Search The Line of Best Fit
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Samaris press 2014 MAG8398

Samaris: "It's a journey through our imagination"

28 April 2014, 10:31

Iceland’s sonic exports have always erred towards the mind-bogglingly fantastic – from Sigur Rós to Björk and basically everything in between – and last year, Samaris showed no intent of bucking that trend. Delivering a self-titled debut LP, formed from their duet of domestic-release EPs, via One Little Indian (always an astute barometer of greatness), they proceeded to latch themselves to our hearts and minds like gloriously welcome leeches, sucking out poisonous emotional turmoil and stress-toxins with a rare gem in tow. A genuinely unique style of music. Forging techno, trance, synthpop, folk, classical and ambient electronica, the youthful trio – all three are merely skirting/broaching their early twenties – have sculpted a reputation as adroit purveyors of dazzling atmospheres.

Samaris is a tremendous record, which we described as like “The XX and Little Dragon eloping to that magical forest out of Lord of The Rings to record an album with all the wood elves they could round up, and you might be getting close to this record’s wonderfully paranormal aesthetic.” So when we caught the enticing aroma of album numero dos, we got giddier than toddlers on blue Smarties. Silkidrangar – which literally translates to ‘silk rock’ (is that a reference to a satin-y boulder or their genre?) – is the sobriquet of their sophomore record. Which is also sort of their debut in some places. Hinting towards starker, bleaker territories and a swollen bent on Þórður Kári Steinþórsson’s electronics, it shows more of a sideways expansion of their identity as opposed to a lunge down any particular route. “There’s no massive evolution. We do have more diverse sounds I guess, and it’s a little bit more detailed,” says vocalist Jófríður Ákadóttir (also of Pascal Pinon with her twin sister) when we chat with 2/3 of the band. “But it’s a natural step for us,” Áslaug Magnúsdóttir (clarineteur – is that right?) chimes across. “It’s a more developed sound and a little bit more mature altogether. Because it’s a full-length, there’s a bigger process and we had to have more of an overview and how everything works together. It’s a more dynamic album too, a bit darker maybe. There’s brightness though, and I guess if you understand the lyrics you can see that more obviously, but there are brighter songs regardless. It’s not all dark.”

The process of creating Silkidrangar seems to have been productive for the band, advancing them as musicians and people, not just in the sense that they made an album. “We have learned that it is best to take at least a month off between making records. We also learned to be more focused and concentrate on one thing. Like when we learned that towards the end of recording, it all came together so much more quickly. It might be boring, and not a very original lesson, but it was one we had to learn for ourselves,” Akadóttir opines, before adding a caveat. “It represents that we did something. I think that’s an achievement in itself. I like the intro to the album, and every time I hear it I’m like ‘waaaah, yay! I can’t believe it’s finally finished!”

In terms of influences on the record, and what sort of things inspired them to write Silkidrangar, they get blunt – this isn’t a record built on personal struggles or human themes. “We don’t have a personal relationship with our listeners, we’re not that kind of band. We do try to be honest, but first and foremost we try to make good music, rather than sit down and write about our feelings in the way other groups do. We have had moments where we have an experience that makes us feel strongly, then gone and sat down and written music about it, but not for Samaris. That’s not what we do in Samaris.”

What does inspire them, or at least provides the lyrical base, is 19th century Icelandic poetry. As with Samaris, all the words you’ll hear are salvaged from aged poems crumbling in books. For Silkidrangar however, there was a different kind that took precedence. “It’s all romantic poetry,” Ákadóttir says. “There’s still lots about nature and the natural elements though. We sing about mysterious things like the moon and the ocean, and then we have daylight as well. Lots of metaphors, the lyrics are visual due to the poetic imagery. They vary a lot, sometimes it can be a bit scary and sometimes even comforting.

