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	Jónsi Birgersson

Sigur Rós: Valtari

The iconic Icelandic band return with a new album and chat to us about destructured sounds, sticking together and taking a step to the left

PhotographyKarl SmithTextKarl Smith

Five years since the release of 'Með suð í eyrum við Spilum Endalaust', Sigur Rós today return with 'Valtari', a heady combination of ambient noise and trademark sounds. Determined not to repeat themselves, Jónsi Birgisson and Orri Páll Dýrason talk to Dazed about rap albums and coming home... 

Dazed Digital: Between this album and the last you've all been doing your own thing – why regroup now and make this album?
Sigur Rós:
After the last tour we went straight to the studio and started recording some ideas. We were working in the old studio – but we weren't really feeling what was happening, so we took a break and then a year ago we started recording again.

DD: If you hadn't taken that break, would 'Valtari' sound anything like it does?
Sigur Rós:
Probably not. It was really weird – we did so many sessions. We started recording after the last tour, but even before that we had been recording choir songs at Air studios in 2007. This album is less band-like; less structured. 

DD: Were you looking to make an album that was distinct from your back catalogue?
Sigur Rós:
I think this album was always gonna be different, no matter what, it's just the nature of it. It would have been boring to make the same record exactly.

DD: The sound of the album is closer to '( )' or 'Von' than any of your more recent work – do you still think it's a step forward?
Sigur Rós:
No, a step back – I hope it's not a step back; a step to the left maybe. I think people will be surprised. And we were surprised, we were kind of expecting EMI to just reject the album and we'd have to put it out ourselves.

DD: Why make an album that sounds more like your older music than more recent? Over the last few years you've gone from being a cult band from a small island to one of the most recognisable sounds in the world...
Sigur Rós:
In the universe. We don't think too much about that – we always wanted to do this album. The first idea was to make a quiet choir album or something really weird. But then we put that on hold – but it's always been in the back of our minds.

DD: Alex Somers produced the album – what sort of input has he had?
Sigur Rós
: He's done an amazing job – he focused us on finishing it and gluing all the parts together in to a whole. The session he had in the computer was really messy and confusing – he helped us to find a structure. He encouraged us to try things – he encouraged me [Jónsi] to sing more. This music is so up his alley.

DD: There are tracks on the album that aren't so different to your older stuff as others – was it something you thought was important, to leave that trace of recognisability?
Sigur Rós:
It's just kind of how we are – what we do – it's hard to grow away from that. We're still the same people. We've changed to keep ourselves happy – to make it interesting for us; we try not to repeat ourselves too much.

DD: And are you happy with Valtari?
Sigur Rós:
Yeah, really happy. It's such a different album to make – not the classic band album where we meet up and write songs – it's more of a studio album, more experimentation. 

DD: Is that something you're keen to continue?
Sigur Rós:
It's always fun. I think for our next album we'll go back in to the band, keep people guessing, maybe do a rap album.

DD: Are you planning to stick together now, as Sigur Rós, rather than going back to your personal projects and lives?
Sigur Rós:
At least for a while. We're touring all next year – we don't know what happens after that. If something happens then it happens. But we don't write on tour, not together, you do something on your own on a laptop: it's kind of schizophrenic – it's hard to focus on anything. 

DD: Five years on, did you still have the right dynamic after you'd all been out on your own?
Sigur Rós:
It worked straight away – it was really nice, that doesn't always happen. When I went out, playing my stuff, and came back to Sigur Rós it was like coming home.

'Valtari' is out today