Icelandic Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi Birgisson and his boyfriend, American visual artist and musician Alex Somers, have mixed business with pleasure for several years now.
Somers designed several Sigur Ros album covers, and the two collaborated on an instrumental album, 2009’s Riceboy Sleeps.
Now comes Birgisson’s debut solo album proper, Go, and it’s a lush collection of densely-layered soundscapes again lovingly crafted by both him and Somers.
“I first got the idea for making an acoustic album. I wanted just to do it in my living room at home with my boyfriend but at the last minute we decided to do it properly at a good studio,” Birgisson said.
“When I started I wanted to have it as a minimal acoustic album, but then something changed and it just exploded into something crazy. I don’t know why it happened.”
While Go shares the same widescreen feel and attention to detail that characterises the music of Birgisson’s band, the tone of the album is altogether more optimistic — dare we say loved-up — than that of Sigur Ros.
There’s even the occasional moment of out-and-out pop, like the sugar rush that is Animal Arithmetic.
“People are going to probably be surprised. It’s definitely different from Sigur Ros,” Birgisson acknowledged.
“It’s more rhythmic and more energetic — maybe a little more poppy.”
And with Sigur Ros on hiatus, Birgisson said the time seemed right to release Go into the world.
“While I was with Sigur Rós, all the decisions and ideas were done together as a group. So a lot of the songs I came up with were not used, and I ended up having a collection of songs I had created at home over the years.”
While he and Somers did eventually decamp to a studio to polish Go, the bare bones of each song were originally mapped out in their Reykjavik apartment.
“I sang all the vocals in my living room, in my kitchen. Alex and I did a lot of overdubs. We also did a lot of samplers, hand claps and stomping and stuff at home,” Birgisson said.
Did that make them popular with the neighbours?
“No! Usually people in Iceland like Sigur Ros but I think I have the only neighbour in the world who hates my voice and everything I do. I can’t do anything at home — he stomps the floor like crazy. As soon as I start playing piano or sing, he cranks up Barry White or Justin Timberlake.”
info: Go (EMI) is out now.