– Hello, thansk for taking the time. What are you currently up to? How does it feel holding the new SÓLSTAFIR’s album in your hands?
Thank you for taking the time for sending us this interview! What am I up to? Right now I am answering an interview haha. I just woke up on a Sunday morning, not hung over, listening to Rammstein.
We haven’t helt the new album in my hands yet, we don’t even have the final masters yet, although a ton of media people have it already. But it feels fökking good that the album is about to be released!
– I guess there may be some people who aren’t familiar with you yet so, could you please amke some history of the band?
Sólstafir were formed by 3 friends, Aðalbjörn Tryggvason, Halldór Einarsson and Guðmundur Óli Pálmason in January 1995.
Later that year the band recorded it’s first demo tape “Í Norðri” and at the end of the year the band hit the studio again to record what was to become the second demo “Til Valhallar”.
“Til Valhallar” was never released as a demo though and 4 of the 6 songs were released as a MCD by View Beyond Records. It was later re-released in 2002 with all the 6 songs.
In 1999 Sólstafir entered the studio to record it’s debut full length album. By that time Halldór had left the band and in 1997 and 1998 Sólstafir had released two promos as a two piece.
For the recording of the debut full length Sólstafir had recruted Svavar Austmann as Halldór’s replacement.
Although the recording of “Í Blóði og Anda” had started in 1999 the album wasn’t released until 2002, due to endless delays and mishaps, the band truly believed they were cursed.
In the meantime Sólstafir started playing live shows in Iceland, and for that had added a second guitar player, one Sæþór Maríus Sæþórsson.
So for the first time as a four piece, Sólstafir recorded a new demo in 2002, eventually releasing 3 songs as Black Death: The EP.
In 2004 the band began working on the follow up to “Í Blóði og Anda” on their own with the help of a good friend. Although Sólstafir were becoming a quite well known name in the European metal underground the band found themselves without a recording label. Thus, the band decided to release 3 of the songs from the album as a limited edition promo to send around to labels. This, and a gig in Denmark (the band’s first outside of Iceland) ensured the band a deal with Spinefarm Records.
It was becoming clear by now that Sólstafir were a force to be reckoned with live in concert.
Sólstafir released “Masterpiece of Bitterness” through Spinefarm in 2005. The album got exceptionally good reviews almost everywhere and the band kept on making a really good name for themselves with really powerful live performances.
In December 2007 the band traveled to Göteborg, Sweden to record their third full length, “Köld.”
“Köld” was released in early 2009 and like “Masterpiece…” it not only got exceptionally good reviews, but most critics also had a hard time pinpointing Sólstafir’s music into a specific genre. Descriptions like “Sounds Like The Hellacopters if they went to art school and did a lot of Valium”, “Imagine if Nachtmystium, Alice In Chains, and Neurosis got hammered while listening to Entombed’s DCLXVI – To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak The Truth – it would sound something like this” and “Sigur Rós goes metal!” were becoming really common.
Meanwhile Sólstafir kept getting equally as good reviews for their live shows all across mainland Europe and have played on many of Europe’s biggest festivals including Roskilde Festival, Wacken Open Air, Summer-Breeze Open Air, Party San Open Air, Hole in the Sky Festival etc…
Sólstafir have also done two full European tours in 2009 and 2010 as well as a few shorter ones.
Sólstafir’s 4th full length album “Svartir Sandar” will be released on Season of Mist on October 14th in Europe and October 18th in North America.
– And I would also like you to tell us a bit about the band’s name: what does it mean, why did you choose it, etc.
Sólstafir is a weather phenomenon, it’s called crepuscular rays in english.
We just thought it was a cool name and it suited the band. It’s not a name that puts us in any specific box and we can keep on developing the music without the name dragging us down (unlike Cannibal Corpse!)
– If I’m not mistaken, you were formed in 1994 but released your first album in 2002. Why did it take you so long?
We did release a demo in 1995 and a mcd in 1996. In 1997 and 1998 we recorded two demos and in 1999 we started recording our debut full length album, but the album wasn’t released until 2002 due to many mishaps (such as me [ze drummer] fucking up my hand in a fight two days before entering the studio, brake in at the studio, equipment braking down, producer’s father getting seriously ill, label boss’ sex change operation, the truck transporting the cds from Swiss to Germany having a traffic accedent and scattering 3000 sopies of the cd all over the German autobahn, and I could go on and on…) .
– You will soon release your new «Svartir Sandar» but I guess you have already heard some reactions. How are the first reactions being?
So far I have only read two reviews, one a 10/10 and a 9,5/10 from you guys, so so far I’m very happy with the reaction.
– Since you guys started you have been through a clear musical evolution. Has just been a natural evolution or did you con consciously want to make your sound go into different directions?
It’s totally been a natural evolution, but we’ve also always been concious of not writing the same song twice. We like to push ourselves and try out new things, but at the same time keep our identity.
– Anyway there are so much details from different styles behind your music so, what are your musical influences? As I think we can find elements from Black Metal, Stoner, Post-Rock and so on.
