Interview with Soley; Performed at Iceland Airwaves event during @sxsw @soleysoleysoley
Soley, along with her band mates Jón Óskar Jónsson (drums) and Albert Finnbogason (keys&guitar,) bring a dark, inspired alt-pop sound, with plenty of sonic possibility through the usage of live loop sampling. Currently signed to Morr Music, her latest release, 2011’s We Sink, is a beautifully composed work, offering richly textural melodies and a smooth, laid back rhythm.
A featured artist on the Iceland Airwaves showcase in Austin, I got in touch with Soley during her stop at SXSW to talk about her music, her recently tour, and how she’s enjoying her time amidst the chaos of the largest music marathon in the world.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! It was a wonderful set!
S- Thank you. Thank you for that.
G- How has everything been treating you so far in Austin?
S- Very good. We really enjoy being here. It’s really sunny and nice, and it’s amazing… Good to be here!
G- And how about at SXSW? Any stories, moments, or drunken debacles stand out at this time?
S- (laughs) Well, I’ve eaten a lot of hot food.
G- Oh yeah?
S- And it doesn’t go very well in the stomach, though. We went to this shop called Tears of Joy, and it’s like a hot sauce shop on 6th Street. We tried out some good stuff there!
G- Burn the tongue a little bit?
S- Yeah, and the whole body (laughs)!
G- It keeps you very honest. They’re known for their spicy food down here.
G- Now, for some of our readers who may not be familiar with you, tell us a bit about how long you’ve been working as a musician, and do you remember the moment when you said ‘This is my calling. This is what I want!’
S- OK. I’ve been studying music since I was a child. I started studying classical piano and later I went to study more jazz. Then, in 2007 I went to the Art Academy of Iceland for composition.
I think maybe, at that time, I kind of realized that… I mean I was in bands and stuff, but my solo project wasn’t really, like, planned or anything. It just kind of happened. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and said ‘I want to be a musician!’ I’ve always kind of had that feeling my whole life that it would happen, in a way. So I’m just happy that I can do it because, you know, it’s not a bad job, though you often complain when you’re touring that you’re tired and want to go home…
G- Oh yes.
S- And that’s when you have to think ‘Ok, I don’t work in fabric or something.’
G- Yeah… A 9-5 job like me? These are my vacation hours that I’m spending down here at SXSW, and I love it… It’s Christmas in March for me!
No, if I’m correct, you’re about to release your debut self-titled record, coming out on Morr Records, correct?
G- Where did you record it, who produced the record, and what is it like working with Morr Records?
S- I mainly did it all by myself.
S- I recorded everything except for the drums. I produced it kid of by myself, also. And Morr Music is really nice. It’s a really nice company, in my opinion!
It’s like a small company. I can call Thomas Morr, who is the head of music, and I can call him and it’s, like, a really personal kind of relationship, which I think is really nice… Not having, like, a big major label and not seeing the people who work for you. I like it.
G- I think it’s important for a lot of the companies representing touring artists to have that personal connection with them.
S- It’s really important.
G- When it’s all phone calls and emails, you can’t put a name to the face and pick them out in a crowd.
G- You’re kind of like a number.
S- That’s kind of what I feel like on this festival!
G- Very true, but you’ve also played some East coast cities on your way here, and how was your reception in the states this time around, and how were the shows on the tour?
S- They’ve been really, really fun! America is kind of a new market for me. I’ve mainly been playing in Europe, like Germany, and the shows in Germany are great… A lot of respect. People show up in time, and there isn’t a party going on. It’s like they’re coming for the music. America is so huge, it’s so big, and it’s like, I could think like ‘Oh my god… I have to make it in America,’ but it’s impossible to think like that. I just come here because I was invited to SXSW and someone booked shows for me, and I just come as myself. I’m not trying to do anything more than I can do, you know? And I think that a good view to have in life is not to try too much, not try to make it… To get famous.
G- You’re doing it because you love it, not because you’re trying to be MTV’s pick of the week.
G- That’s a good thing.
S- But it’s been really, really fun! We played in Philadephia, in a small chapel called Unitaria…
G- First Unitarian Church.
S- Yes! So beautiful and so nice! I love those kind of venues. SO magical, and yeah… it’s been good!
G- Wonderful! Now, what I’d like to know, and this is difficult question that sometimes takes a while for artists to answer, but do you have a favorite song you have ever written, or if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
S- Of mine?
G- Of yours.
S- I have to think. The first song that I think about is not really a song. It’s on the ____ album and it’s called “Fight The Soft,” and it kind of starts with all these crackling noise, and it’s kind of short, and I wouldn’t say, like… In a way, it kind of shows how I am, though it’s not the pop song of the album, it kind of makes the atmosphere of the album, and I often start with this song at shows, just to get the atmosphere right. It’s called “Fight Them Soft” and it’s really short, but…
G- Short is good!
G- Nothing wring with that at all.
Now, you’ve already toured a lot and have shared the stage with many artists, but I’d like to know, if you could pick out your own feasible 3 band dream lineup to go on tour with, who would you like to go on tour with?
S- 3 bands?
G- 3 bands including yourself.
S- I would like to play with… There’s a girl called Joanna Newsome. She’s a harpist and one of my favorite musicians. Then, I might pick Fleetwood Mac (giggles.)
G- Fleetwood Mac! Give us one more!
S- Umm, I would probably say, I’d choose between Beach House or Blonde Redhead (laughs). I know it’s not the same, but…
G- Well, why don’t we just take them both! I’ll give that one to you.
S- Thank you!
G- To finish up today, you’re making some tremendous strides and making wonderful music, and it’s a great show…
S- Thank you!
G- There are a lot of people who will find out about you here, and already know you where you are from, and they look up to you and want to play music and do what you’re doing.
What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician like yourself?
S- I would say.. I think there are 2 things. First of all, you have to follow your heart and do exactly what you want to do, because it’s really easy to get, like, interrupted by others, especially when you have so many people working for you and you have one album out, now I’m just talking for myself. And you have all this pressure about how the next album is going to be. Often, I think like ‘I have to make this kind of song,’ and then I’m like ‘No no no no it’s all from the heart, and I have to do what I want to do!’ So, follow your heart.
And, I think it’s always good to step away from your comfort zone and the box and try to do something a little more different than the average music. There’s so much music out there, and if you’re gonna get known, it’s most fun to do different things. Step away from the box and out of your comfort zone, but always follow your heart.
G- I agree 100%, and there’s plenty of bands doing the same thing, so having something unique to bring to the table will certainly make more fans than the same.
S- At least, when I find new music that I like, that kind of weird stuff, I’m always so happy, because you’re always bombarded by all this radio music. When I buy an album, I’m so glad when it’s good, it’s weird, and it’s different! Ahh best feeling in the world!
G- She’s smiling right now, so she’s means it!
Great artist and performance today, and it was wonderful speaking with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! Travel safe, play well, and enjoy the rest of your time here!
S- Thank you!