Airwaves

Auður: Epiphanies Inspired By Hip, Pretty Girls

Words by
Photos by Hrefna Sigurðardóttir
 
Auður: Epiphanies Inspired By Hip, Pretty Girls
 

In less than a month, Auður, aka Auðunn Lúthersson, will make his stage debut at Iceland Airwaves. Auður made his print media debut in this very issue, which also marks his debut appearance on a magazine cover. Auður has yet to release a single song, or play a single show. And yet, here we are.

Arriving to interview a musician I’ve never heard of, I feel stupid and out of touch. We start talking, and I’m relieved to learn that my Auður ignorance is absolutely justified. How could I—or anyone for that matter—possibly have heard of Auður? He has never played a show, or released so much as a demo. He has no Soundcloud account, no YouTube channel, and no social media presence—he doesn’t even own a smartphone. Why is this guy even being featured, I wonder.

Auður plays me a song that just came back from mastering. Curious and frustrated, I listen intently, and almost immediately understand why Auður is slated to make his stage debut at a coveted Iceland Airwaves slot, why he’s on the cover of this magazine, and why I’m about to interview him.

Because, it’s great. That Auður, he’s great.

The song is called “Both Eyes On You.” It is ultra-current, featuring a gripping R&B melody that elegantly cuts through the immaculately produced soundscape, all dark and velvety smooth. Auður croons over it all, in a voice that’s simultaneously commanding and vulnerable. The sound is professional, slick and international—as if it’s been honed through years of experience and development.

Sinking into the melody, I find it hard to fathom that this music could be the product of the lanky 22-year-old who’s standing in front of me.

I quickly come up with some questions.

SOMETHING RIGHT

So, who is this Auður?
Auður is my artist name, it’s the name of the project I’m going forward with and will be premiering at Airwaves. It’s modern music, it’s 2016 music, and I’m immensely excited to launch it into the world!

You haven’t released a song, nor played a concert before—how come you’re occupying one of Iceland Airwaves’s coveted slots?
A buzz has been building around my music recently, since I began playing it to a select group of people, some of whom are in the music business. Also, getting admitted into the Red Bull Music Academy helped me a lot. When people in Berlin and Paris pay attention to your work, you’re doing something right.

Wait a minute. What’s the Red Bull Music Academy, how did you get into it, and what does it mean for your career?
It’s a music academy that’s sponsored by Red Bull. Earlier this year, I sent in an application—along with about 5,000 other artists—and was fortunate enough to be one of the twenty that were admitted. Right after Airwaves, I’ll be spending two weeks in Paris, composing music with fellow students, working on my own stuff and performing at some very hip venues. [Some later Googling informs me that the academy’s alumni includes folks like cosmic electro wizard Flying Lotus, superstar DJ Nina Kravitz, maximalist producer Hudson Mohawke and soul singer extraordinaire Aloe Blacc.]

JAMES BLAKE CHANGED MY LIFE!

What’s your background in music?
I come from a hardcore/noise-rock background, and have played with bands like In The Company Of Men. I also studied advanced jazz guitar at FÍH [the prestigious Musicians’ Union’s music school].

How come you abandoned hardcore and jazz guitar for modern R&B?
I think it’s somewhat related to a realization I had while in MR college. After a while, it dawned on me that all the hip, cute girls in my class were listening to all this cool electronic music. As a result, I decided to attend Sónar 2013, where came across a few artists that really opened my eyes. James Blake, especially, was a huge inspiration. His set at Sónar changed my life.

Playing in rock bands, I was constantly arranging for the others, setting notes up in a computer programme to map out all the different instruments. That aroused the perfectionist in me, and made me want to gain total control over every instrument.

So, yeah. The infinite possibilities granted by modern music software, combined with the influence of hip, pretty girls, put me on this path that I’m on, and ultimately led me to make the kind of music you’ll be hearing from Auður.

YOUNG & FRESH

You’ve recently produced the song “Strákarnir okkar” (“Our Boys”) for rapper Emmsjé Gauti. Is that something your looking to do more of?
Definitely. I made two other songs with Emmsjé, which will probably appear on his next album. I’ve also done production work for a few other artists, although I can’t quite drop any names just yet.

Which rappers would you say are your dream collaborators, Icelandic and international?
I just spoke with [other cover star] GKR earlier today, and we talked about working together. I’m very excited about that—he’s young and fresh, and I like to believe that I’m young and fresh, too. Something great could come out of that. For foreign rappers, it’s Ty Dolla $ign—he’s got a smooth and melodic flow, and his hair looks great.

A scene seems to be blossoming, here and abroad, that’s equal parts masculine and feminine in terms of both lyrical content and execution. You could call it something like “nu R&B male-wave,” and place artists like Drake, Frank Ocean and Weeknd under that banner—with guys like Sturla Atlas and Uni Stefson representing on the Iceland front. Does this ring true to you? And, if so, do you identify with that wave?
I some ways, yes. I find it interesting that you describe it as simultaneously masculine and feminine, because that’s actually the whole point of my artist name, Auður [an Icelandic female name]. My real name is Auðunn, a male name that should be a female one, but I assume a female name that really should be a male name [in Icelandic, the ending -ur is usually reserved for male names, and the ending -unn is generally a female one].

I do look up to many of the artists you named, and I can see how my music could be considered part of that scene. However, I also like to think that I have my own unique voice.

Auður will be playing on Friday, November 6 in Tjarnarbíó at 19:00! For more Airwaves bands, check out the schedule!

Posted October 25, 2015