Hatched in a dim lit attic in Reykjavík, at the dawn of 2006 Rökkurró’s five founding members began conversing in smooth tones, drawing inspiration from the silky sun-rays that crept through the windows.
The result of this covenant was displayed to the public’s eager eyes in March that same year and with their captivating atmosphere and ethereal vocals they instantly carved their niche in the already saturated Reykjavík music scene. A self-released 4 track EP hit the streets only 6 months after they had formed and this EP, along with a powerful performance on one of the off-venue shows at Iceland Airwaves 2006, landed them a record deal with local label 12 Tónar.
They released their first album “Það kólnar í kvöld…” (It gets colder tonight) in November 2007.
Rökkurró present music that is at once soothing and forceful. The folk-tinged reverie of the wailing accordion and carefully plucked guitars sends you off sailing through the clouds while the dramatic cello and clever drumming demand your full attention.
Todd talked with the group and continued his love affair with Icelandic bands.
TDOA: The composition of your songs seems far to complex to imagine that you’re just writing them quickly during a rehearsal. Can you talk about how you write your songs? Do you start with a single vocal or guitar melody and build from there or is there a different process for writing?
R: Most of our songs start out with one member contributing a line, then the rest of the band join in and jam on the line for a bit. Sometimes a song can be complete in maybe two practices and sometimes it takes months to finish a song. For example there is a song on our new record called Hugurinn Flögrar (eng. translations The mind flutters) that took us months to finish. The main guitar line stayed with us for a long time and we created a few ideas around it but none of them were good enough. Then all of a sudden during a practice just a few weeks before we headed to the studio to record the album everything clicked and the song came to life in just one or two practices. The lyrics are even about writers block.
TDOA: I’ve read that you worked with Jónsi on the last record. What were his contributions to the new record?
R: Hmmm. I think you are misunderstanding a bit. We have not worked with Jónsi at all. His boyfriend Alex recorded and produced our last record but Jónsi’s contributions were mostly bringing us some tasty snacks from time to time and some inspiring notes while we mixed the record in his and Alex’s kitchen.
TDOA: We’re fascinated by the music scene in Iceland, with bands like yourselves and For A Minor Reflection. Do the bands there tend to get along well or is it a very competitive relationship?
R: Everybody is quite close actually. There are not too many bands here so you play with the same ones several times a year so you know most of the people and most of them are your friends. The scene is too small to be competitive. It’s also funny that you should mention FaMR because they are amongst our closest friends.
TDOA: Any sense of why so many great bands seem to be coming from such a small country?
R: I have a theory that it’s due to the weather here… During winter in Iceland it’s so cold and dark (during the darkest bits of winter the sun is up for about 3 hours while during summer it never goes down.) here that most people try to stay inside during their free time. Some people knit or play computer games but some just focus on their music.
TDOA: Is Hildur Kristín Stefánsdóttir classically trained or how did she learn to develop her amazing voice?
R: She learned classical singing and cello playing for a few years but she is mostly self trained.
TDOA: Are there any plans to tour in the UK or US in 2011.
R: We have got a small European tour coming up in April. We’ll visit the UK and some countries in the mainland. I don’t think we’ll visit the US this year but hopefully we’ll come next year.
TDOA: You seem to be very comfortable with making videos. Do you do this because you consider this to be an important part of your art, or do you just consider it a necessary part of being in a band?
R: Well… The music industry has changed quite a lot over the past few years. The internet is becoming more and more important and the actual CD less important. That makes the whole visual part of music more important. Everybody can record a crappy song and upload it to the internet so the selection of music online is endless. Videos are a good way to give people an easier access to your music and an easier way to get your music around the world via internet. For some reason most modern people seem too find it easier to watch a music video rather than to just listen to songs.
TDOA: What bands are you listening to right now? Anybody that you can recommend that we might not have heard of?
R: Some of my top artists from 2010 to 2010: The National, Efterklang, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffity, Surfer Blood, Sleigh Bells, Alcoholic Faith Mission, Wavves, Best Coast and many more.
For Icelandic music I can definitely recommend The album A Long Time Listening by Agent Fresco… The best Icelandic album of 2010 for me, no doubt.
More good Icelandic bands : For a Minor Reflection, Of Monsters and Men, Mammút, Sudden Weather Change, Apparat Organ Quarted, Ólafur Arnalds and Kimono.