Solstafir interview with Guðmundur Óli Pálmason – November, 2014

Solstafir is melancholic, yet powerful and dark sound band from the country far North – Iceland. This band seems to be very busy lately, as well as productive: new album, new video, festivals and overwhelming intimate countless gigs during their tour. Those, who has been at least in one of their shows, will not forget Solstafir – this atmosphere they create, which is easier to be felt and not described by words.

Guðmundur Óli Pálmason (Solstafir)
Guðmundur Óli Pálmason (Solstafir)

In between all the rush, I managed to catch their drummer  Guðmundur Óli Pálmason and he kindly answered to my questions.

What would be three words, that would describe you as the band?
Rock And Roll.

You are in the middle of your European Tour, how is it going? Any memorable adventures?
It is going really well! Sold out shows and just amazing reactions everywhere we go! We are truly touched by the warm welcome we’ve had everywhere! Poland and Hungary were especially crazy! They were hungry like wolves for us over there!

What do you enjoy more – intimate gigs or big festival stages to perform at?
Both can be amazing, it really depends on if we’re having a good day or not and if the audience is into the music. 100 people in a small room can be just as intense as 10.000 people in a festival tent. Of course the smallest clubs, you know those that you find in a basement under the tube, usually sound horrible so I’d say we usually have better gigs in big clubs with professional equipment or at festivals.

I have seen vocalist Aðalbjörn climbing on the bar during the show in Glasgow, what does inspire you guys to go this positively crazy during your concerts?
It’s rock’n’roll man! That’s what it’s all about. Let yourself go, blow off some steam. Even though our music is melancholic at times it can also be quite powerful.

During you tour in UK, you also participated in the Damnation festival in Leeds. How did it go for you?
It went really well. The room was PACKED and I was told there was a line of people outside the room trying to get in. So I guess that was one of the small victories we need to brake the UK market.

Have you seen other bands during the Damnation? If so, which shows did you enjoy the most?
I didn’t have time to catch much due to interviews and such, but I did see the first half of Bolt Thrower and they were amazing! Death metal just the way I like it, groove over speed and technicality. But I was really sad I couldn’t catch my friends Code and Falloch.

What it is your overall impression about this festival?
I liked it a lot. It’s so good having many venues in the same building. The line-up was a little bit more on the brutal side, but I think we created a good counter balance to that with our poppy songs. I guess we were like Duran Duran next to Cannibal Corpse haha.

This year you have released the new album “Ótta”. How do you feel about it now, in the middle of your tour presenting it?
I think it’s our strongest album to date. Maybe it doesn’t have a single-hit like “Fjara”, but it’s a lot more holistic album than what we have done before. And the songs are actually coming over quite well on stage as well.

What does the title “Ótta” mean and why did you choose it?
All the names of the songs are based on an old Icelandic way to tell the time of day, called Eyktir. Before people generally had clocks they’d estimate the time of day by the sun. In Iceland we’d divide the day into 8 parts, so each spanning roughly 3 modern hours. When Sæþór brought our attention to this old system we immediately realized it would make for a perfect theme for an album. The album starts at Lágnætti (Low Night) and continues through the night. Ótta is the time between 3 and 6 in the morning. Then it’s time to rise with the sun at Rismál, at Dagmál the day is fully begun. Miðdegi is midday and Nón is noon, although in this system noon is not at 12:00 sharp but rather the time between 3pm and 6pm. After that comes Miðaftan or mid afternoon and finally Náttmál, or night time. The lyrics are loosely based on the different feelings of the different times of day. But the times of day are also different depending on the seasons. Some have a more wintery feeling, while others are more associated with Summer.
When Sæþór braught this o our attention we thought it would be a perfect underlying theme to build an album on. 8 parts, 8 songs, pretty much a perfect length for an album.

Which track of the new album is your favourite?
It’s so hard to pick, but “Rismál” has always had a special place in my heart.

How does your creation process looks like?
We wrote Ótta in a very similar way we wrote Svartir Sandar before it. We locked ourselves in the rehearsal room from 10am to 5pm almost every day for about 3 months before entering the studio. The biggest difference was that this time we wrote a lot of stuff on the piano. When you write on a different instrument the outcome will be different. We were also very conscious about leaving some space in the arrangements for the strings.

You have released impressive new official video clip as well. Why for the song “Lágnætti“ and what is it about? Who’s primary idea it was and how did you work on it?
Our original idea was to start by doing a video for the title track, “Ótta”, but we couldn’t really find a fitting theme for the video. Addi had mentioned before that he wanted to do a video where he was playing a burning piano, so we decided to go with that and “Lágnætti” was of course perfect for that.
We shot the video during two 20 hour work days (taking advantage of the long arctic summer day) in the West Fjords of Iceland. The video was directed by the same team that did the “Fjara” video, our friends Bowen Staines and Gunnar “Sir Gussi” Guðbjörnsson.
First obstacle was getting the piano down from a 4th floor apartment in downtown Reykjavík and having it shipped to Hólmavík in the West Fjords. There we picked it up and moved it to a beach owned by good friends of ours. We did all the other shots first and ended on the piano scene. After shooting had been halted for a few hours because of a storm we literately had one go and a precious few hours to get all the piano shots done. Needless to say we also just had one go at burning the thing and getting good shots of Addi playing the piano while at fire.
If the video is about anything, it’s about saying goodbye to the past.

And… where did you find the car with such symbols?
A very friendly local in Hólmavík lent us the car, without even knowing us ha ha. That’s how friendly that community is.

What are your future plans?
For the foreseeable future it’s just more touring. We’re hitting the road again in January, including some UK dates.

Is there anything you would like to pass on to Planetmosh readers?
Come check us out in January if you have the chance, we promise you won’t regret it.
And thank you all for the support, is means the world to us!

About Jurga Kalinauskaite

Photographer, journalist, curious wanderer.
%d bloggers like this: