Elíza Newman– formerly lead singer of all-girl Icelandic band Bellatrix and rock band Skandinavia – went solo in 2007, when she released her debut album “Empire Fall”. She’s now all set to follow up with her sophomore effort, “Pie In The Sky” which has already spawned two Top Ten hits in Iceland, including her first No. 1.
Elíza was just a teen when she formed the all-girl punk rock outfit Bellatrix / Kolrassa Krókrídandi. They went on to release four albums on Iceland's veteran Bad Taste label and in the process earned the tag of hottest female band to come out of Iceland, as well as signing to Fierce Panda for the release of their fourth album, and a co-headlining UK tour with Coldplay. Kerrang! described Elíza as a ‘spectacular vocal talent!’, while NME praised her as a ‘exhilarating, unhinged, untutored rough pop Diamond’. After headlining the Carling Stage at the Reading Festival, Elíza took time out to further her musical armory and embark on an intense course of study in operatic arts in London.
Eventually finding herself wanting to connect both worlds and ‘create something epic’ Elíza formed her third band – Skandinavia who picked up where Bellatrix had left off, receiving major critical acclaim. Since going solo, she has been instrumental in Iceland’s Trúbatrix movement, which promotes Icelandic female artist via gigs around Iceland and compilations such as “Trúbatrix - Taka 1”.
“Pie In The Sky” is out on the 10th of November and the new single ‘Hopeless’ entered the chart this week at No. 10.
Where does the title come from for the new record?
The title comes from one of the songs on the album called Pie In The Sky. It’s the last track we recorded and one of my favorites on the album. I think the song captures the essence of the album – which is a like a pie in the sky, hoping for better things to come and a bit dreamy.
Is there an equivalent saying in Icelandic, and what is it?
Not sure about that – you’ll have to ask someone who is good at Icelandic sayings as I always muddle them up I’m afraid.
This is your second album – what was the first and when did it come out?
My first solo album was called "Empire Fall" and was released in 2007 in Iceland and in the UK. Although this will be the seventh album I release if you include all my band work.
What’s your musical background?
I learned to play the violin from a young age and started my first band at 15 with three of my best friends from school. This band then became Kolrassa Krókridandi / Bellatrix and the rest is history. I have also studied opera, I’m a qualified music teacher and I’m doing an M.A in music education in London at the moment.
My interest in music was always there, but the idea about forming a band and getting into music beyond my classical studies was sparked by pure boredom and yearning for attention. Coming from a small town like Keflavík you have to find things to entertain yourself and we did. My sister was also working in college radio at the time and living in America and she sent me all the newest indie music so we had a little window into another world there that helped us along.
What’s the story behind Bellatrix?
The band was originally formed by me and three of my school friends in Keflavík. We entered the Battle of the Bands / Músíktilraunir and won and from there we never looked back. We did three albums with Smekkleysa / Bad Taste, then went on to do two albums in the UK with Global Warming Records and Fierce Panda. We toured around the world, got loads of great press, met loads of cool bands and had a lot of fun fun fun. In the end we needed a change and decided to take a break that is still ongoing. It was no big drama. We started very young and had a good run for eight years, so it’s all good and a great life experience.
Bellatrix toured with Coldplay – you must have some good anecdotes from that tour…?
I do but I don’t think I’ll be sharing most of them here. I’m saving it all for the autobiography! I can tell you that Chris Martin got his mom to bake a chocolate cake and bring it to one of the gigs to impress us, that’s kind of sweet isn’t it?
After Bellatrix you formed Skandinavia - what were the overlaps / similarities with Bellatrix.
Skandinavia was my journey into heavy rock and was great fun. Everyone should do a heavy rock album in their life time. Loads of loud singing and drama. I was very inspired by my operatic studies at the time and was trying to bring together those two worlds. Bellatrix had a lighter sound but maybe some of the Skandinavia stuff is similar to early Kolrassa songs in that they were dark and moody.
When did you go solo and why?
I went solo in 2007. Until then I did not feel ready to go it alone as I am very much a band person. It’s still a bit scary to have to take full responsibility for everything, with no one to blame but yourself.
How would you describe your solo sound in one sentence to someone that’s never heard it?
Dreamy psych pop with a heart.
What are your five favourite albums?
After The Gold Rush – Neil Young
The White Album – The Beatles
Hananú – Vilhjámur Vilhjámsson
Nowhere – Ride
Blue - Joni Mitchell
These are just the ones the come to mind straight away , I could go on and on ...
Your song, "Ukulele Song For You", got to No 1. Is that normal for you these days, as you seem to be a bit of a chart botherer!
Well, I’ve had top ten hits before but this was my first No.1 so I was very happy with that. I’m a late bloomer.
How does the album as a whole sound?
The album is quite poppy but with a twist . The sound is open and bright and there’s a really good vibe going on, you can hear we had some fun making it.
Who else worked on the album and what did they do?
I did the album with Gísli Kristjánsson and Siggi Sadjei who run a studio in London called Goodbeating. We did it all quite spontaneously, I brought the songs in and then we just started playing and experimenting and it worked a treat, the album has a really good vibe, loads of fun was had.
You’ve also been involved in the Trúbatrix movement – can you tell us more?
The Trúbatrix movement is group that promotes Icelandic female artists who perform original material. We started with putting on shows in Reykjavík but it soon grew and we released a compilation album last summer called Taka1 with songs from 17 female artists. We also did a tour around Iceland and special showcase nights at Réttir and Airwaves and we are planning the next album now, so loads happening.
Elíza @ MySpace