Remember when you were a child and the teacher would ask the class, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” You’d quickly answer the first thing that came to mind, before realising that there was more than one answer—maybe you want to become a singer, but also a fireman. And a dancer. There were so many careers to pick from, so many interesting ways to occupy your time. How could you ever possibly decide?
Neo-classical post-rock duo Hugar believe you shouldn’t have to. “I think people won’t just be defined as one thing in the future,” says Pétur Jónsson, one of the two members of the band. “You won’t just be an architect or an engineer. Maybe you’ll be an engineer who is also a chef.” Bergur Þórisson, the other member, adds: “For both of us, doing many different things has to do with the Icelandic mentality that nobody can just do one thing.”
Many different things
Alongside their careers as musicians, both Pétur and Bergur have other occupations. Pétur just finished a degree in architecture, forming the foundation of his future as an architect. Bergur is an acclaimed recording engineer who has worked with artists such as Björk, Ólafur Arnalds, and the late Jóhann Jóhannsson.
“I think that it benefits music-making to work on many different things,” Bergur reflects. “Going to university, for instance, is really healthy and it opens your mind to new things.”
The beginning of Hugar
Bergur and Pétur have known each other as long as they can remember. They studied music in the same school and were in various bands throughout their adolescence. Hugar began when Bergur was looking after Danish musician Tina Dickow’s studio while she was on vacation with her husband, Helgi Jónsson. Bergur was assisting Helgi at the time, and was handed the studio keys with the words: “You can do anything.”
“I called Pétur,” Bergur explains, “and I said, ‘shit, we have to make something happen!’” Since then, Bergur and Pétur have released an album, and given away their music for free through online streaming platforms. “These platforms helped expose our music,” Bergur explains. “The free downloads paved the road for us to go travel and tour the world.”
The lyrical narrative
Hugar’s music is instrumental, which plays a purposeful role for Bergur. “I love how music can express emotions without putting words on it,” he says. “We don’t give our music that narrative of lyrics, where people know exactly what to think and what to feel. That’s a big part of why I do it.”
Their other activities aside, Hugar will tour Europe this autumn, and they have singles and videos on the way before the release of their second album in early 2019. They’ll tour as a duo, because unlike most bands with members dedicated to a single defined role, Hugar try to do pretty much everything themselves. From composing to record engineering and playing all the instruments, this intriguing pair remain a self-contained duo in the true sense of the word.