The music of einarIndra feels discreet, or even secretive, somehow. His mellow songs are slow and languorous, their muted late-night rhythms ticking along at a relaxed pace beneath plaintive synth washes and an echoing falsetto voice. It’s an intriguing and beguiling mixture of soul, indie songwriting, and electronica that stands out in the current Icelandic scene.
“EinarIndra is a name an old yoga monk gave me when I was a teenager,” says Einar Rafn Þórhallsson, the quiet and mild-mannered man behind the music. “I’ve been using it ever since. But the Icelandic law is that if you change your name, you have to go through the naming committee. Indra is a woman’s name, and they won’t let me have both a male and female name. So I use it for my music.”
His musical journey began early, in elementary school. “I was only listening to hip-hop,” says Einar. ”Then I remember hearing the GusGus song ‘Polyesterday,’ and it opened me up to the idea that hip-hop rhythms could be turned into something else. I went more into electronic music, learned Fruityloops and some other software, and started making beats. Then I went to a music school to learn computer music.”
The genesis of his experimentation is einarIndra, a solo project he started four years ago. “A friend of mine asked me to do music for an art video,” says Einar. “He inspired me to start doing music again. He was doing art full time, putting real effort into it, and going all in. That inspired me.”
Einar found another kindred spirit in Futuregrapher. The two had been working in parallel in their early lives in different parts of Iceland, before the internet started connecting like-minded people more easily. “I did a track for a Möller compilation, called ‘Mountain Blues’,” says Einar. “That was the first track I put out, in 2014, and then my first EP came that year.”
His biggest single to date, “Sometimes I’m Wrong,” is decorated with some welcome electronic flourishes, adding another facet to his intriguing brand of low-key pop. “I’ve tried to do more upbeat songs, when I go to the bar and hear FM Belfast or something,” he laughs. “But then I try, and end up slowing it down… and then slowing it down some more. I found my rhythm—111 BPM—and I can’t go any faster than that.”
Einar played around 40 gigs last year, including several overseas. He noticed on his travels that being Icelandic is a point of interest for the outside world. “This January I played at Ment festival in Slovenia,” he recalls. “That was a beautiful festival. Icelanders have this melancholy indie-alternative vibe that a lot of people seem to be looking for. I hear people saying that being from Iceland is very cool right now—not that I feel it myself. I’ve actually often been told that I don’t sound Icelandic.”
His third EP, following on from ‘You Sound Asleep’ and ‘Stories’, has the working title of ‘Unravel’ and is planned for release in the autumn. Until then, einarIndra continues to drip-feed the world with catchy and hypnotic singles like “Take Me Down,” which drops on June 2. And whether he sounds Icelandic or not, something tells us his journey is just beginning.