Jónsi Go

Jónsi Go
Following a foray into instrumental ambiance with his partner Alex, Sigur Rós front-man Jón "Jónsi" Þór Birgisson has returned with the downright joyous Go, a suitable next chapter in Sigur Rós's transformation from the elegantly pensive and sombre post-rock of 1999's Ágætis byrjun to the ebullient, loosely orchestrated pop of 2008's Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, albeit without his band in tow. In their place, Jónsi has opted for help from outside sources, including the classically trained Nico Muhly and múm percussionist Samuli Kosminen, to lend a hand in the creation of the most pop-oriented album he's yet created. Go is as cinematic as anything Sigur Rós have done, but from the sprightly opening flute jabs and bouncing manipulation of his trademark falsetto on album opener "Go Do," it's obvious Jónsi is in optimistic spirits, and the majority of the album proves it. Armed with Muhly's shimmering arrangements and Samuli's upbeat thumping, Jónsi has created a gorgeous collection of triumphant pop gems that prove he's as good at joy as he is at mournfulness. Who would have guessed?

In many ways, Go is your first solo disc. How does it feel to be recording by yourself and to have a work that's purely yours coming out?
It's definitely not lonely; it was exciting to work with so many talented people, like Peter Katis, the producer who recorded the album, and also Nico Muhly, who arranged all the arrangements on the album, and also Samuli the drummer, who played a lot on the album. So there were so many interesting and exciting people I worked with. But also, like you said, [it was] a little bit scary at that, because you write on your own and you're almost doubting yourself, asking yourself questions, which is healthy, but also scary.

Looking at the trajectory of Sigur Rós's records, you guys went from sounding very pensive and sometimes sombre to your last record being very loose and joyous, almost like a celebration. That continues on Go. Was that a conscious band direction or was that a natural evolution?
For me?

Well, for the band and on this new record, for you. You sound very happy on Go.
Yeah, I don't know; I think maybe it's just the band and the place you are in at the time, I guess. [Around the time of 2008's Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, the band] wanted to do acoustic albums and then it just changed to something way more. Like, I remember us, Sigur Rós, writing the songs on acoustic instruments, then they grew into something else entirely. It's essentially the same as what happened on Go, actually. I started out doing this really small, intimate, acoustic album recorded in my living room then it just kind of exploded into this different thing. I don't know why. Maybe I was just kind of too restless; it was too quiet.

Is that a product of working with Nico Muhly and having collaborators? You have your ideas then you hear theirs and you think, "wow, that's great as well."
Yeah, definitely. It's super-handy to be able to work with people like Nico Muhly. It's so spontaneous; he's such a quick worker, hyperactive. I like being spontaneous and creative and working fast. I like to see things build up quickly, so it's definitely really fun to work with him and he brought so many good ideas to the table on how to do this and like I said earlier, it was so spontaneous. He comes from a kind of classical background, I usually think of that as being heavy and everything is well thought out, but this wasn't that way. He'd do, like, five arrangements in one night; it kind of shitted out, and it was fun, really refreshing. Then, of course, he takes those and works on them more. But that first creative spark happened in one night.

I've heard that you have big plans for touring this album that are unique and cinematic. Can you give any hints about what those performances will entail?
Ah, shit, I don't know. I'm not quite sure, actually, how it's going to be. I'm going tomorrow, I'm going to fly to London and see how the show's going to be. So I don't know; I'm not quite sure myself.

Will you be coming to Canada?
Yeah, I'm playing one show in Vancouver, at least, at the beginning of the tour. I would love to play more; I'm not sure if I'm coming to Toronto.

Sigur Rós are reportedly on hiatus right now, but it's also been reported you guys are working on another album. Is there an album in the works, what's going on?
Yeah, we have some ideas, but we got rid of our rehearsal space in the studio. We're going to put all our gear into the drummer's garage and go back to basics, rehearse in the garage and maybe write some new songs. We have some songs we are working on and of course I'm going to go and meet the guys and see what they're up to. We'll write some new songs and, hopefully, a new album in 2011. That'd be really cool. (XL)