An interview with Sigur Ros’ drummer ahead of the band’s first Miami show
September 25, 2013
One of the concerts of this year we’re most looking forward to is Sigur Rós’ overdue visit to Miami. It’s scheduled to cap the Icelandic band’s current U.S. tour, which kicked off on Sept. 14 in Detroit. Last Friday, I suddenly learned I had the chance to chat for 10 minutes with the band’s longtime drummer/percussionist Orri Páll Dýrason, thanks to Live Nation and the “Miami New Times” pushing their agent for an interview.
The group was in Philadelphia and Dýrason was about to head in to rehearsal. I had many questions, but could only go superficial with such limited time— a bit sacrilegious for a band I have been following from the start, but it was a nice opportunity, so pardon if this post jumps from one topic to another. There is a link to a more cohesive piece at the bottom of this post, which gets into much more subject matter and opens with a rather in-depth description of Sigur Rós’ music.
One new song from the band’s seventh album, Kveikur, which saw release earlier this year, appeared conspicuously absent from the set list prior to this tour. The brilliant, soaring “Rafstraumur” seemed like a no-brainer for inclusion in the live sets. “Actually, we’re rehearsing it now,” Dýrason revealed, “so when we get to Miami we will play it.”
Dýrason joined Sigur Rós before the band recorded ( ), or what he calls “the brackets album.” He explains, “I was in another band, and we were sharing our rehearsal space with Sigur Rós. It was in 1990s, when they were finishing Ágætis Byrjun. They were still working in the studio when Agust decided to quit, and the guys asked me if I wanted to join.”
He said it was not a hard decision to join the band. “Probably after the first rehearsals that we did together [I decided to join],” he said. “It was nice from the beginning.”
Currently he and singer/multi-instrumentalist Jon Thor Birgisson (a.k.a. Jónsi ) and fellow founding member bassist Georg Hólm are the band’s core. Keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, also a founding member, left the band before they recorded Kveikur, a dynamic, powerful album released earlier this year that stands as another distinctive record in the brilliant, varied catalog of Sigur Rós.
The band’s previous album, the mostly hushed Valtari saw release the year before, in 2012. But don’t let its subtleties deceive you, Dýrason said it was an album long in the making. “It was very quiet,” he agreed about the record, “and we had been working on it since 2005. Our earliest recordings are from 2005, and we were adding to that album kind of slowly. First we wanted to do a choir album, only with choirs, but we only did two tracks like that, but that was kind of stiff and boring, so we decided to do a more experimental album.”
There had been rumors of a scrapped ambient-like album the band had been trying to prepare before the band’s hiatus when Jónsi indulged in a solo career of some merit (Read: Jonsi [of Sigur Ros] gets poppy). I asked Dýrason if any of those lost recordings made it on to Valtari. “Yes,” he said. “There’s one song actually, um, I think it’s ‘Valtari.’”
There’s much more to read of my interview with Dýrason. Yesterday, the “Miami New Times” ran a profile piece as a result of this short chat, which includes more on Kveikur, an aborted percussion experiment by Dýrason and Jónsi’s blacksmith father, the departure of Sveinsson and their first Miami performance providing backup to Merce Cunningham. Read it by jumping through the “Miami New Times” logo below:
The tour continues through Oct. 13, when the band will play a rare show in Mexico City. I will be at the Miami show, which I may write a review about. To see all tour dates visit their website (that’s a hotlink).
I leave you with “Rafstraumur.” Play it for yourself and hear why this will make for quite a gorgeous performance live: