Interview: Amiina

by Katherine

After wooing woolly jumper-wearing electronica fans everywhere with 2007’s xylophone-topped arcadia ‘Kurr’, Icelandic octet Amiina are back, now with two new members. ‘Puzzle’ marks their move away from bucolic bliss, and into glacial, stately dream-pop. We caught up with Edda, Solrún and Maggi for a chat..

Hello Amiina! How and where are you today?

Hi hi! We’re all in Iceland at the moment. Half of the band just arrived from Perth, Australia and we’re all heading to Boston in a week so we are travelling quite a bit these days! 

Your sophmore album ‘Puzzle’ was released just before christmas- why the title ‘Puzzle’? Did you find this album’s conception a bit more challenging than ‘Kurr’s?

Edda: When we were making the album it was in a way like putting a puzzle together so we think that name suits the album well. Also when listening to it you hear new details everytime, hence adding a new ‘puzzle’ to it.

It’s always challenging to put an album together. There’s six people in the band now and that made things easier and more difficult at the same time. Each song is different in the making and while some of the songs on Puzzle came very effortlessly others were more strenuous, and that goes the same for ‘Kurr’.

You’ve recently added two male members to your line-up Drummer Magnús and electronica wizard Kippi. How have these new additions added to Amiina’s sound?

Edda: Together they are the rhythm section of amiina, twisting and turning the music rhythmically and adding a whole new dimension to it. They also bring new ideas and new way of thinking about music which is refreshing for all of us.

‘Puzzle’ finds you incorporating vocals into your music much more than ever before – was this a deliberate decision to widen your music’s spectrum, or did it feel like a natural evolution? 

Edda: I think it’s been quite a natural process. In the beginning it was very difficult for some of us to feel comfortable singing in front of people but over time it has become easier. On ‘Puzzle’ we started writing lyrics for the first time and that was very challenging for us and it felt weird and very exciting at the same time.

Some tracks on ‘Puzzle’ (most notably ‘Thoka’) are distinctly less bucolic and more melancholic and stately than any ‘Kurr’ material – why the darker sound? 

Edda: I think that every song has it’s own life and Thoka just came out that way!  Maybe because it was dark outside when it was made?

Amiina are known for their unorthodox instrumentation (like the famous glassophone, cough!) – what instruments have you been using in recent gigs?

Edda: The glassophone is only really used for sampling on Puzzle so we usually don’t travel with it anymore. It was always a bit stressful to see if it would come back home in one piece! At amiina shows today we’re using the saw, a metallophone, zithers (table harps), keyboards, accordion, drums and all kinds of weird and fun percussions for example.

Much has been made of Amiina hailing from Reykjavik’s insular music scene, but how much do you really think that coming from Iceland has affected Amiina’s sound?

Solrún: The close environment has definitely has an effect on our work. There has been a really supportive music environment here that has benefited music a lot. I’m both talking about the music education system (that has been developed since mid 20th century, but sadly has been under attack lately because of drastic cuts in public funding) and the generous and friendly music community that has grown in the Reykjavík area. 

Many people first discovered Amiina through Sigur Rós – do you feel that your stint with Sigur Rós as their string quartet propelled your career forward, or is it something that has overshadowed you?

Solrún: The 10 years we collaborated with them was a period of learning, especially about the music business and touring and how things work there. During that time we continued to develop a certain way of working and improvising that has definitely affected a certain part of our music making. And of course we got the opportunity to perform for loads of people at the time we supported Sigur Rós on tour.

I understand that members of Amiina have recently started families (María and Hildur, congratulations!) – how has new motherhood affected Amiina as a band? How has touring been with babies on board?

Maggi: Actually, the band have four children already, from the ages of 1 to 10, and there is one more on the way! Touring with babies has been different and fun. But it definitely makes planning more of a challenge.

I thought that the online christmas calender on was heartwarming, your cookie recipes in particular – how did Amiina spend the festive period?

Maggi: I think most of us spent the festive period with family and friends…

Edda: Thank you for the compliment, good you enjoyed it, we did too. It was great fun doing the calender and it got us so much into the Christmas mood!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the epic scarf on the cover of ‘Kurr’ knitted by Amiina as a band? If so, have you kept up your knitting, and have you incorporated Magnús and Kippi into group knitting sessions? 

Maggi: Me and Kippi haven’t been invited to a knitting session as of yet! I know Sólrún is a very keen knitter, but I don’t know if the rest have been knitting recently…