From Iceland — Amiina


Published May 9, 2008


Let’s start with the obvious first question. What’s going on with Amiina?
María: There are plenty of things. Too many really. We’re finishing a movie soundtrack and will soon go on tour with Sigur Rós. The biggest project at the moment are concerts we are organising for the Reykjavík Art Festival where we collaborate with Kippi Kaninus. The concerts will take place at Reykjavík Art Museum (Hafnarhús) on May 15 and 16.

Usually, there are only the four of you when you play live, but these concerts are of much bigger scale.
Sólrún: Yes, it’s a much bigger project than we have done before. We got the idea to do a collaborative project and thought it would be ideal to include Kippi, as he had toured with us in Europe last year. The project soon expanded and more musicians joined us.

Edda: We’ll be 16 in total.

María: We have had this dream, to produce a different live set, for a long time. Our music has many layers so when it is only the four of us on stage we are busy trying to comprise everything. We wanted to let our music come into its own without us running around, swapping instruments. We wanted to grab the chance to look at our music from a different angle, rearrange it and also create something new. We’ve done arrangements for a string quartet as well as a brass section so the concerts will be different from both our previous live performances as well as from the songs on our albums. The title, ‘Amina, Kippi and Friends in Wonderland’ is a reference to how everything will become a little twisted.

Sólrún: Something that was once very tiny suddenly becomes very big.

You also mentioned a movie soundtrack.
Maria: We’ve been composing the soundtrack for a British film called ‘Is There Anybody There?’ by Irish director John Crowley. He put a lot of responsibility on our hands, to help shape the characters with the music. Although the timing couldn’t have been worse we decided to go for it because we liked the film so much.

Sólrún: It’s a story of a ten-year-old boy and an old man, played by Michael Caine, who’s brilliant in his role by the way. The film deals with the way they try to help each other out, dealing with life and to live in the moment.

María: This is a beautiful and intimate film, filled with many small details and great closeness to the characters. The film is in post-production and scheduled to premiere by the end of this year.

How did you get this project?
Edda: Wasn’t it thanks to Yoko Ono?

Sólrún: That’s true. There is this radio show, called Desert Island Discs (on BBC Radio 4), where people are asked to name records they would take with them to a desert island. She picked John Lennon, Sean Lennon and also Amiina, among others. The director heard this show and bought the album.

When this project is over, what are the plans for the summer?
Maria: After we finish the score for the film we’ll jump on the plane to tour with Sigur Rós for the next three months.

Sólrún: We’ll support them in concert but not play our own set this time. We decided to take a break from Amiina this summer and just have fun. Emphasise on one job, instead of two.

María: To play two concerts each night can get really tiring.

Sólrún: We did that for one year. It was a great experience but at the same time very exhausting.

María: Considering how much time we’ve spent together for the past ten years it’s unbelievable that we are still friends.

Sólrún: It’s been great fun though.

Has it been that long, ten years?
María: Well, it’s a bit complicated. We started to play with Sigur Rós in 1999 and before that we played classical music together in school.

Sólrún: We started as the string quartet Aníma in 1998. That’s the beginning.

Edda: Four years ago we started to create our own music together.

Are there any defined roles in the band today or do you just pick up whatever instrument you want and start playing?
María: There really are no clear assignments. When we get an idea, we just work around it and each one of us picks up the instrument they think will fit the best. It’s a very liberating process in many ways, but at the same time a bit restrictive, because no one has the role of a leader. All of a sudden, we’re maybe all going crazy playing solos. We’re not the typical band with a singer, bass, guitar and drums. There is no front and no key melody, really. But that’s what we like about it because that way other parts become more prominent.

Your debut album ‘Kurr’, released last year, saw some good reviews in the international press. Were the responses beyond expectations?
María: Yes and no. Before we released the album we had played our songs for a diverse audience when opening up for Sigur Rós. We therefore had some idea how people felt about our music, that they at least didn’t hate it.

It must be a big plus for a young band to be able to try out their material in front of such a big crowd.
María: Absolutely. I guess we can say that we started on the completely wrong end. Our first real concerts were at Laugardalshöll and our first concert in L.A. was at Hollywood Bowl, in front of 10,000 people. When we started to organise our own tours we had gained good experience so we weren’t as nervous as we maybe should have.

Sólrún: I have to say that I find it easier to play large venues. When you play in front of thousands, the crowd becomes more like a big mass rather than individuals. As soon as you move into a small venue where you can look at people’s faces, it becomes much harder.
Hildur: You realise that there are real people watching you, who will have opinions about the show.

Edda: I feel much more vulnerable in those circumstances.

Your collaboration with Lee Hazlewood in the single ‘Hilli (At the Top of the World)’ got good coverage, especially since it was his last recording before he died. How did this collaboration come about?
Hildur: His manager got this idea, if Amiina and Hazlewood wouldn’t be a weird and funny combo…

María: … and unbelievably, he said yes.

Sólrún: We never imagined that he would agree so this was a pleasant surprise. He died only a couple weeks later.

María: We’ve been huge fans of his so this was all very surrealistic.

I have to ask about the video to the song (viewed 20,431 times on Youtube), especially the scene in the end, where two girls scatter ash into the crater lake Kerið. This is supposed to represent Hazlewood’s remains, right?
María: The making of this video was very interesting and happened quite fast. We were actually abroad when it was filmed.

Sólrún: The director flew to Iceland and produced the video without us, although we were part of the process.

María: We debated whether it should show Kerið and Lee Hazelwood’s name, date of birth and death, but then we decided to keep the scene open for speculations. It of course strongly indicates that we are spreading his ashes over Iceland’s nature. As surrealistic as the song came to be, I have to say this video is just as surrealistic.

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