Yes everything you mentioned. But we are four individuals with different tastes, although there are certainly some bands all of us like. Personally I mostly listen to depressing music such as Swans, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Earth, Goodspeed you Black Emperor!, Ulver and stuff like that, but also upbeat rock’n’roll like Rammstein, Dozer The Devil’s Blood, Autopsy and Entombed (actually we all like the last three). Addi is mostly into classic rock’n’roll like AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, The Beatles and shit like that. The Gringo isn’t even aware of the fact that there has been written some new music since the 70’s, he only listens to stuff like Pink Floyd, Uriah Heap and Led Zeppelin and Svavar only listens to acid house / drum’n’bass.
I guess the bands we all like is stuff like Duran Duran, The Mission, The Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, Entombed, Autopsy, Obituary and the Icelandic HAM. Actually the list is endless, we all listen to so much music.
– Because of this, how tends to be the songwriting process in SÓLSTAFIR? Is all a spontaneous effort or do you set certain «rules»?
Our only rule is that there are no rules. If we like it we will use it, no matter what we think the reaction of other people will be.
For the last 3 albums we have mostly written the songs during rehersals as a whole. Someone (usually Addi or Gringo) brings a riff or an idea and we jam that stuff for hours and hours until we get into a musical trance. Then we work on it some more and arrange the songs together.
– Describing your sound is really difficult, nor to say impossible, but what’s easier to describe is the kind of feeling your music expresses. In fact I think «Svartir Sandar» is your most emotional and expressive album so far. Is this something easy to get? Or do you use your music to channel your own feelings?
Yes our music is first and foremost a vessel for our own feelings. Everything we write comes from the heart.
– And, is this (and your atmospheres) an important part of the band? As I’m still really impressed with that, as with the album I experienced something I haven’t experienced with a music album for ages.
I guess it is the most important aspect of the band. We don’t try to sound like anyone else, and we don’t try to write music to please other people. We are slaves to our own music, the music controles us a musicians rather than the other way around.
– What’s your music for you? Do you treat each album as an art piece?
We treat each song as a piece of art, and each album is for us a bigger piece of art made up from the smaller parts. And like every true art, our music is a real part of us. And in the end I hope our music is bigger than the sum of it’s parts.
– Considering your music and «Svartir Sandar» is a double album; where do you take inspiration from? As you seem to be a really creative bunch.
Everything you see, hear, do and experience in your life affects your persona in one way or another, and our music just springs from our own souls, which have in turn been influenced by our lives. So I guess I can say our main inspiration is just our own lives. The people we interact with, the music we listen to, the movies we see, the places we go to, all the things that make up this life.
– This is your first album with Season of Mist, how’s everything going with them so far?
SOM have really showed us a new level of professionalism we haven’t experienced from a label before, and at the same time they also keep personal contact with us which we velue a lot. It really feels like they care, which is a first for us haha. All in all they have been doing a great job so far.
– If I’m not wrong, all lyrics in this effort are in Icelandic. Was there any concrete reason behind this? Do you feel more comfortable singing and writing in your mother tongue?
Our first few releases were all in Icelandic, but then we gradually shifted over to English. This time around we just felt this was the right way to go, it fits the music. Personally I am sick and tired of Icelandic bands singing in English all the time, and a big majority of them never even reach an audience outside of Iceland. So what’s the point? Although, ironically, the majority of our audience is non Icelandic.
But on the other hand it is more difficult to write lyrics in Icelandic.
– You are now a worldwide well-known band, but you have been working hard before. Anyway, being from Iceland, makes things harder to have success outside your country?
Yes it is very hard for bands to brake our of Ieland and into the international scene. We are geographically isolated on a small island in the middle of the North fökking Atlantic, so we don’t just hop in a van and tour Europe. And bands that don’t tour have a harder time getting noticed and signed. It is basically first now, more than 15 years after we formed that people are really starting to notice us.
– And what other bands from Iceland could you suggest?
Momentum ( psychedelic post metal, they released the best album of 2010 in my opinion), Black Earth (post metal/rock’n’roll) Angist (female fronted blackmetal, will release an album soon), HAM (dark, slow, heavy!) , Atrum (blackened death metal, just released a killer album), Gone Postal (technical but grooving death metal with a hint of black), Potentiam (melodic black metal), Bastard (old school death metal), Skálmöld (viking metal without the stupid costumes), Stafrænn Hákon (post rock), XIII (dark rock), Beneath (technical death metal, about to release an album and have one ep out). All these bands have some releases out and all can be found on facebook.
– The band’s line-up has always remained the same; does this makes things easier or the opposite? Haven’t you ever felt tired of being on the road, etc. with the same people?
Actually we have had one change in line up. Our original bassplayer Dóri Kvunta left the band in 1998 and was replaced by Svavar Austmann. A year later we added The Gringo on second guitar.
I think the fact that we have had the same line up for all these years has helped us a lot. We are closer than brothers, and when we’re playing we know exactly what the others are thinking.
Of course we do fight and get sick and tired of each other, but we also have a lot of fun together and I for one wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.
– Finally, what does future have in store for SÓLSTAFIR? Do you plan touring to support the album live?
Yes, we already have some festivals booked, including Roadburn, Christmas Metal Festival and Hellfest and a few others we can’t announce yet. There are also some tours being planned, so be prepared to greet us in your city soon!
– That has been all from my side, thanks once more for your time. If you now want to add some final comments; last lines are all yours.
Thank you for your support!