Production duo Ra:tio—winner of the ‘One To Watch’ award at the 2020 Grapevine Music Awards—just dropped their first solo album entitled ‘DANS’ today. Composed of team Bjarki Sigurðarson and Teitur Helgi Skúlason, the duo burst onto the scene in 2018 with their debut release, GDRN’s ‘Hvað ef,’ later collaborating with ClubDub, una schram and more. The two sat down with the Grapevine to talk quickly about the new release and more.
Thanks for chatting with us, Ra:tio. First off, let’s talk ‘DANS,’ the first Ra:tio solo release. Can you tell me about the album?
‘DANS’ is our debut “solo” album. You could say that from the day we started writing music, this has been our end goal—to create and produce a piece of work from beginning to end with some of the most talented artists in the Icelandic pop scene. The album is a sort of concept album where our dance-music production meets the unique style and talent of the performers on each song. It’s seven songs in total and includes features from Birnir, Lil Binni, Bríet, Logi Pedro, GDRN, krassasig, una schram and Young Karin. The final song on the album, “Dans Við Mig,” is our singing debut haha.
How was it working with a bunch of artists rather than concentrating on creating a relationship with just one as you’ve done in the past? Did it change the way you approached making music?
Working with a lot of artists at once was such an honour and really inspiring for us, but it also proved to be more challenging than we expected. With so many creative minds and different visions at play, we ended up going in many circles with each song before reaching an unanimous decision on the final product. We started the process by writing a lot of demos and picked out the beats that worked for the concept and were up to the standards that we had in our heads for our debut album. Next, we started reaching out to the artists that we wanted to work with on each song, while picking the right demos for each one. We spent more than a healthy amount of time each day recording with artists, mixing recordings, rewriting tracks and making new ones for many months until we finally landed on the seven tracks which would make up the album. A lot of songs didn’t make it up to that point with everyone working on their own music and busy schedules. It was really hard to let go of the tracks that weren’t quite ready to be released when it came to sending the album out, but as a wise man once said: “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.”
Going back to “Dans Við Mig”—both of you sing a bit on this album, which is new. How was it getting in front of the mic yourselves?
The demo for “Dans Við Mig” was created in a small studio downtown. I, Teitur, was playing some keyboards over a drum track and got the line “dans við mig” (which translates to “dance with me”) stuck in my head, so I laid out the main vocals and finished the demo before showing it to Bjarki, who a few weeks later laid down additional vocals towards the end of the song. We’ve been thinking about singing over our own productions from the very beginning, but decided to focus completely on producing until we figured out what we wanted to sing about. It’s definitely something we’d like to do more of in the future.
Not trying to make you pick between your children, but can you tell me about one song/collab that’s particularly special or memorable to you?
We tried to make each song unique enough to stand on its own, but still cohesive enough to the concept of the album to fit well together. The story of the third track, “Hey Þú,” is quite funny. We were recording the last take on another track with BRÍET that didn’t make it onto the album. She was doing an ad lib take and towards the end of the song she sang a simple melody of “Da da dada da da dada da” and as soon as we heard that, we knew that we could make an entire song around that vocal phrase. So the next day, we opened up the project and copied that take, along with two verses she had recorded over the old song and created the beat of “Hey Þú” around it. We sent it to BRÍET and she loved it. She came to the studio for one more session and added some more vocals and the song was ready the next day.
Last up, how’s your 2020 experience been? Did the pandemic affect your output on this album at all?
The pandemic really forced us to stay inside all day and work on new music. We really isolated ourselves in different studios all day, putting in at least ten hours before clocking out. When we started making the album, we had an impossible timeline of finishing the album before the end of the summer and figured we could always push it back to the fall. But because of the pandemic we were actually able to keep up with that schedule and finish the album on time. We’re really proud of the final result and hope it can help people forget about the situation for a moment and just dance and enjoy themselves.
Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.
You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!