Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
“I look like a seventeen year old with a drug problem”: Best Fit meets Sin Fang

“I look like a seventeen year old with a drug problem”: Best Fit meets Sin Fang

01 March 2013, 14:30

Sin Fang’s Sindri Már Sigfússon lives and breathes the rock and roll lifestyle.

So much so that he briefly disrupts our interview to apologise: “Sorry my daughter just pulled the hair of my other daughter. Wait just one minute,” he says.

And he’s back. It might come as a surprise to learn that Sigfússon is 30, and has kids. From all visual accounts he looks young, though perhaps a little exhausted. “I also look like I’m 17-year-old with a drug problem,” he says. “I have these bags under my eyes. It doesn’t matter if I sleep twelve hours a night or one.”

Sigfússon’s girlfriend is the sister of Jónsi, frontman of fellow Icelanders Sigur Rós. You’d think it would sound a little ignorant to ask Sigfússon whether he knows Sigur Rós, just because they both happen to hail from the same country; it’d be akin to asking the frontman of Arctic Monkeys if he knows The Beatles, but in this case it’s not a stretch. Jonsi actually lives right across the street from Sigfússon and the connection goes deeper than that too: Jónsi’s partner Alex produced Sin Fang’s latest record, this year’s incredible Flowers.

These are not chance encounters – Iceland is simply this small. “I probably know everyone you can think of in Iceland,” Sigfússon explains, “America has a big celebrity culture. It’s not like that in Iceland because it’s so small here. You also just see a famous person going to the store or whatever. That’s probably not like that in a society with millions. Iceland only has 300,000 people.”

There’s definitely a difference in the types of people he plays for: “Audiences in the US are a bit more enthusiastic when they meet you. You always feel like you’re Jon Bon Jovi when you meet people after the show. I wouldn’t say it’s quite like that here. I met people in America that have tattoos of Seabear lyrics on them…That’s pretty funny, and kind of extreme.”

Iceland still has some common ground with the US. It’s only five hours away by plane and Sigfússon acknowledges the westernization of his home country. “We used to have an American military base here in Iceland, which was here for like 40 years or something. They brought with them like movies and music and fast food restaurants, like Jack in the Box…M&Ms and Skittles. They had their own radio station that played Elvis Presley and The Beatles. They are kind of like famous for bringing rock music to Iceland.”

There used to be a MacDonald’s in Iceland too, Sigfússon says, before it could no longer afford to keep up with meat quality standards, as they were importing their meat from Germany. “It’s okay,” he says, “I like to cook. I’m slicing some broccoli right now. We’re having roast chicken with potatoes and salad…Oh it’s so nice. Super good.”

Traditional Icelandic foods – the kind eaten back when starvation was a real issue due to crops freezing over – are still around today, including the infamous Hákarl - fermented shark meat. “Normally you have that in little bites, and you have very strong alcohol with it to kill the smell. And then there’s…a sheep’s head, which has been cooked. And then you have the ram’s testicles, that have been like pickled; pickled ram’s testicles.”

Familiar as he is with such delights, Sigfússon admits he’s never eaten any of them. “It’s like a tradition… My parents still have it and stuff like that. It’s not like food that they eat every day, it’s like once a year. I don’t think many people like that stuff, except for like my grandparents.”

Sigfússon’s upbringing actually sounds more American than anything. “I idolized Michael Jackson as a kid. I grew up in Sweden as my parents were studying there and I listened to their record collection…We had MTV. I remember one Christmas I got the Vanilla Ice LP.”

In addition to speaking Swedish and Icelandic, he picked up English at a young age: “I also grew up watching the Turtles and Home Alone and obsessing over that and watching it like a zillion times. Playing Super Mario Brothers and Zelda and all of that. You always had to have your mom come in the room and ask what the screen says now when you’re playing the video game… So yeah I think I was pretty fluent when I was twelve.”

He funded his early experiments in music with work shovelling and laying pavements. “That was interesting kind of inspiring in a way. I’m glad I tried it. But when you’ve worked a full work day, and it’s manual labor, you go home to do music or whatever because you’re so beat.”

The first Seabear EP was recorded while attending art school. “I had all this time”, he explains. “Maybe I only had classes til noon, and I wasn’t very tired after an art lecture, so I was able to finish that first EP. I just had a PC computer, and a decent mic, and some tiny speakers, and little pre-amp–like a really amateur set-up. I did most of it in the hallway of my parents house while they were at work…Always just use what you have, that’s my rule.”

Taking his earliest Seabear creations to the internet, the teenage Icelander got in touch Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste. They exchanged some demos, wound up on a 7” together, and were subsequently invited to open in New York for a band called The Books. Before he’d even played a single live show, a deal with Morr Records was on the table. This was while Sigfússon was in his first year of art school, which he did subsequently finish with a degree.

“I did realize after art school that music moves me more than paintings and drawings”, he explains. “I never get goosebumps after watching a nice drawing or something.”

Sigfússon still paints, putting on a few exhibitions every year and, recently, a pretty neat gig with a skateboard company after yet another chance encounter in his native country. “I met the owner of Alien Workshop in Iceland, because he was doing something with an Icelandic skateboarder, and he wanted to use a song of mine. He asked me if I would like to do some deck art, which was like a dream come true for me because I’ve been skateboarding since I was a kid as well.”

The deck, out now, comes with an accompanying download card for the new Sin Fang record. “I guess if you stick at art long enough, it will start paying you,” he laughs.

Sigfússon’s former band Seabear (both signed to the German-based label Morr Music) remain on indefinite hiatus. “Seabear was mostly a democratic band, where everyone had their say in it. With , I can basically do whatever I want. I found out when I was making the Sin Fang records that that is kind of the way I would like to work. I think we all want to make another Seabear album some time in the future, but the last couple of years have been very busy for me and Sóley [Stefánsdóttir, Seabear bandmate/pianist].”

He adds, “I think we are going to one day. But I’m not sure if it will be one year or five years, but I’m not worried about it yet.” Seabear disciples may find Sin Fang’s new record a little more in line with the style of the Icelandic musical collective. “It’s a marriage of these two worlds: this acoustic niceness and this left-field sampling and electronica type stuff. That is the vibe we were going for. I don’t think I’ve ever spend as much time on one album. I’ve always just mixed it in a week at a big studio or something. This time we did like for three months, obsessive mixing and stuff.”

With that much effort put in, he acknowledges it’s impossible to recreate every little detail on stage–which goes for the twenty (to his count) vocal tracks he laid down for any given song. “You just have to do it somehow live. I never think of the two as being so much related. Just when you play like, like that moment you’re having with the people you’re in that room playing with. It’s that brief moment when you are playing and they are watching. The album is like you’re making something that’s going to be like that forever.”

It helped that a crack team was on hand to fill out the Sin Fang sound. “The guys I play with live are so much more skilled musicians than me. That’s what happens when you get to pick your own backing band. Of course we get like the best people.”

When he’s not touring or working on Sin Fang material, Sigfússon makes a living scoring commercials: “It’s not very visual when you make music but when you’re working the screen and timing the visuals, I think it’s real fun.” Some of his back catalogue has also been licensed for TV and commercial spots. “I don’t think that it’s ideal to have a piece of art that I’ve worked on for lots of time to be used to sell some product,” he says, “but if it’s either doing that, or getting a job delivering pizzas and doing music at night–I think it’s an obvious choice.”

As he comes to embrace domestication, his four-month-old daughter squealing in the background of this long distance phone call, Sigfússon can take pride what he’s accomplished: “This album I made now was really expensive and made on great equipment. don’t think I’m going back to the lo-fi after this.”

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