Seabear - The Icelandic Fire Starters
Defying its humble beginnings as the lo-fi solo project of Icelandic singer/multi-instrumentalist Sindri Már Sigfússon, Seabear has morphed into a rambling experimental/indie/folk septet.
Joining Sigfússon (whose unassisted musings are now released via his Sin Fang Bous moniker which just made the American Rolling Stone call him the “Icelandic Beck”) are Guðbjörg Hlín Guðmundsdóttir, Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, Halldór Ragnarsson, Örn Ingi Ágústsson, Kjartan Bragi Bjarnason and Sóley Stefánsdóttir - all working in a wide range of solo-, band- (kimono, Skakkamanage) and visual arts-projects in their own right.
For their second full length LP, "We Built A Fire", all members of the band had equal input in the writing process, thereby creating Seabear's first real collective album. While Sigfússon's unmistakable voice remains the centerpiece on We Built A Fire, the new joint approach is reflected in songs like "I'll Build You A Fire" where the whole band joins in on vocals. While retaining their signature simplistic and addictive naive indie folk ("Wooden Teeth", “Lion Face Boy”), the band have branched out stylistically to include elements of straight up indie rock ("Softship"), intense balladry ("Cold Summer") and even some country twang ("Leafmask").
IMX caught up with Kjartan Bragi Bjarnason.
Interview with Kjartan, who is also the drummer in kimono.
Your new album is called "We Built A Fire" - where does the title come from?
Many of the lyrics are about the nature and this title came up in one of the practices. We found it good and so it was...
When did you start recording and what was the process like compared to previous records?
The process was long; we started to write for this album shortly after the last one came out, Sindri had some ideas for songs in the beginning so we started out playing with that, just like we did on "The Ghost That Carried Us Away". Then we recorded those songs, played them on tours and changed them after that. When we had done that, we wrote the rest of the album and recorded them right away. This process was different than before. Sindri pretty much had written the songs beforehand on the first album.
Where was it recorded and who was involved?
It was recorded in our studio/practice space in downtown Reykjavík and also at Sundlaugin Studio. Biggi from Sundlaugin recorded and mixed the album, and we had strings, brass and a lot of friends playing with us.
What are the main differences between this and your debut, in terms of personnel, instrumentation, sounds etc?
The band had only three members before TGTCUA was recorded. Me, Dóri and Inga joined to play on that album and Sóley joined just after us. We were just finding our places in the band in the beginning and now we are more confident and know what we can do individually and together as a group. I don't know if there is much difference in the sound between records other than I think the songs on this album are stronger.
What influence or affects did the success of Sindri solo album have, if anything?
Sindri's success is good for the band, who can resist those puppy eyes?
What other bands and projects are the Seabear members involved in?
Inga, Sindri and Dóri are painters and they have exhibitions in Iceland regularly. Guggý is living in Holland and playing classical music. Örn Ingi is in Skakkamanage and I (Kjartan) play with kimono. Sóley is starting her solo career, we are very excited and Morr Music is releasing her first album.
This is allegedly the first real “collective” album, is that right?
Sindri wrote a lot on his own before, and then we did our stuff when he had formed the songs. It's not like that with this album. We came together and started writing the songs from scratch so everyone did a lot in the songwriting. We are more of a band now.
What are you most pleased with, in terms of the album, now you've had chance to reflect on it a bit?
We listened to it a lot when mixing and mastering the songs. A lot. I have not listened to it for a while, I totally overdosed on it. But what I'm most pleased with, is that on the album every instrument shines through and you can hear how much fun it is to play these songs.
There are more styles of music here, from indie to country - what was the motive behind developing in these directions - any interesting background to any of the songs?
There was no motive, there was no discussion about where to go. We just started to play and this is what happened.
The instrumentation sounds a bit more layered and intricate, would you say that's the case from your perspective?
Yes, the result from writing all the songs together influences this, when you take part in writing the song from the beginning then you know better how you want to play it, what fits and what doesn't.
What's the biggest thing you've learned as a band through making this record?
It doesn't matter what you are playing if it doesn't fit the song. I think we have learned to listen to each other and that sometimes less is more.
You've been doing some great vids too, who's responsible for those?
Inga has done some and Máni, Sindri's brother, did the last one for I'll Build You A Fire. No point in getting someone you don't know to do the video if you have such talented people around you.
The band seem a "typical DIY Icelandic band" - is there such a thing?
I think all the bands here in Iceland are like that. Or they have to be if they want to do something for real. There's no one waiting for you to do something. It's a small community and if you are hard working it pays off. That is, if you play good music too of course.
How would you explain the Seabear sound to someone in five words?
Warm, welcoming, winner, wolfboy, wasabi.
Lots of touring coming up - anything you're most excited about?
Always a lot of fun touring. We are going for the first time to the Unites States, so that will be fantastic. After that we go to Europe and then festivals in the summer. The next gig is always the most exciting, playing in front of new audience each time, it's a dream.
Which Icelandic artists do you most rate at the moment?
At the moment, Hudson Wayne.
And which international acts are doing it for ya?
There are so many, what can I say. We love Lali Puna.
Seabear's 2nd Album "I'll Build You a Fire" is out in Europe on Morr Music and will be out on 30. March in the US.
North America Tour Dates in March & April 2010:
Mar 17-Mar 21: Austin, TX @ SXSW
Mar 23: Washington, DC @ Black Cat backstage
Mar 24: Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
Mar 25: New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
Mar 26: Brooklyn, NY @ Southpaw
Mar 28: Cambridge, MA @ TT the Bear's
Mar 30: Montreal, QC @ L'escogriffe
Mar 31: Toronto, ON @ Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
Apr 01: Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Apr 02: Chicago, IL @ Schuba's
"I'll build you a fire" Official Video
Source: Iceland Music Export (IMX)