Björt Sigfinnsdóttir is an admirable allrounder: she founded a festival taking place in her hometown Seyðisfjörður in eastern Iceland every year, she’s running an arts school – and she is FURA, together with her companions Halldur Jónsson and Janus Rasmussen. The trio started in 2013 to make music together and in last November, they released their full-length, self-titled debut record.
And it is a remarkable first one! The powerful, deep electronic sounds with organic touch created by Hallur and Janus are contrasted by Björts amazing, clear voice which warms you like a shimmer of light in a cold and menacing darkness. It is an eerily-beautiful mixture. Her lyrics are deeply emotional and personal, about broken love, fear, doubts. Nonetheless – or maybe because of that – most of us will find ourselves therein as it’s all about profoundly human feelings and experiences: “Unpredictable moments are the ones /that will shape you in the end” – I mean, wow, that’s what I call amazing lines!
It’s not the kind of trivial electronic dance tunes though songs like “Unpredictable moments” or “Leave” even might work quite well for some lost-in-thoughts hip moves but rather contemplative and sophisticated electronic music. And that’s something I like a lot. Hence, I’m very happy that Björt agreed to answer some questions!
Hæ Björt! FURA is a collaboration between you and Hallur Jónsson and Janus Rasmussen, both maybe known to our readers from the band Bloodgroup and the latter from Kiasmos, one of the recent big players in Icelandic electronic music. You met a few years ago to start to make music together. How does such an occasion arise and the process of working together look like?
Me and Hallur both come from east Iceland and then we worked together at Skífan Laugarvegur, a legendary record store down town Reykjavík. Janus was working there as well, but we didn’t share that many shifts. That is where me and Hallur became really good friends and played in Skífan house band together for a little while, which was fun. Some years later, I had already recorded a full acoustic album, when I realized that I wanted to make electronic music. I was a huge fan of Bloodgroup and thought they were the coolest electronic band at the moment. Since I knew Hallur I asked him if he knew some one who would be willing to make an electronic makeover of one or two of my songs. I didn’t even dream of him wanting to do it, let alone the both of them. But that was his suggestion, and I jumped on it right away. Thankfully.
Our working process was very smooth actually, when we were able to meet up. We are all quite busy in other projects and on top of that not living in the same city, so we usually meet up for a day or two at their studio and then we just produce, produce, produce. Then the after math goes very much over mail. I have also sent them full songs that they then reproduce and make cool. For example “Poems of the past” and “Demons” from the album, they were ready and recorded acoustically to start with.
Due to us all being extremely busy, we decided to do some structural changes in the band last year. I moved to Denmark an recruted two new members to the band for our live setup. So now you can say that Hallur and Janus are the production team, while Emil Vissing (drums) andTroels Holdt (guitar) are the live team together with me, Hilmar (Vj) and Rasmus (Vj).
Together with the album, you also released a video for the song “Demons” which deals about deep and heavy-hearted emotions, about fear. Other songs on the record take a similar line. What does music personally mean to you? How much of yourself flows into your music/into the album?
My lyrics definitely take inspiration from my own emotional roller coasters. That might indicate that I am a deeply depressed person, which I’m not, but some of the songs have been written during my darkest hours. Definitely.
Music is and has always be my tool to process my emotions. Like for many other musicians I sometimes seem to be able to get the heavy feelings out of my body and into my music instead. Which can be a relive when you are a very emotional human being like me. Which is not a bad thing, I love being in touch with my feelings.
Some Icelandic bands are like bubbles, they suddenly occur on the screen for a certain time and, likewise, then quickly make way for new projects of their members (which btw makes the Icelandic music scene as thriving as it is I think). What are your upcoming plans with FURA?
We are actually currently making the plan for the second half of 2016 and 2017, so the lines are a bit unclear at the moment. But I hope that we will be able to play a lot of concerts, festivals maybe and then we aim to go on our first mini tour late 16/early 17. We also have some alternative art shows in the pipelines, but it is to early to reveal here and now. We will make sure to keep our Facebook, Instagram and homepage updated though.
You recently had a gig in Tallinn/Estonia. How did it go? Was it part of a tour? Any chance to see you maybe also in Germany? 🙂
We would love to play in Germany, and hopefully we will be able to include a gig there or two when we go on a tour. But the gig in Tallinn was a part of Tallinn music week, a great Estonian show case festival. It was a really nice trip for us.
You’re incredibly dedicated to other projects as well, like the LungA festival and school. Can you tell us a little more about those?
Yes I am. I am an educated entrepreneur and project leader from the worlds best school, the Kaospilots in Arhus. I’m actually giving a talk about experience economy and performance design tomorrow (when this is written), which is something I love to do as well.
I co-founded the LungA festival, together with my mum and some friends, when I was 15 years old. It was an attempt on my mother’s behalf, to make her teenage daughter wanting to stay in this tiny little town I grew up in on the east coast of Iceland. I was a hyper active super creative kid, when most of my friends where sports fanatics. I also did a lot of sports but wasn’t really contempt with that so I threatened to move away. My mum suggested that we created something cool in stead, so that it would be more fun to stay. So that’s what we did. We made an art festival and because of that I still go home every summer to manage this festival. Mission completed haha.
LungA festival is an international, educative art festival. Build up around weeklong workshops, held by some of the most interesting artist of each time. The workshops are experimental and alternative, where we play with the boundaries between different art forms, handcrafts, design and so on. During the afternoons and evenings the program is filled with performances, music and all kind of art events. It’s a creative explosion between majestic mountains in the middle of almost nowhere. It is great.
The LungA school is an independent offspring of the festival. It is a 3 months course held two times a year. A spring semester and a fall semester. It is an intense self development course where you work with your self and arts. It also offers a variety of experimental and alternative workshops, just like the festival. So if you are searching for an adventure, where you want to be taken by surprise this is the place.
What other Icelandic bands or artists would you highly recommend to take a look at?
I would definitely say Good moon deer, Vök, Júníus Meyvant, FM Belfast and ohh, there are so many!!
Any artists you would describe as an inspiration for your own work? And what was the last song you listented to (at least the last one you can remember 🙂 )?
Yes many artists have inspired me. Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Björk, Tom Waits, Pj Harvey, Portishead, Bloodgroup, Massive Attack, Propellerheads, Michael Jacksone, Etta James, Gus Gus, Roisin Murphy, The Knife…. The list is endless. And the last song I remember listening to was BROKE with Rangleklods. Also another inspiring musician.
Thanks again for taking the time, Björt! 🙂