Another World Onstage: Sunna Is Rising - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Another World Onstage: Sunna Is Rising

Another World Onstage: Sunna Is Rising

Published November 1, 2017

Steindór Grétar Jónsson
Photos by
Senta Simond

The polished electronica of Sunna Margrét Þórisdóttir—who, a musician, goes by simply Sunna—sounds almost surgical at times, yet somehow fluid. “It doesn’t happen by accident, but it’s not exactly planned either,” she explains. “The lyrics and song—I just do it. I don’t plan ahead. Sometimes when I record the vocals, I just press play and sing, so the melody and lyrics may just appear in the first take.”

A veteran of the electro pop band Bloodgroup, Sunna now studies visual art in Lausanne, Switzerland. She maintains that her approach to the two artforms is interconnected. In fact, her debut single ‘Hero Slave’ was composed in art history class, even if the lyrics came partly in her sleep. “I had a vivid dream about a dog I knew when I was a child,” she says. “And he was talking to me, I don’t remember about what. It’s weird, but fits the song, since it’s weird too.”

Stage fright, stage delight

Sunna has been performing in front of people her whole life. She’s the daughter of legendary musician Þórir Baldursson, whose international credits include collaborations with Donna Summer, Grace Jones and Giorgio Moroder. As a child, Sunna would perform with her father at family events—oftentimes a song he wrote for the band Dátar, ‘Leyndarmál.’ At age 18, Sunna joined Bloodgroup, and started touring extensively, both domestically and abroad.

“You reach this stage-high out there singing and playing, with the lights and smoke enveloping you.”

Despite all this experience, she still suffers from stage fright. “If I’m with a band, it’s easier,” she explains. “I’m not alone on stage, going ‘Hey, look at me!’ I can breathe easier. But still, especially in Iceland, I get a massive stage fright. I once performed at The Icelandic Music Awards and I really don’t remember doing it! I was just so nervous, I felt like I was dying. I don’t know how to get rid of this.”

She’s been able to adjust, to some extent, for the sake of the end goal. “Three minutes before I go onstage I feel like I need to pee really bad, even if I don’t have to,” she says. “You just tell yourself, ‘No, you don’t have to pee, just go on stage!’ And if you power through, it goes away. Then when you’ve passed the point of no return, you reach this stage-high. And the feeling that comes over you, out there singing and playing, the lights and smoke enveloping you—it’s just another world. It’s crazy, absolutely crazy. Maybe that’s why I go on.”

Visual performances

Sunna is set to perform off-venue at Iceland Airwaves, with bassist Ingibjörg Turchi and guitarist Mr. Silla. “I was so happy when they said yes,” Sunna says. “I had this dream team in my head and I couldn’t believe that I could get such a great group together.” Their first concert is at 7pm on Wednesday, 1 November, at Mengi, followed by a Kaffibarinn performance at 5pm on Friday.

Concertgoers can expect Sunna’s visual art background to bleed into her live performances, as it does with her music. “My concert at LungA Festival this summer is the best example,” she says. “It was essentially an installation, because I painted this massive plastic sheet and hung it up to project visuals onto it. It felt more like an experience than just a concert, which is exactly what I was going for.”

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