A visual artist as well as a musician, Kira Kira creates performances and installations where physical visuals such as remote controlled ghosts and cowboy hats floating in thin air are set in context with exploratory and whimsical electronic music. She sometimes plays solo, sometimes with a band, and her second album, “Our Map To The Monster Olympics” was released on Smekkleysa in late 2008. She will be touring Europe throughout the summer: check her MySpace - www.myspace.com/trallaladykirakira - for more details.
You’ve been in quite a few bands over the years – which of them do you think has shaped your individual work most?
I was sitting on the floor next to my first band mate, Adda Ingólfsdóttir, programming a beat for a song we wrote for Spúnk’s first and only release ("Stefumót kafbátatanna", split 10” with múm in 1997). We were pounding the keys of an old Emax sampler in the middle of the night when I discovered the power of the offbeat and had this amazing heart exploding rush. I remember we both went completely crazy over this beat we’d created and we were literally screaming from pure, unfiltered joy. That was my first songwriting kick and a point of no return. In Spúnk, Adda and I wrote songs. There was lots of talking, organizing and writing things down but then Big Band Brútal - the electronic improv band that sprang from Spúnk was much wilder. We had live drums and then a bunch of samplers and horny keyboards so the energy level was always very high and untamed. Kira Kira draws much from the experience of working with the people from these two bands, resulting in music that is somewhat written, somewhat wild. I like to have a certain shape to my sound universe but it’s also important not to tame it too much, especially in live shows. I need them to always have a potential for surprise.
You have a very broad approach to music, composing not only songs but music for theatre, movies, installations – what was your entry point into the realm of sound?
My first creative instrument was a pocket recorder. I’d collect found sounds on there and then manipulate them in a sampler and the results of those initial tinkerings were quite noisy. So Kira Kira was a noise girl in her first 3 years or so, from 1999-2003 but then slowly the craving for a certain fraction of a second blasting on a chosen moment started to become ever stronger and the compositions grew closer to songs. Then I started using musical instruments but I would still treat their voices exactly like I treated the found sounds.
And how did you progress from that point to where you are now?
I’d create soundscapes this way and then about 3-4 years ago I started sneaking melodies and beats in there. I guess for many musicians it happens the other way round. First they write the song, then they create some kind of soundscape afterwards in the studio – perhaps as an intro/outro type of thing, extra creamy confetti on top as a final touch. But to me the confetti is the music. I guess it’s a bit risky to even try to explain these kinds of things. Basically I rely more on my intuition than anything while making music.
As well as music you’re known for being a visual artist – did this come before or after music?
It’s hard to say. I think I’m just a visual musician.
What have been your major / favourite shows so far, and what are your personal themes and priorities when it comes to visual arts?
My favorite is definitely the duel I created between two castle towers in Ghent, once upon a time. The castle (Kunstcentrum Vooruit) stands on the highest point of the city and I installed two powerful smoke machines, one in each tower facing each other. Then I had white light shining through the smoke and speakers up there that played a dark ghostly voice, sighing every few seconds. You could hear the voice over about 100 meter radius around the castle and the smoke could be seen from neighbouring cities. Unfortunately that meant that the fire department got hundreds of phone calls from concerned citizens who thought the castle had caught fire and I had to shut down the smoke machines, but it was a pretty majestic vision while it lasted. This piece is quite representative of what I like to do in a visual art context: It’s noisy, ghostly, monumental, smoky, majestic and lighthearted in a twisted way.
You’ve been involved in Kitchen Motors since it was founded – what’s going on right now with the organisation?
We’ve been hibernating for a long time. We did a tour around China a couple of years ago that nearly killed us and since then we’ve just been focusing on our solo stuff.Johann Johannsson is living in Copenhagen busy with his solo career, Hilmar Jensson is touring with Alas No Axis and Tyft quite a lot and I’ve also been touring quite hectically with the Kira Kira band. It’s Kitchen Motors’s 10 year anniversary in April though!
What are the main differences, for you, between "Monster Olympics" and your debut, "Skotta"?
"Skotta" was created from my bones only apart from one song I wrote with Þráinn Óskarsson from Hudson Wayne, but on "Our Map to the Monster Olympics" I wanted to work with the band I’d been playing with live and so the music is very much flavoured by their creative input. It was a very inspiring time, working with those boys and terribly healthy to break out of my head a little bit. Everyone that plays with me on the Monster Olympics has such a fantastic feel for what belongs in the Kira Kira sound universe: A phenomenal sense of timing and also a unique knack for texture and atmosphere.
And the similarities?
The noises always lead the way. They are what initially ignite the songs and inspire everything else. Sometimes they have disappeared by the time the song is finished and on an album, but their spirit remains inside. Just like people’s heartbeats. You can’t see it, but it’s what keeps them alive.
I am an electronic kiddo and I’m continually fascinated about electric noises, they are infinite characters.
What was the original concept for the record?
I knew I wanted to explore a new approach to music and so the Kiraboys – Samuli Kosminen, Eiríkur Orri Ólafsson, Alex Somers, Hilmar Jensson and Pétur Hallgrímsson became my playground pals. We’d try out all kinds of ways to make a Kira song happen and it was terribly exciting to see my noises in swing with their playing. Apart from that, I was messing around with melody like I had never done before. The first songaling for example, Sjarmaland intro sprang from a childlike wonder about this phenomena – melody –as if it were a brand new discovery for me. On Skotta, you’ll feel lots of melodies but they are somehow more sneaky, obscure, hidden if you will. Again, this is a bit dangerous to try and explain, but what matters is that I want to keep taking things further. And for someone who comes from total noise, melody is the unknown experimental territory – new and exciting. It might not come through to the listener, but I think that if a musician is happy while working on his/her creations, that definitely thunders through. I had a lot of fun making these songs and I’m pretty sure it shows.
You play or tinker with many instruments – do you have any main/key instruments that you prefer or are adept at?
My favorite instrument is the celeste and vibraphone but I’m also a big fan of music boxes and old lucky luke pianos.
Do you always try to combine music and visuals when possible, or does it depend on a given situation?
Given the opportunity I love to create all encompassing situations/experiences with super 8 visuals, theatric lighting, costumes, glitter and smoke.
Which have been your most successful/interesting live performances and why?
I think the release concert for Our Map to the Monster Olympics at Shibuya O-Nest in Tokyo last November is definitely up there with my favorites. I had Samuli, Eiríkur Orri, Pétur Hallgríms, Alex Somers and super 8 prince Magnús Helgason with me and it was just such crazy magic. It also had my favorite backstage experience with all of us drawing Kira Kira T-shirts with borrowed paints, then running outside where the Japanese kids would buy their freshly made unique shirt.
What are your forthcoming projects for 2009?
In April and May I’m doing a mini tour in England and Wales, then off to Siberia in the middle of June. After that I’ve been invited to do a 2-week US tour with Bare Teeth and Our Brother the Native. Then in June-July I’m playing festivals in Denmark, Sweden and Estonia and in September I have a 2 week tour in Germany, Austria and Switzerland before I go to Poland for some 4 shows. Otherwise I’m scoring an experimental radio theatre project for director Steinunn Knútsdóttir that will be aired in October.
My first album Skotta is coming out on Afterhours in Japan and Our Map to the Monster Olympics will be out on Snegiri Records in Russia soon. Good times.
Source: IMX www.icelandmusic.is
Kira Kira Live @ VOX / Cultuurhuis Maison, Maldegem, Belgium, 2009