Amiina Sonic Puzzles
Originally a string quartet formed by four girls at the Reykjavík College of Music in the 1990s, amiina went on to cut its teeth as Sigur Rós' string section for the next decade.
Their debut album, "Kurr" (2007), was performed on a disparate jumble of instruments - musical saws, kalimbas, music boxes and seemingly anything that could be plucked, bowed or beaten on - resulting in a work that ebbed and flowed "in a strange, powerful place between sophistication and innocence", according to The Guardian.
Now a sextet after a recent masculine infusion, amiina are to release a second full length album, "Puzzle", in September 2010. This time around the group's sonic palette is broadened by the contributions of new members who have been with the group since 2009. Accordingly, the songs on Puzzle are more rhythmically rugged than amiina's previous work and feature heavier use of electronics.
Iceland Music Export (IMX) had an interview with amiina.
amiina now has men? Who on earth are they, and how did they infiltrate this fine all-girl quartet?
They are Magnús Tryggvason Eliassen who plays drums and Guðmundur Vignir Karlsson, aka Kippi Kaninus, who does the electronics and plays various instruments as well (ukulele, shakers etc.). Magnús, or Maggi as we call him, joined amiina live on a tour around Europe in 2007 and Kippi joined us on stage in April 2008 when we did our show at the Reykjavík Arts Festival that year. They have been permanent members since 2009...
Why did you decide to expand the quartet?
Well...our work together at the Reykjavík Arts Festival was such a success that we decided to work some more on the material we wrote together for that performance. And the guys add another dimension to what we have been doing previously; more percussive and electronic stuff. Which is really nice.
What influence have the new members had on your new album, Puzzle - obviously there's a newly (or more pronounced) rhythmic aspect - but anything else?
Kippi sings as well, which is a new aspect. And Kippi does a lot of sound manipulation, distorting our sounds and putting some delays on our harps.
Did the gents play any major role in the song writing?
We wrote the songs together, so they played a big part in that process. They are definitely not just some freelance dudes we got to play with us; they are very much a part of the band as we are.
So everyone was responsible for the song writing - how does that work with so many people involved?
We mostly write everything together, bounce ideas back and forth and try various things while we are writing. Usually somebody comes up with a idea for a song or a beat or a melody and then we work from there.
What are the (other) main differences between this album and Kurr, from your perspective?
Its more beat driven and more electronicy than usual. And then there is the singing. There is more singing on this album than on our previous releases.
Where was it recorded and who was involved in the engineering and production?
It was recorded in Sundlaugin, JL-húsið, at María's house and at our practice room in Grandi. Biggi at Sundlaugin recorded most of it and mixed the album. And it was mastered at Sterling Sound in New York by Mr. Greg Calbi. Greg and Biggi did a great job and we are very thankful for that.
Any interesting anecdotes from the recording sessions?
When we were recording the song "In the Sun" Maggi kept hammering the words "This is Hawaii, not Ibiza!" because the song has a nice little "Hawaiian" ukulele feel to it. I don't know if anybody will get the joke, though...
Does the album have an underlying concept?
Not really. The album has, of course, a huge meaning for us because it‚s our first release as a sextet. But that isn't really a concept. We just want to make good music no matter what. And to have fun - that's important as well.
What have you mostly been doing since Kurr?
We have mostly been doing this stuff. We did a few tours after Kurr and we joined Sigur Rós on tour as well. But after the spring of 2008 we have mostly been working on this music, writing stuff together. And we have of course done a few shows. We did a tour around Italy last year as well as a few shows in Ireland and Germany. That's about it.
Your love of gorgeous, whimsical melody remains intact - where does that come from? Is it something everyone in the band share?
I can't really tell you where it comes from, because we are not sure ourselves. But it's something everyone in the band shares.
Have you ever been tempted to shift into the more dramatic waters of the classical avant-garde like your fellow Icelanders Daníel Bjarnason or even Hildur Guðnadóttir?
We haven't really given it much thought actually. I mean, they are doing their thing and we are doing our thing. Maybe we will start doing more classical avant-garde stuff when we feel like it. Or when the time is right, which probably around the same time we would start feeling like we wanted to do something like that...
What kinds of non-conventional instruments did you use this time around?
We used harmoninum, harps, glasses, all kind of bells, a table and a chair, strings, musical saw, glockenspiel and loads of other instruments.
What are amiina's plans now that the album is out?
We will be playing our release show in Iceland on September 22nd at NASA - and joining us there for support is Sin Fang Bous! And after that, on the 24th of September we are leaving for Ireland to play a show. We are doing three shows in England after that, then Antwerpen and finally a few shows in Italy in the beginning of October.
Will you be playing Airwaves?
Yes we will be playing at Airwaves. We are playing at 22:00 in Hafnarhúsið 14. of October. And at the Airwaves off-venue program in Havarí as well on Saturday the 16th at 14:00. There are a few bands we would like to go see. Moses Hightower is one. And our friends in Seabear are great. But there are so many bands playing that we don't really know what we are going to see. There are probably loads of good bands playing that we haven't heard before so...we might go see them!
Puzzle's international release date is the 27th of September. In the meantime, check out amiina's new website, which also has a free song to download and more info about their forthcoming European tour.