Sklep is just such a wonderful word – the interview with Bloodgroup

The Prince of dark Iceland (of Prins Póló band) mentioned once that he is going to play in Poland every single year. Actually, as we noticed, unfortunately he wasn’t able to do that, but we can be sure Bloodgroup will come to our country every time, when they will be touring in Europe. A premiere of their newest album called Tracing Echoes is coming in a few days, March 8. This release surprises a lot with a sound and is much different than previous works of Bloodgroup. Luckily we will have an opportunity to listen to new and a lot darker songs live soon in April – in Poznań, Sopot, Warsaw and Cracow. I can tell you a little secret – it will happen a lot during gigs! Waiting for Bloodgroup’s visit in Poland, I met brothers Hallur and Raggi in the studio in Reykjavík and – specially for you – got to know why Poland stole hearts of those four Icelanders, who are members of the band. I can gladly invite you to listen to our audio interview!

Many things have happened in your lives since Dry Land was out, but how have your influences changed?
Raggi: I’m not sure our influences have really changed much but we sort of came closer to form our unique style that we’ve always wanted to do.
Hallur: Yeah. We actually did something what we’ve wanted to do for a long time. And Sunna, she played with us like our 200 concerts before we recorded anything. She got really close to the band. It wasn’t easy for her because she didn’t know us before she joined the band.
Raggi: Yeah, it’s probably really weird for her to join the band with some guys she doesn’t know and has to quit school. So she’s a hero.
Hallur: She is.

And more about Sunna…
: We called her first time when she joined the band. We called her in the middle of the night, we didn’t know what time it was, because we worked in the studio all day and all night. So we got her number. Let’s call this girl. Óli Arnalds says she’s a good singer, so I called her, I think it was 2 am or something. Hi, this is Hallur here from a band called Bloodgroup. We need a new singer and we heard that you can sing. Can you come down to our practise space? Eeeeh, what? Yeah, ok. She came down and did we play any songs? First time I think we just tried something out. She was just hired on the spot. And we’d gone to a tour in 3 weeks.
Raggi: It’s also really amazing that she got into our humour in first week. Cause we’ve got really twisted sense of humour in the band and it’s really important that we all…
Hallur: That we all share this.
Raggi: That we can share this together. She fits amazingly.
Hallur: After Sunna joined us, we went on massive tours. We played I think around 150 shows in the first year she was in the band. And she was only singing the songs she didn’t write. So she had to put her own expression to our music. So It was kind of a… I don’t want to use word „surprise”, but it was really a good feeling, when we started to write music together, to see how good she was.
Raggi: Yeah, because we really didn’t have any studio or song-writing experiences with her. And she was really good at that too.

There’s a small Bloodgroup’s tradition – the band records string arranged by Ólafur Arnalds. But this time strings are not the only acoustic instruments used on Tracing Echoes. Did Jónsson brothers come back to bass and drums?
: We actually did. I played some string bass and we played a lot of percussion stuff. We kind of wanted the feeling of the album to have this kind of acoustic or…
Hallur: Something like loose.
Raggi: Not so much programmed.
Hallur: We’ve known Ólafur since we released our first album. He was our soundman in the beginning. He was working in a club in a downtown as a sound engineer and we asked him to make our sound on tour in Iceland. So he travelled with us here in Iceland, playing. Then he really wanted to do something for us on Dry Land album and he’s just the next door here in the studio, so when we’re writing something, he comes in just to escape from this, you know, just to get something… inspiration or something.
Raggi: He walks in and: here’s a song. I have a really cool string idea for the song.
Hallur: Can you send me an mp3 or something? And we send it to his room and few hours later he comes back – I’ve done something! It’s crazy. It’s really funny to have this complex we’re working in, we can get inspiration from other artists. It’s really good.
Raggi: Sometimes we just take a walk down the hall and see what the other guys are doing – what FM Belfast, and GusGus, and Óli are doing and have a little chat about this, inspire each other.

