Jodie Landau is a young composer and performer who’s been getting around in 2016. We caught up with him on a weekend layover as he travelled back to his native LA following a ten-day European swing as part of the Whale Watching Tour—an ambitious ensemble concert series featuring the stars of Iceland’s most respected record label, Bedroom Community.
“It went by so quickly!” Jodie exclaims, sipping tea and sinking into a chair on a rainy afternoon. “But then, even though we started out just a week ago, it feels like four months…”
The Whale Watching Tour is an ongoing live project that’s toured widely, including dates in the US, the UK and Europe. The shows are quite a special presentation: Nico Muhly emcees from behind the piano, introducing each piece; the players step into and out of the limelight to sing, solo, play accompanying parts and improvise over the other composers’ works in impressively fluid and natural collaboration.
For Jodie, collaboration comes naturally. “In LA, I’m in a collective called Wild Up, and we’re constantly playing other composers’ pieces,” he explains. “But even within my own music, I like different voices. When I started my album, I didn’t have a concept of what the album was going to be about—it was just: ‘I’m going to write pieces, and I’m going to get these other composers to write pieces.’ I wanted those other voices to be represented, and for them to give me something that is ‘of my voice,’ but not coming from me.”
This approach is mirrored in the Whale Watching tour. “We fill in each other’s holes a little bit,” says Jodie. “It felt very much like that on the tour—hopping between Nico’s music, and Daníel Bjarnason’s music, and Valgeir Sigurðsson’s music. We all have thematic and vocabulary similarities, but at the same time are worlds apart. It’s musically very satisfying.”
In the greenhouse
Bedroom Community is based around the Greenhouse Studio in Breiðholt, where the musicians write, record, collaborate, and sometimes even live. “The atmosphere of Greenhouse is the biggest thing in coming here and recording in Iceland,” enthuses Jodie. “It’s a home, too, so you’re not entering a space with this ‘official’ energy. You arrive, leave your shoes at the door, and get offered a cup of tea. In LA, I make most of my music at home, so to have that feeling here is very comforting. It feels like things can happen easily there.”
Jodie will return to Iceland for Airwaves, when the Whale Watching Tour will be brought to Harpa for a special show with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. “I keep coming back,” he smiles, “whether it’s en route to Europe, or for Airwaves, or to do some recording. It’s nice to have a place that suddenly feels like home. It’s very natural and organic. I’m in great company, and for the new and young one in the group, I feel incredibly welcomed.”
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