Icelandic musician Ásgeir Trausti Einarsson, or better known by mononym Ásgeir, surprised the industry and keen-eared listeners alike when his breakthrough record Dýrð í dauðaþögn became the fastest-selling debut album in Icelandic history, beating the likes of Björk. More impressively, the folktronica record was then translated to English as In the Silence for a worldwide release that blessed him with global recognition. Now moving to sophomore Afterglow, Ásgeir has opted to magnify the electronic influences that were only hinted at on the first album, a shift that can be contributed to his increasing interest in the production side of music-making as evident by the enthusiasm he had from his first time experience with synthesisers and other electronic instruments during the making of the previous record. Here, on Afterglow, the sweeping elegia of In the Silence is given an optimistic glow, with some tracks – namely ‘Stardust – being outright buoyant in its pop ditty inclination. JUICE manages to catch up with the Icelander for a second interview, asking him follow-up questions on his family’s involvement this time around and his supposed interest in hip hop – though this time in the context of the Icelandic scene.
The two singles off of Afterglow, ‘Stardust’ and ‘Unbound’, saw you moving away from the more folky, guitar-dominant music of in the Silence in favour of electronics-dominant production and soul-r’n’b vocals a la Chet Faker, James Blake, Bon Iver, et al. How and why did you shift in this direction for Afterglow?
I wanted to make something more electronic this time around. I’ve just been getting more and more into the production side of music since releasing the first album and so I approached this album very differently from the first one because I felt like that was what I needed to keep this exciting for me.
‘Stardust’ has got a fun, quirky music video and the song in itself is a pop ditty – is this a side of Asgeir we’re going to see more of?
“[Having an album out is like] the light in the sky after the sun has set.”
Can you talk about the album’s title, Afterglow? Is it in reference to how much more comfortable you are musically now compared to In the Silence?
No, not really. The title is much more in the literal sense of the word – meaning the light in the sky after the sun has set. But perhaps it’s a nice way of looking at one’s music. You work really hard on an album and then you finish it and put it out into the world where it takes on a life of its own long after you have left it. It’s the light in the sky after the sun has set.
In the EPK, you said that the album helped you grew up in some ways. What was it about recording Afterglow that felt more mature than say, the sombre In the Silence?
I was dealing with things that I hadn’t dealt with before, also questioning if this was the right path for me; touring and the whole music business thing. I got to know myself better through dealing with that.
When was that ‘afterglow’ moment for you career-wise?
It would be both times I have released an album into the world, where something that has been really private takes on a life of its own and becomes a part of other people’s lives.
“I don’t want to think about music as selling a product.”
With a fastest selling debut album in Icelandic history under your belt, did it become something of a burden when it comes to following it up with a sophomore? Do you think about whether this one will be just as critically lauded?
I was kind of nervous before making this album but a few months in, I stopped thinking about how it would be received, it really doesn’t matter. I don’t want to think about music as selling a product.
Your father, Einar Georg, penned the lyrics again for this record, and your brother Thorsteinn is also featured on the album. Is music-making very much a family affair for you?
No, not really, to the public it seems that way, but most of the music I write isn’t released, and I don’t work with my family on most of my music.
In the Silence was translated from the original Icelandic album Dýrð í dauðaþögn. How was writing the lyrics this time around? Did your father originally write in Icelandic before being translated into English, or was it in English from the very beginning?
Yes, some lyrics were written in Icelandic first by my father or my friend Júlíus, and then translated to English by my brother Steini, but other lyrics were written in English from the start by Steini. Högni Egilsson from GusGus/Hjaltalín also wrote one of the English lyrics on the album.
“… a lot of [Icelandic hip hop] just seems like fashion on hamburgers to me.”
Just to touch on the Icelandic music scene, when thinking about Nordic music, my mind would conjure the likes of Bjork, Sigur Ros, and artistes like you, but I recently saw an i-d documentary that shows hip hop being very prominent in Iceland. Is that really what the kids are listening to now? Are you a fan?
Yes, hip hop is very big In Iceland now. I’m a fan of some of it but a lot of it just seems like fashion on hamburgers to me.
What’s one thing about Iceland that people always get wrong? (Other than the above, haha)
That we live in Igloos and that we are a very religious country.
Lastly, can you name us three favourite albums.
The Beatles – Revolver
Eliot Smith – Figure 8
Death Grips – The Money Store
I see that you’re still very much a big fan of Death Grips.
Afterglow is out now via One Little Indian. Stream it above or purchase it here.