We have a possibility to listen to Fall in Polish radio. The second single from Tracing Echoes is called Nothing is written in stars.
: Fall was originally written as R’n’B song. We just rearranged it. It was really funny because it sounds just totally different than in the beginning.
Raggi: Yeah and Nothing is written in stars was written on an acoustic guitar.
Hallur: And it sounds a lot different. There’s a story behind that song. It was actually a mistake how the song turned out, because Sunna texted me one night and me and Raggi were working in the studio. She says: I have an idea for the song called – it had a demo name – Do You Know To Do. And she says: I have an idea for Do You Know To Do. She described it and wanted to have this downtempo drums and electric bass and she described it really well.
Raggi: She wanted something trip-hoppy.
Hallur: Trip-hop. Me and Raggi started, that’s a great idea. We started to rework the song, change the whole thing and just delete all the original drums and bass and spent the whole night I think and sent her mp3 in the morning. Like this? And you know, she didn’t answer. The next day she came to the studio. Her face was kind of red and she said: Oh, I meant another song. She had this idea for another song.
Raggi: That song isn’t on the album.
Hallur: That song isn’t on the album. So Nothing is written in the stars was based on a mistake.

Any other funny mistakes?
: There always funny things happen in the studio. We laugh a lot, when we’re creating music. It’s like people tell each other jokes. We make a song and laugh together.
Raggi: Do you know the video game, old 80s video game Ski or Die? The intro has a fantastic 8-bit synth solo. We try that solo out on every song we do just for a laugh.
Hallur: We rearrange songs just to make each other laugh. We speed them up or slow them down or change the set lines. How do you like this, hahaha? Or you know, record some bullshit vocals. We do a lot of that.
Raggi: Yeah yeah and sometimes some of our jokes get a bit of fine tunning and then I fit them in songs actually.
Hallur: When you’re doing this improvising, then sometimes something happens. Something good. A little spark of inspiration – we could actually use that funny thing you did there and just change it a little bit and it works.

Bloodgroup will be touring in Europe in April…
: It’s a transformation of our universe and existence, when we are on tour. We live in another dimension or something, because we spend all day together in a tourbus, in venues. We speak Icelandic and nobody around us speaks Icelandic. It’s kind of like we’re in another dimension.
Hallur: It gets really sour.
Raggi: It gets really weird after a few weeks.
Hallur: We start using words that don’t exist.
Raggi: And stuff like that.
Hallur: And laugh at everything we see. Like every streetsign, like all the skleps in Poland. That’s one of the funniest things we’ve seen in your land.
Raggi: Yes, sklep is just such a wonderful word because in Icelandic it’s the most jibberish thing you can say – sklep.
Hallur: It couldn’t possibly mean anything. There’s not a chance if you say sklep to someone that he can put a meaning to it. We found it really funny.
Raggi: And even when we’re out of Poland, when we’re on tour, we still talk like: yeah we need to stop at the next sklep, I need to pee or something.

The last Bloodgroup’s visit took place in Białystok in May 2012. Did you enjoy it?
: It was really good. It was a really weird experience because we’ve not done so much of just flying in for just one concert. No, we’ve done it a few times maybe, mostly for American shows. Just went to New York, played one show and then back home. Most of our instruments got lost on the way to Białystok and we had to borrow some others. They were not the same but really good.
Raggi: Our promoter told us: yeah, the instruments aren’t gonna get here. Ok, get us some 80s synthesizers and I asked for specific models. And they actually got them for us.
Hallur: They’d got everything we asked for. It was crazy but they had to really work on it. I was on the phone whole day.
Raggi: We had a soundcheck the entire day just to make all the sounds.
Hallur: To make it fit. It was really good fun. It was so nice there. It was good turnout on the show. I remember just five minutes before the show I was downstairs and it was like maybe three people in the room or something. So I went to the backstage and said ok, this is our first Polish show without people showing up but let’s just play a good concert for these three people. And we went down again – it was just full…

I heard that you had got about 100 ideas for new songs. So it wasn’t so easy to choose only a few for Tracing Echoes. But it’s still a nice basis for next recordings, isn’t it?
: We wrote so many songs and we have something like trillion songs that we didn’t use and we’re probably gonna use some of them on our next release.
Hallur: We want to do an EP album. Maybe this year. With some of the songs we didn’t use. Because they’re in a different mood.
Raggi: It wasn’t like those songs were not good enough or something. They just didn’t fit in the mood of this album.

Hallur: We are looking forward to visit Sklepland again.

Thanks a lot!

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