Jonsi talks reunion, new album and mixing business with pleasure
Michael Baggs

14:15 7th May 2012

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One of Iceland's biggest musical exports of all time, Sigur Ros have won the hearts of fans and the approval of critics the world over with their five stunning albums and unmistakable sound.

Following the release of their 2008 album 'Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust', the band went their separate ways as frontman Jonsi embarked on a solo career. Now back with sixth studio album 'Valtari', a spectacular collection of ethereal soundscapes and haunting epics, we spoke to Jonsi about the new record, working with boyfriend Alex Somers on the band's new project and why boredom of blending raw vegetables in hotel bedrooms put an end to his time as a strict vegan...

When you went on hiatus after your last album, did you think it was the end of Sigur Ros?
I think we always knew we would get back together. I just think we needed a long break after we had been touring so much, for many years. I think we were tired and we had a break because everyone was having a baby! I used the time to make an album with my boyfriend and also my solo album, so we took a good break but it was really nice to come back with the guys again and start working. It felt like coming home.

What brought you back together?
The guys were definitely ready to start again, because they had been on such a long break while I was doing other stuff, I think they were really keen to do something.

What did you bring from your time as a solo artist (and Riceboy Sleeps) back to the band?
I don't know if I brought that much back from my solo career. We have a very different way of working in Sigur Ros. For me personally it was good to try to go my separate way and try something else with different people and different artists. I think i'd like to work with more people in the future as well.

Would you consider collaborations? You couldn't really do a Nicki Minaj duet...
That would be cool! I like her actually, I really like 'Superbass', but I don't like the new one. I expected something more flamboyant and over the top.

What would be the most surprising thing we'd find in your music collection?
I really like the typical pop I hear on the radio. I don't buy it, but when I hear it on the radio when i'm driving I turn it up. I like Nicki Minaj and David Guetta - who everybody hates - but I think he has some good songs! 'Titanium' is really good, I especially like that one. I like Rihanna too. But I do have my limits!

What did you miss most about working as part of Sigur Ros?
I think the hardest thing for me was being alone and not having the guys to bounce things back on, talk about ideas, share responsiblities and make decisions together. You have to be really responsible when you're on your own.

Were you ever tempted to follow the path of 'Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust' and your solo album 'Go' and record a more pop-inspired Sigur Ros album?
I don't think so. We were all a little bit sick of the upbeat, faster stuff and we wanted to try something else. I think if we had gone in the other direction and made more upbeat music it would have just been pure pop music, so I think we wanted to take a small left turn and do this album I think. 'Valtari' has been brewing for many years and we've had it in the back of our heads to do this album for a long long time and I think now we have come together to get it out of our system.

Was your work on the Riceboy Sleeps album an influence in 'Valtari'?
Yes, definitely. Alex helped us mix the new album, but I think this album is like what Sigur Ros have done between the songs on previous albums - and now it's a full album of that, but it is a lot like Riceboy in some ways.

Listen to Sigur Ros 'Ekki Mukk'

Is this the first Sigur Ros album that Alex has been involved in with a hands-on role?
He has never worked on Sigur Ros before but it was really good to have him. This album was so scatterbrained, and made over five or six years and was very confusing in a way. We recorded two songs in 2007 in a studio in London with a choir and then we were recycling some of our old material and we scrapped that and a few months ago we decided we decided we did want to make another album. Alex helped a lot with focusing and constructing. We just handed him a lot of weird sound-files and he told us what we needed to do.

How have you found mixing business with pleasure and having Alex contributing your work?
You should definitely do it! It is really good. He is such a wholesome man, with a great head on his shoulders, easy to be around and is so good with people. He's a clever guy so he is easy to work with. If something is off then we just talk about it - it's not rocket science.

Your vocals are less of a centrepiece on 'Valtari'. How have you felt stepping back a little on this album?
There are three instrumental tracks on the album and maybe there's more soundscaping on the album. Previous albums have maybe been more pop orientated and song structured. I like both.

What thoughts have you put into performing the new album live?
Not much! I think we are starting to rehearse for a new show so we have something different to what we've had before. We're going to get some strings and brass for live shows to help us translate the new stuff.

Are you excited to play Bestival 2012?
Yes. I played it before with my solo album. I like it. It was kinda shitty weather and was really muddy, but it is really cool. I enjoyed the show but the festival is cool. I love that it is on an island, I loved being there.

Why did you stop being a raw vegan?
I ate raw food for one and a half years but I stopped when I started touring my own album. It was so much hard work being in a hotel with a blender making a soup! I was getting antisocial and it was stopping me going out with my friends. My biggest vice is coffee. Sometimes I go with my friends to the burger joint in Rekjavik, we've got a really good one. It does the best burgers - vegeburgers, obviously.

What do you miss most about Iceland when you're away from home?
Probably Alex. He is working a lot recording and producing bands, so he can't come. He came with me on my solo tour, but he won't be coming on the Sigur Ros tour.

Rekyjavik is known for its nightlife. Why do Icelandic people party so hard?
I think it's bad drinking habits. They don't know how to drink, they don't grow up with wine or have pubs where they can go after work for one or two beers. There's nothing like that. There's no culture in Iceland, so people go absolutely mental - or turn vegan.

Thank you very much, Jonsi of Sigur Ros. 'Valtari' is released on 28 May, 2012.

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