Hafsteinn Þráinsson is having a very busy summer. “It’s work, work, work,” he sighs. Hafsteinn is the brains behind the fingers currently plucking Ceasetone’s forthcoming EP ‘Stranded’ into existence from a small downtown apartment.
“Your brain kind of turns to jelly when you work in your apartment for twelve hours,” he says. “Recording in the apartment is good because it means you have all the time in the world—but then, the problem is that you have all the time in the world. If you have an end goal and put a lot into it, you can create something really ambitious in the end.”
His plan to unleash two new singles and an EP by the end of this month certainly isn’t lacking in ambition—and nor are his plans for the future.
“This project is my musical centre,” Hafsteinn explains. “I have this very specific vision for Ceasetone as a hybrid act—a ‘musical universe.’ You can imagine a three‐dimensional stage on which you place all these different instruments producing different sounds, but it’s always within the same narrative. The acoustic guitar is always the musical centre but it grows in different directions with different sounds. I love the idea of connecting all your albums together in a subtle way. They can change, but if you were to listen to the whole body of work through, it could feel almost like one seamless track.”
Hafsteinn talks about dividing music into “two halves.” “There’s the music you listen to to make yourself feel better,” he says, “and the music you study because it’s interesting.”
I wonder where ‘Stranded’ fits within this dialectic. Hearing the first single, “Brothers,” I’m struck by an underlying desire on Hafsteinn’s part to carve out a sonic space for himself. Although the dreamlike acoustics are superficially comforting, the lyrics point to a deep discomfort with being placed in this or that box.
“I have this core element of how I think about my music that’s pretty consistent throughout everything I do,” he says. “It’s this contrast of acoustic and electronic. You start with the principle that, ‘This is my playground, and I can do whatever I want.’ I don’t dream of being stuck in one genre—I’m driven by the urge to craft more personal lyrics, more personal sounds.”
While some of Reykjavík’s musicians compete for the exposure the tourism boom has gifted the city, Ceasetone’s deeply personal focus brings a refreshing humility to the stage.
“I’m pretty neutral about being part of a hype or a scene,” Hafsteinn says. “It’s about reaching out to people who like what you do. There’s a lot more stuff coming out now, but there’s a lot more people listening, too. I don’t think you should be scared of competition. I would rather rejoice in the fact that we have so much cool stuff going on. It’s so much more fun to enjoy all of it, collaborate, and be friends with everyone. It’s a big world out there. There’s room for everyone.”
‘Brothers’ is out now on Spotify and iTunes.