That natural, organic environment that the three-piece nurtures is something many onlookers have picked up on. They conjure wild, vivid visions with their soundscapes, and you’ll often find yourself skulking through a snow-capped copse with nowt but glimmering stars as respite from the night. Mother Nature plays a major role. “You can’t escape it, it’s everywhere. It’s very present. You become immune to it when it’s all around, but at the same time, it becomes part of you,” muses Magnúsdóttir, becoming increasingly galvanised during the topic. “A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that we’re directly inspired by Iceland’s nature, but I think, for us, we don’t go out to get inspiration from nature or get inspired by the outdoors. It’s subconscious, or perhaps a nice accompaniment to the music. We have beautiful surroundings in Iceland, and I think that’s become part of our subconscious because we’re so used to it. We use it in our videos and promos cause it is all around us, and we have these beautiful environments on offer.”


Though Magnúsdóttir denies a flagrant link, or that it’s an aware choice, she’s pleased people have taken their sound in that way: the band are keen champions of Earth, performing recently at a protest concert against proposed conservation law changes in Iceland. “We’re very happy when people connect us to nature. Everyone admires nature in some way, and if people listen to us and it makes them think about nature more often, then maybe people will more willing and keen to preserve it. There’s always people who want to take advantage rather than appreciate, and destroy rather than build. We want to help conserve and feel like we’ve done something for our children and our grandchildren and generations to come.” Bringing that innate sense of the outdoors to life in a live scenario can’t always be the simplest endeavour, but their live shows always wield a sprinkling of pizazz nevertheless. “It’s a journey through our imagination…?” Ákadóttir can’t sound more unsure of her words, before changing her mind. “It’s just like a concert I guess. I’m singing, Áslaug’s playing the clarinet, we’re all dancing. We’ve got a move, like a special dance. We like to work the hips and knees…”

Whether it was the special dance or not, John Grant snapped them up as prime support for his recent UK tour. “It was really nice, we played some big venues we’ve never done before and the majority of the crowds weren’t interested in us…” says Ákadóttir, before Magnúsdóttir cuts through in protest – “No, they were!” – “...okay, well it wasn’t what they expected. I liked it though, there was no stress we could run around and be crazy and not have to worry as much about anything. We arrived late for soundchecks and left early! Support gigs are so much fun, they’re just a lot less stressful than headline shows because people aren’t as focused on us and we get a little bit more freedom.”

It’s easy to forget their ages, considering the inherent maturity and aural gravitas within their music, but they’re not jaded wastrels. Akadóttir’s still studying, for example. “I finished my first semester at the end of last year – I thought I’d flunk it, but I didn’t, I passed! We took a break for things happening now though, things I’m more excited about, like touring and releasing the album.” However, the difficulties of juggling two massive commitments and passions is no simple task. “It’s not very nice at all. You don’t get as much out of each doing both at the same time. I prefer taking time off and focusing on each one separately so I’m not doing two things half-heartedly. It does involves sacrifice because you know you want to get as much out of each as possible.”

During this spell away from the academic rat race, Akadóttir, Magnúsdóttir and Steinþórsson have a jam-packed summer of frivolity ahead of them. “We’re going to Wales!” the former two exclaim with glee. “Cardiff I think? Maybe not. Where’s Green Man? We’re really excited. Wales is supposed to be a paradise. It’ll be the highlight of our summer.” Aside from Wales, Samaris are also touring Europe and hopping along to other festivals: “We’re doing The Great Escape; We’re excited about that! It’ll be really good. We’re also going to London, then Switzerland and Germany and Belgium and Denmark…” 2014 is set to be a defining year for Samaris. It’s no wonder, given the pace they’re accelerating at, the pulsing promise of Silkidrangar’s impending release, and their hectic, eclectic (heclectic?) tour schedule. “We’re going to try and write some more by the end of the year,” says Akadóttir, with Magnúsdóttir elaborating on the dire straits the band find themselves in. “We have to write some more songs! We’ve released everything we’ve written. There’s literally nothing else for us to release right now, we’ve run out of music, so we have to get back and come up with some new songs!”

Silkidrangar is released on 5 May via One Little Indian.

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