Rökkurró Head To Another World
Rökkurró was founded in 2006. Having been playing for a couple of months, they released a DIY EP and tried selling it in a small record store in Reykjavík called 12 Tónar. To their astonishment the EP kept selling out, which led to 12 Tónar deciding to sign the band for a full-length release the following year.
After countless live performances in Iceland, Rökkurró decided it was time for an international gig after the release of "Það kólnar í kvöld". They played in Rotterdam with múm in 2007 and travelled to Germany and wider as support band for Ólafur Arnalds.
In 2009 the band headed to the studio to record their second full-length album. Dubbed "Í annan heim" (To Another World), the album is a surprising mixture of folk, rock, ambiance, classical music and everything in between - eight songs beautifully accompanied with Icelandic lyrics.
"Sólin mun skína", the first single of the new album
Iceland Music Export talked to lead vocalist and cellist Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir.
Can you tell us how and when Rökkurró was formed?
Rökkurró was formed in early 2006. It was actually kind of random: the guys were friends and wanted to start a band. They contacted myself and Ingibjörg, although they didn't really know us, just because they knew we played interesting instruments. Then we all met and it didn't take long to see that we all definitely shared the same ideas of music we wanted to make.
So what was the original musical vision of the group?
In the beginning, when we were talking about what kind of music we wanted to make, our conclusion was to try to make music similar to what Yann Tiersen makes. But I think that was what we played just for few of the first band practices. I guess you can hear some folky elements in our first songs but most of that's gone now, evolved into something completely else. We've often talked about this - the personalities, interests and music favourites of the members in the band are so completely different that we can't really understand how it ends with us making this kind of music. But it somehow does and we all feel that this music is what we truly want to make.
Your debut album, "Það kólnar í kvöld" was something of a success - what do you remember about its release and subsequent feedback/reviews?
What I remember the most is the immense joy of just having recorded and released and album. Other stuff like reviews, record sales and stuff like that kind of didn't matter. We were just ecstatic that we'd gotten to the place where a record label (12 Tónar) gave us the chance and believed in us enough to help us make a record. On the whole, we got pretty good reviews in the Icelandic press for a debut album. We played a lot of small shows around that time but we really weren't so noticeable in the music scene. It wasn't really until we noticed how much attention our music was getting from people abroad that we thought we should maybe work on sharing our music with more people, by touring and using the internet to better connect with the listeners.
For people that have not heard that album, how would you describe it?
As I feel about it now, that album was just how our debut should have sounded. We were just 18 when we made it and I feel it has a "younger vibe" than our new album. There was some sense of still being a teenager and just being happy that someone would actually want to listen to our own music. The music is a fragile mixture of bright indie pop and post rock. But one thing that makes us stick out is that we have Icelandic lyrics - which is way too rare in Icelandic music these days in my opinion!
You did a fair bit of touring after the album, supporting múm and Ólafur Arnalds - any highlights or lessons learned?
All the tours we've played have been great. To perform for a new crowd every day is so refreshing. When you're playing in Iceland, the crowd is basically always the same people that listen to indie music. Of course there are many highlights, many great shows that we'll never forget. One thing we've learned is that people abroad, especially in Germany, are crazy about Icelandic music. It was kind of weird how often people told us they had just showed up because they knew there was an Icelandic band playing, without knowing anything about the music at all. Supporting múm was our first show outside of Iceland and I think it's fair to say that it was one of our favourite shows ever! It went really, really well. The house was packed, we sold all of the CDs we'd brought with us and had to give lots of autographs, which was kind of weird when you're new in this scene and just used to being a nobody.
Tell us about the new album - it sounds like a very different experience from the debut!
We all agreed that we really wanted to work on the new album differently than the last one. The idea on our first album was to make it sound as raw and "live" as we could - we wanted to be able to play it live exactly the way it was on the album. But this time we really wanted to spend time on creating a new sound, our sound. Now we added lots of new instruments, strings, brass and then Bibbi (our drummer), who's a classically trained pianist finally got to work the piano with Rökkurró. It sounds bad to say that it's more ambitious than the first one but it definitively is. On our first record we basically recorded every song we'd written up to that point (apart from a couple horrible songs that I hope no one ever hears). On this record we spent a lot of time just thinking about what we wanted the record to be before we started writing and wrote a lot of songs that we ended up throwing away because they didn't fit into what we were trying to do. At one point the record was even shaping up to be much heavier and more "rock" but somewhere in the process we realized that wasn't the direction we wanted to go in and basically started again from scratch.
How did Alex Somers of Riceboy Sleeps get involved, and what did he bring to the table more specifically?
We wanted to work with an imaginative producer that would inspire us and help us create this "sound" we were looking for. Alex was our first choice, we knew him and knew of his talents. Alex was our producer, main recording engineer, mixed and had his fingers in the mastering also. He also helped us with arrangements and gave us lots of ideas. So it's safe to say that Alex was a big element in this album.
Who is in the band these days - and how has the line up changed since the beginning?
It's Árni on guitar, Axel on the other guitar, Bibbi on drums and guitar sometimes, I sing and play the cello and then it's Ingibjörg who plays the bass and sometimes accordion. We started with another guitar player, Arnór, but he quit in 2009 so Axel came and filled the gap.
Where was it recorded and how long did it take?
The album was recorded in Sundlaugin studio, Alex's kitchen and Bibbi's music school. We spent about four months recording, mixing and mastering the album.
The album cover/artwork sounds intriguing - what can you tell us about that?
The artwork on the new album is created from old Icelandic photographs. We spent many days browsing through the oldest photographs we could find in the National museum and in the end we picked a few that we thought fitted the concept. The cover has a man travelling between worlds - as we want to see it. Bibbi and his mom then painted some backgrounds for the photographs and a good friend of ours and graphic design guru, Gunnar Atli, helped us make everything come together. Without him none of this would look like it does. His touch was definitively crucial. And at last we got another friend of ours, Klara Arnalds, to do all the handwriting.
What kind of response are you anticipating or hoping for following the album release?
We couldn't be happier with the way this record came out and wouldn't want to change a thing. We really like it so hopefully other people will see what we see in this record. It is pretty heavy though, so I have no idea how people will respond to it.
Will it be released internationally?
Yes it will. We are now working on international distribution so news about that will be out later.
Any plans to tour?
Yes, as soon as the album will be out in Europe we're hoping to follow the release with a tour around Europe. We'd like to tour as much as we possibly can and get the record to as many people as possible.
What other music dreams have Rökkurró yet to fulfill?
I think every member has some kind of musical dream that they would like to fulfill with the band. I think all of us would be into doing more music for films or theater. We did music for a play in our school once and really liked it. Then of course we'd like to get a chance to tour, and more importantly work, with some of our favorite musicians. Hopefully we can make that happen sometime in the future.
Rökkurró @ MySpace