Icelandic twins Ásthildur and Jófríður have been making music together since the tender age of 14 under the name Pascal Pinon and have been causing a considerable stir with their sophomore album Twosomeness. Pascal Pinon create a staunchly lo-fi sound incorporating analogue keyboards, xylophones and Sony walkmans from the 80s. But don’t be fooled, they aren’t about resurrecting a ‘hip’ electro aesthetic. They write blissful folk inspired melodies using everything from homesickness to Kanye West as subject matter and the results are sublime songs that show a musical intelligence far beyond their teenage years. We caught up with Ásthildur and Jófríður to talk about touring, what makes a good record and their undying love for Enya.
Let’s talk about why you started making music. How did it all begin?
We kind of though it would be cool to be in a band. We were 14 and asked two of our friends who played instruments if they wanted to be in a band and they said yes. We were experimenting with creating sounds and getting together to write music. It just sort of happened by accident.
How did you find the transition of going from a four piece to a two piece?
It was a bit stressful because it wasn’t really clear who was doing what. I suppose I thought everyone would be happy to write songs but it was just us that ended up doing it. We respected that, but in the end I think the collaboration was not that good for us. We were planing on releasing the first album by ourselves so there was a lot of stress that went with that. In the end we just decided to remain friends and the other two left the band. We actually ended up getting a record deal (with Morr Music) not long after the others left so it’s a good job we decided to keep going. It’s all fine now and we’re still friends.
You recorded your first album in a very DIY way. You recorded it all on an old four track in your house. What was it like going from that to recording your second album with Alex Somers?
It was amazing. Alex always managed to bring the best out in us. When we were recording we’d talk about how we could make the songs better by using different effects and instruments and sounds. We always ended up with something that was totally different to what we expected but in a really good way. We were trying lots of different things we had never tried before. The songs were given their own character. It was a kind of creative kick. It was a really cool thing.
How do you think your sound translates when you’re playing live? Is it difficult to recreate what you did on the studio?
We had to think about it hard, especially with the new stuff because there was so many sounds in the record. Like one track (Bloom) was written for a clarinet choir. We weren’t able to do that live so we figured out ways for the two of us to create those sounds live in a different way. We don’t think there should be any rules in the live set. We just do whatever we think sounds good. There are so many versions of the songs we could do so we don’t limit ourselves. We might play something one way at one show and play the same song a different way another time… if we think it sounds ok.
It would be pretty easy for you to just use a laptop on stage but you don’t do that. Is keeping the sound analogue important to you?
Yes. If you use a computer to recreate some sounds on the album I think the other instruments sort of lose their value a little bit. People might start to wonder if we’re really playing the guitar or really singing. We want to create something that’s totally organic. That’s why we use the cassette player, it creates all this extra hiss and tape noise. Its’ atmospheric.
You choose to sing in different languages, sometimes in Icelandic, sometimes in English and even Swedish. How to you chose which language to write a song in?
It happens quite early in the process. We usually start writing a song and we start humming some melody and mumbling some words then we write the lyrics in the language that fits best. If something sounds good in Icelandic then we’ll work on it in Icelandic, if it sounds good in English we’ll write it in English.
You’ve been touring a lot recently. How do you find the experience of traveling to lots of different countries playing music?
We like it. It’s like an adventure. Maybe it’s because we’re so young but for us it’s good to go to places we’ve never been to before and visiting places for the first time and meeting new people. It’s really funny how people react in different places. When we played in Italy everyone was really loud and partying which was completely different to Switzerland where people were totally silent. You never know what to expect.
Your sound is pretty eclectic. What sorts of music do you listen to to get inspired?
What was very inspirational when we were starting the band was the punk rock scene in the 80s. The music then was very expressive and had a positive message. The songs from that era are totally simple and about getting across what you want to say in a direct way.
That’s really interesting because punk rock isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when listening to your music.
Yeah, it’s not so much the sound but the ideals behind punk music that we like: the individuality and not worrying too much about what people think of you. We also listen to things that are tuneful and melancholy at the same time like The Smiths as well as a lot of electronic music. We’re also huge Enya fans! (laughs).
Yeah. We love Enya. We listen to her a lot. She’s a great female role model.
Are strong feminist role models in music particularly inspiring to you?
Definitely. Anybody who feels like they don’t have to wear sexy dresses to sell records is good. That’s a very strong message for other people.
What’s next for Pascal Pinon?
We haven’t planned anything yet! (laughs). We’re going to spend the summer writing, I think, so that we can go into the studio with lots of new material. We’d like to do some recording near the end of the year. We are doing some more touring in May and June and maybe August too. We’re actually at a cross roads in our lives because we’re graduating soon. We still need to decide what we’re going to be when we grow up!