tourism is coming here only because of the music.  Like now there are around 5000 people from somewhere else in town for Airwaves. Which is very good, I would say.

When did you decide to start making music as a solo artist?

Well, I did an EP. It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it happened.

Why wasn’t it supposed to happen?

I was in the Art Academy studying composition and then I got an email from Thomas Morr, who is the head of Morr Music, and he was asking me if I had some songs, like some demos.  And I sent him something, and three months later the EP was out.

Sounds like it was quite a fast process then?

Yeah, it was a fast process and I wasn’t really planning on going solo than. I mean, I would have done it at some point.

What inspires you to make music? 

I would say maybe dreams.  Like in a way, how dreams develop.  Everything is so weird in dreams, you know, you’re here and then you’re suddenly here and everything is normal but really surreal and un-normal. Also, darkness and stuff like that. [laughs]  But all in a really visual way and not like a horrible way.  I could imagine if I was totally multi-talented I would make a horror movie.  Like a visually beautiful horror movie.  That’s my goal.

Is that one of your ambitions?  Is that what you want to do?

Yes. [laughs] I see it all in my head.  I see all my lyrics when I sing them or when I’m writing. I try to see what’s happening.  And I leave it open so people can maybe imagine their own world or own stories behind each poem or lyric.

What’s in store for you over the next year?

I think I’ll try to finish the album, or try to start.  I might have to start before I finish.  [laughs]  When I come back off the tour, I’ll start full time on that.

You’re going to go straight into the studio when you come back?

Yeah, I just bought an apartment with my boyfriend and with the apartment comes a garage.  I’m going to try and make a studio there.  It’s all in the making.  So when I come back, it’s going to probably be ready… maybe. [laughs] I’m going to America in February and I’ll probably do SXSW and hopefully Japan. Then not touring too much. Not until the next album comes out.

So, second album wise, how far along are you and do you know when it might be released? 

If I’m really, really creative, and really lucky, then it will come out this time next year, just before Airwaves, that’s my dream.  I’m working towards that.  It could happen sooner if the winter darkness in Iceland helps me to be creative… and wake up early. It’s probably not the best time of year to try, but maybe it will happen. We’ll see.

You might get inspired by the darkness?

Probably.  I’ll be like, snow, darkness. It’s going to be a great album! [laughs]

Go to Sóley’s gogoyko page to listen to some more music. Check out what she’s up to HERE. And you should definitely check out what Morr Music are up to. They release her records and you can check them out HERE.


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