From Iceland — Band To Watch: aYia

Band To Watch: aYia

Band To Watch: aYia

Published January 8, 2017

Photo by
Magnus Andersen

In UK English, bands are usually referred to in the plural, as “they.” But when it comes to aYia, “it” feels more appropriate. The band’s sudden appearance in October 2016 felt like the arrival of a new entity—or the discovery of a new place—more than the launch of a project by three individuals. It materialised quietly, as if out of nowhere, the faces of the people behind the music shrouded beneath hoods and hidden in shadows. The presentation felt purposeful, and it was immediately apparent that aYia was something with a personality all of its own.

For Ásta, the individual behind aYia’s breathy, sibilant vocals, this was a method of “allowing the sound to be the thing that’s gathering people.” She speaks slowly and haltingly at first, her words gathering momentum as the ideas form. “It’s not like we didn’t want people to know who we are, or to be theatrical and play a role—it’s more that without our faces and identities at the front of the stage, it creates space for something else to come through. Something that lies behind that.”

Dive into it

Stepping into this new place is an intriguing experience. aYia’s debut single “Water Plant” is atmospheric to the point of being intoxicating, inviting the listener to “sink through a hole, into a liquid wasteland.” The rhythm stutters along at a relaxed, languid pace, punctuated by synth stabs and soft washes of sound, circled gently by Ásta’s voice. It’s a pleasingly sparing arrangement of sound.

“We agreed about making a space that didn’t exist, but that we wanted to exist,” explains Ásta. “A place you can go to, and forget, and just be there without having to do anything else. Like that feeling when you are in a dream, when you lose the sense of space and time—but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to you, because that’s the reality of that moment. That’s sometimes what I feel like aYia is. You can’t really grasp it—you have to dive into it to understand it.” A broad smile steals over her face. “Yes—like a pool in a strange dream.”

No words

For all the careful sculpting and instinct that went into creating aYia, its form is still developing. It’s an intentionally flowing, dynamic, open-ended process, and one that Ásta clearly enjoys.

“When we were talking about aYia, we asked: ‘What is aYia? What’s it about? What is it doing?’” she recalls. “And we realised we didn’t really know—we had to find it ourselves. But we had a feeling about it. Sometimes you have a feeling but you don’t have a word for it yet—but you still feel it. Then you give it a name, like ‘aYia.’ And then aYia becomes something that you feel but can’t explain, but it’s there, in your mouth, on your tongue… and we’re still trying to find ways to communicate it.”

“Water Plant,” which came out on the Bedroom Community sublabel HVALREKI, already has over 100,000 plays on Spotify, and after a successful run at the 2016 Iceland Airwaves festival, they’ve already got some exciting offers in the pipeline. In the meantime, aYia continues to slowly find its form.

“There is a simplicity to it,” finishes Ásta. “But some might say it’s more complex to strip layers away and use just a few elements, and do it really well, and make it really fragile. When you put in a lot of elements, you can hide the actual intention. Sometimes, simplicity is best. If you want to say something, you should say it simply and clearly. Easy does it—the water ripples if you stir it.”

Read about why they won and check out the rest of this year’s winners here!

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