Sigur Rós, the Icelandic band that Radiohead once famously hailed as an inspiration, have been making albums for a decade and a half, but bassist and founding member Georg Holm still finds a lot of myths surround the quartet.
Back on the road after the May release of their sixth album, ‘Valtari,’ the band will be performing in Singapore on 23 November, 2012 at Fort Canning Park. Holm dispels some of the rumours and explains why the band took a break from touring after 2008.
Why such a long break from touring?
Originally we decided after the last tour that we would have a year off. But it ended up being slightly longer than that (laughs). But then there was a lot of writing about an indefinite hiatus -- that was something journalists said – but that wasn't something that came out of our mouths ... We were actually working ... There was definitely a lot of vacation time built up! I took it all at once. It gives you a different perspective on what you are doing.
Sigur Rós – ‘Varúð’ ('Valtari' Mystery Film Experiment)
What was that different perspective?
What a great job we have. I learned to enjoy this again, it was becoming a bit of a burden. All this touring, it was a road to tiredness.
The last album went straight into the Top 10, yet sales and popularity never seemed that important to the band.
I always find it an honour that a record is well perceived. But it is very funny, these charts, because when ‘Takk’ came out (in 2005), it ended up in 12th place on the Billboard charts, and we sold like 75,000 copies in one week. And this got straight into No. 6 or something, much higher, but we only sold 40,000. It just means that you can really see how record sales are disappearing.
But is popularity important?
Well it's not a like a personal popularity thing. We arenot hoping we will get chased by paparazzi. It's always nice toplay bigger venues with more people. I always enjoy playing onstage to 15,000 people or something ... It's good to know thatpeople appreciate your music.
Your music affects many different types of people and many have a very emotional response. Why do you think that is?
I guess we always try to be sincere with our music. It always has to come from the heart. It can't be fake and people connect with that. And we have got some pretty amazing letters from people saying how this particular song or record completely changed their lives. That's always fantastic, it is such a boost that you can actually have an effect on people's life through just moving air. That's what music is, just moving air.
And what about the often-referenced admission that the band has its own language?
That's another journalist thing. I don't know how that got blown out of proportion. There is no language, it's just babble. I would say 95 percent of our music and lyrics are in Icelandic ... The brackets album was actually sung in just completely babble language. It was so impossible for us to write the lyrics for that record ... Jonsi, when he's the writing the vocal line, he just sings something, just babble basically. We decided that record just had to be like that. But all of our other songs are in Icelandic and there are a couple in English.
What's your relationship with Radiohead like now?
When we meet up we chitchat. But it's not like I have their phone number and call them up. But they are nice guys and I think we owe a lot to them. They gave us a big break when they asked us to do the support for them ... At that point, we would have had to do ten shows to get that many people.
Sigur Rós – ‘Varðeldur’ ('Valtari' Mystery Film Experiment)
Why did you do the ‘Valtari’ music video experiment?
We just thought we would do something this time, rather than making one or two music videos. We thought we would just take that budget and get 12 different people and say, 'Here is a little bit of money, what can you do with it?'
People were surprised to see actor Shia LaBeouf in one?
Well I was too. That was the director. The story is that LaBeouf saw a film that she did, called 'Bombay Beach,' and sent her an email and said, 'Can we work together at some point?' She just called him up and they had lunch and became friends. And she said, 'Would you be willing to do this for free?' and he was up for it.
Your new album is your sixth. How did the sound evolve?
In retrospect, it took such a long time to create it. Westarted work on it in about 2005 ... It's almost a loose endthis record, it's things that we had a long time and could notmake them fit and finally we figured out how to finish it ...Our sound is evolving now quite drastically, but I guess we willhave to see how that pans out.