Clips of Time Caught on Tape | A chat with SÓLSTAFIR

A quarter of a century after singer/guitarist Aðalbjörn “Addi” Tryggvason co-founded atmospheric Icelandic metal quartet Sólstafir, they continue to follow their cardinal rule – that there are no rules. For them, writing an epic 10-minute song without a traditional verse/chorus trade-off feels natural. While they have done two albums in English, he mainly sings in their native tongue and his vocals are as much an instrument as a vessel for words. Their videos equally showcase the band and their Icelandic world that they commune with.

And their music flows however it pleases.

I had a chat with SÓLSTAFIR about anything and everything.

Let’s get to know you.

What was your first job?

I worked at the post office.

What are you reading right now?

I’m not reading anything at the moment, I work a lot, I go home to sleep and back to work. I work in TV though so I read a lot of scripts.

What was your favorite band 10 years ago?

My favorite bands are always the same, Thin Lizzy, Guns and Roses, Motorhead, Metallica , Slayer, always the same.

What’s your earliest memory?

In my grandmothers bakery in Iceland.

Do you collect anything?

Yes! Guitars, vinyl albums, effect petals.

You are the Icelanding musical anarchist. There are no rules, no norms, just music flowing however you want it to flow. Has it always been like this? I mean, when you first started out did you try to control it and be like all the other musicians?

Oh no, I never controlled it. I think we just didn’t know how a typical song form should be. We didn’t know, we just wrote something that fitted in well with something else, and sort of stayed like that!

Let’s talk mental health.

More and more people are being diagnosed with disorders. Do you think that’s because we are now more open to discuss it?

Of course, we talk about it more now, it’s more open. But at the same time we’ve got technology –which is of course great- but we are getting an overload of information, more than one should have and it’s too much to process which leads to more mental issues. We didn’t have this amount of information and urges and needs 20 years ago.  And everyone looks like they are having a glamorous magazine cover life, and you are always comparing your back yard to their front yard. So everybody is posting glamorous food, traveling experiences and so on, on social media, and people forget that’s its fake.

Don’t ever compare your back yard to other people’s front yard.

Can you help me understand this: Is it more challenging for men to acknowledge depression? And how can we change that?

Yeah, because the hardest part for people to do is ask for help, and say “I’m sorry.” And for men it has been even more difficult, they were been given false information that they should be string and tough, so what is actually the meaning of being strong and tough? Yelling at people, being angry, not showing feelings, emotions never express yourself? You can’t live up to those standards.

Do you think that being in a dark place mentally helps you create masterful music? 

No, not really. I mean, when I’ve been down I don’t write anything. When I’m down I’m too depressed to create. But when I get back up I can look into that experience in retrospect and compose music.

Let’s talk about the band and team building.

Is there a band tradition that you guys keep up with?

Sure! We’ve been going on for a lot of time you know. We aim never to use the same drumbeat for instance.  Or at least never have the same weird drumbeat in any song. That got harder and harder the more songs you write. But we still try not to have any songs sounding like any other song. So, always trying something new, fresh and different.

While creating new music, does one influence the other or you come in with solid ideas that you just merge together?

It’s very rare for someone to come in the studio with a full song. Kind of never happens. So, the best songs we’ve composed came to life when the four of us where in the same room bouncing ideas, drum patterns, guitar sounds etc. That’s when the magic happens.

When have you felt the most challenged as a band?

When we fired our drummer.

As a band, what’s something you want to do in the next year that you’ve never done before?

Make a live video. We’ve never done a live album before.

Lets talk about ‘Endless Twilight of Codependent Love’. It’s coming out November 6th.

Her Fall from Grace dives into the subject of addiction and depression and it’s the only one in English and the only one I can actually pronounce. Was the meaning behind the song too important so that you couldn’t risk Icelanding lyrics?

You’re right. It’s about that. It’s very hard to watch someone dear to you, abandon their kids, everyone who loves them basically to step into the darkness of drug addiction. And telling everybody I’m happy now, I want to be her, leave me the F* alone.  And when a mother genuinely wants to die from an early age and then has a kid, trying to juggle 5 balls at the same time, then realizing you can just drop the balls and do drugs.

And then there’s “Dionysus” which takes us all back to your black metal roots.  From a scale of 1 to 10 how liberating did it feel to go all out and have an explosive, blasting track in the middle of the album?

It was an enjoyable liberation because people have been asking us when we will go back to our roots for so many years and I always said F* no, I won’t do this, but it took us a decade of not writing this kind of songs to find it exciting again.

We had to calm the waves for ten years in order to go surfing again.

Do you experience any fear or insecurity releasing an album during a pandemic?

No, not at all. We won’t give in. We have to quit touring but everybody understands that.

But cancelling culture and art? No, I’m not gonna take a part in that.

People want new music, we want to release a new album. At least we are being creative.

What was the creative process like? Did you guys get together and start jamming?

Well, I hate writing albums, it’s a very boring procedure, constantly paying the same f* riff and arguing about whether the riff should be four times or five times.  But we write this album before Covid, so we were all together in the studio yes.

Final words. What would you like this album to be remembered for?

Ah, that’s an interesting question. This is it a special album in that sense. It’s just the next SÓLSTAFIR album. It is the next chapter. We are just going out and documenting the weather.  This is us documenting. And the same weather is never going to come again. The next time will be different. So, if we were going to write this album today it would sound different.

 These are clips of time caught on tape.