Sóley has just arrived back in Iceland from a whistlestop trip to England. She played a one-off show in Hull, to celebrate its status as UK City of Culture 2017, ahead of an upcoming European tour. “I was in the UK for just 24 hours,” she smiles, breathlessly. “I ended up in an industrial rave with Curver [Thoroddsen, of Ghostigital]. I always think I’ll just go back to the hotel after the show and go to sleep, but it never happens.”
She performed solo, on a grand piano, sandwiched between experimental electronica duo Ghostigital and honorary Icelander John Grant on the lineup. “I’d been rehearsing with the band, and so I’d kind of forgotten to practice for this one,” says sóley. “I was so nervous. I thought, ‘I couldn’t be more naked—I could literally be naked onstage.’ It was really powerful.”
Her new album, ‘Endless Summer’, is similarly intimate. The opening song, “Úa,” is named after her daughter, and the lyrics are deeply personal in nature throughout. But despite the record’s optimistic title and its billing as her “happy album,” the nature of the music remains contemplative, and sometimes even mournful.
“Well, I did my best!” she laughs. “The title came before the album. It was finding it hard to play ‘Ask the Deep’—I wasn’t enjoying playing it live any more. Then in January 2016 I woke up and thought: ‘I’m going to make an album about spring, and hope.’ I didn’t want to be stuck in this depression pond forever.”
‘Endless Summer’ feels like a departure to sóley, who’s still in the process of getting to know the album. “Every time I release something, I can listen to it for a month, then I have to stop,” she says. “I’ll start wishing I’d done little things differently. But I’m still listening to this album in my car—my daughter likes it, and knows all the words.”
The album is sóley’s third, and was produced over a period of one year. During the recording, she realised that she’d unwittingly typecast her own sound. “I was stuck in a box,” she explains. “I’d been thinking that I only made dark music in minor keys, with funny horror shit. I realised I could also use major chords. The first song, “Úa”, starts with a major chord—that was a big step for me.”
This newfound freedom breathed life into the writing process. “I enjoyed making it so much,” sóley smiles. ”It was the first time I’ve enjoyed making music for a long while. I decided to do whatever I love, and put it all together in an album. I realised that I can go outside of that box. Sometimes you feel stuck, but it’s so easy to go out.”
Ironically, the songs on ‘Endless Summer’ were written in some of the darkest days of the Icelandic year. “In January, endless summer is what you want,” says sóley. “But I wouldn’t want to live in California—I like the dynamic that Iceland has to offer. And I love the craving, sitting in a café and talking to my friends about what we’ll do when summer comes. Those summer days are endless, in a way. The day and night merge together, for a really short time. And then, it’s back to reality.”
“Endless Summer” is released on May 5, with a release party at MENGI on May 6.