After their live debut at the Secret Solstice festival in 2016, enigmatic trio aYia became an overnight buzz-band, inciting powerful energy and excitement around their spacious, chilly, electronic pop music. To see them perform live evokes the true power of the trio. Multi-instrumentalist producers Kristinn Roach Gunnarsson and Kári Einarsson stand wide apart at the front of the stage, with poetess vocalist Ásta Fanney Sigurðardóttir lurking in the shadows between. They’re at once detached from each other, but also deeply interconnected. This subtle physicality enhances the tense silences and booming drops of their music, capturing the audience in a hypnotic swirl.
aYia formed three years ago. More precisely, the members intentionally congealed into a new entity. “The image of the band was supposed to be super secret,” says Kristinn, “because the whole vibe of the band is completely different from our personalities.”
Trying to feel nothing
This distinction between their real-life selves and their group presence is accentuated by their aesthetic, which features masks, hoods and hidden faces, skirting the line between presence and disappearance. Their performances have a sense of lingering mystery; they’re distant, but not cold or removed. “I try to become nothing,” says Kári. “Just the void. I try to be by myself, with the gear—just trying to feel nothing.”
“But of course you don’t become nothing,” continues Ásta. “You just go beyond yourself, playing this role as this character. It’s more like the feeling of leaving yourself and everything that is part of your earthly life and going into some other kind of void.” Kristinn continues: “I like the idea of it being a hive-mind. It’s something that connects us—it’s powerful, but we’re not blasting it out there.”
Just be there
What allows them to enter this intentional void state is showing up to write and perform as equal partners. “Everything is connected via the music,” says Kristinn. “It’s like the connection has been made beforehand so we just have to be there.”
Their music contains dichotomous elements of airy, featherlight vocals and tense silences contrasted against massive synth sounds and pounding beats. “The music is full of space and quiet,” says Kristinn. “There’s power behind it—but it’s not showing all the time.”
Ásta adds: “It’s really like you’re trying to weave and this thing you’re working with is so delicate, so you have to do it really precisely so it will work together.”
Everything is happening
aYia’s first single, “Water Plant,” was released in October 2016, and their self-titled debut album took over two years to complete due, in part, to the detailed precision required to create their sound. “The final touches always take the longest,” says Kristinn.
“It was really just polishing,” Ásta continues, “because there’s so much emphasis on the mix and getting it really near perfection.”
They had some mixing help from Icelandic super-producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, whose work made everything “so much more,” according to the band. The record was released via Valgeir’s Bedroom Community label, and it’s an evocative collection that transports the listener to places both wonderful and strange.
“There’s a lot of fear, but when it’s covered with these massive sounds it becomes such a contrast… you feel so much in your spectrum that everything is happening,” says Ásta. “You’re like, whoa, what trip are you taking me on?”
AYia’s self-titled debut album is out now. They’ll play Berlin’s Kantine am Berghain on May 19th.