Interview: Talking Lighthouses and live sets with amiina

amiina _press1There’s something about living in an extreme place that has the power to inspire. And there are few places that harbour a more extreme landscape than the country of Iceland. Maybe that’s why Icelandic six piece amiina create the type of music that encapsulates the energy and beauty of the place from which they seem to draw their inspiration. But amiina aren’t a band that limits itself to making music solely with their home country in mind. Since their inception in 2004, amiina have played extensively with Sigur Ros, swelled from a four piece to a six piece and collaborated with the likes of Spiritualized, Efterklang and Zoon van snooK. They’ve also just finished working on a project with Parisian musical pioneer Yann Tiersen. As you can tell, amiina have got a lot going on, so we thought it was time to catch up with them and talk about it. Luckily, they were able to take some time out of their schedule, so we were granted access to their rehearsal studio in Reykjavik for a chat.

Hi, how are you? 

Good, good. We’re rehearsing for some shows we’ve got coming up in Paris.

Yeah, I heard you’re working with Yann Tiersen at the moment. Is that what you’re rehearsing for?

Yes, it is. We’re scoring an old silent movie which we’ll perform live at the end of the month with some other movies being scored by other musicians. Yann is the curator for the project and will be joining us on piano when we play. After that we’ll be working on the strings for his new album.

When are the performances for the movies going to happen? 

They’re happening on the 31st October.

Halloween! 

Yeah, scary! (laughs)

You’ve recently released your album The Lighthouse Project. How did the idea for the project come about and what was the inspiration behind it? 

Back in 2009, we were playing in a huge, old empty house that we used as a rehearsal space. We then had the opportunity to perform some songs for the Iceland Arts Festival in Reykjavik, so we composed some songs for that. The concept was all about intimacy and inviting people into your home. That festival also had some projects they were doing about lighthouses, so they sent us to a lighthouse and asked us to perform there. We said “OK”, but when we started playing, we found some magic happening. Lots of people who were just passing by sort of accidentally saw us playing the concert and told us afterwards that it had been really good. I think because the buildings are tall and thin, the sound you can get in them is very special. It was like the sound was being projected out from the top of the lighthouse and out to the sea. So after that, we had the idea of recreating that in some way.

How did you do that?

We travelled to some of the old lighthouses around Iceland and recorded some more tracks. Because the lighthouses are so remote there’s a real feeling of intimacy in these places. But when we got the first recordings back and we listened to them, we decided to go into the studio and re-record them. In the studio we recorded them totally live. We wanted to recreate the closeness that we felt when we first played them.

Couldn’t you release the original recordings? 

We would have loved to, but the sound quality wasn’t good enough. There was a lot of noise coming from outside which got picked up by the mics and it wasn’t possible to get the sound the way we wanted it, or the way we think people listening to it would want it either. Also, since we first recorded the songs we had taken on two more members, so it felt like it needed to be a project that represented that in a way.

Did the dynamic of the band change by taking on two new members? 

It changed the dynamic a lot. With six of us we can go a lot louder and there are more possibilities when we play live because there are more of us, which is really good and allows us to experiment a lot more.

You guys are playing Iceland Airwaves this year. What kind of show is it going to be? 

It’s going to be mix of styles, we will be playing a couple of new songs and one from The Lighthouse Project. We’ll probably be playing songs mainly from the album Puzzle, which has a bit more of an electronic sound. It’s going to be interesting!

Do you think Airwaves is important for the Icelandic music industry?

It’s very important, definitely. There’s always a lot of foreign press that come over and there’s an excitement that happens around it. It’s good for the Icelandic musical environment. It can get a little hectic at times, especially if you’re a musician! (laughs).

What have amiina got coming up in the near future? 

Well, we’ve been working on quite a lot of side projects, like the silent movie scoring, so all of a sudden, we’ve got lots and lots of new material that we have started playing around with. It would be fun to get it on a new album, which we’re definitely working towards, but for now we’ve got a tour next spring and our main focus is having new songs to play at our live shows. It’s going to be busy.

Keep up to date on all things amiina related here. The Lighthouse Project is out now on Morr Music.

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