Few records make you want to wait for an interview and a show in the cold Parisian winter. “Destrier”, the second record by Icelandic band AGENT FRESCO is one of those. Thankfully, we don’t reach hypothermia and the Klub, a small venue near Les Halles, opens its gates during the soundcheck. But when going down to the second basement, the silence slowly reigns, making it the perfect setup to talk with Arnór Dan Arnarson et Þórarinn « Toti » Guðnason, the leading forces of the quartet. An encounter with two extremely sensitive musician, between creativity and emotion.
Interview AGENT FRESCO – Discussing “Destrier” with Arnor Dan and Toti.
Written by Gus on 2015-10-26
Excerpts, check the podcast for the full interview.
This is more about violence and anger and how to deal with that in a creative and beautiful way.
Gus : It’s a very personal, intense and emotional record but it’s true what you say, a lot of people feel it, it resonates a lot with what people feel and I have to say that it’s surprisingly resonates a lot with what happens in the world right now, the whole feeling about it. Why do you think that’s the case?
Arnor Dan : I mean, I just finished another interview where I talked about it, because I’ve been saying too much that this album is about anger and anxiety due to a violent episode I had, but it’s not really true, it was just the catalyst really and that just opened up two extreme feelings and not just feelings but a sense of being aware of everything that’s going on and you can easily get really rapid and heavy anxiety attacks just from taking a look at the media and seeing how much apathy is going on in the world. But it’s quite universal stuff we talk about, the first album is just sorrow and grief and everybody goes through that, it’s a natural process of life but this is more about violence and anger and how to deal with that in a creative and beautiful way, which is the main goal between me and Toti when we write music. Just to create something beautiful, to create beauty that’s basically it so…
Gus : One thing that is really amazing, I think, with this album in particular is the production of it, which is incredibly powerful yet feels like a thin layer of ice that you have to be extremely careful each time you listen to it, because it feels like if you remove one note, everything falls apart. Did you set any expectation, before going to the studio to get that sound or were you driven to it?
Toti : We have pretty concrete thoughts about our sound but this time we wanted to get a little bit out of our comfort zone and work with a producer called Styrmir and he had some different views on things and sometimes we went his way, sometimes we went my way and sometimes we went the middle way. So it was good to work with another person and get another perspective on things that we had been working on for so long and getting new views on the sound was really nice. I think that’s also something that just clicked.
I think we’re approaching composition more like classical composers do, not that we’re writing anything remotely close to classical music, but I think we’re approaching it more like it’s done in that world.
Gus : […] Everything feels united and everything goes, surprisingly enough in the same direction. Do you manage to get this result because by now you know each other perfectly, or is it something that came naturally when you first got together?
Toti : I think it’s because I’m writing all the music I think it’s because it comes from basically one mind, and not like many people trying out their things so I think we’re approaching composition more like classical composers do, not that we’re writing anything remotely close to classical music but I think we’re approaching it more like it’s done in that world like written music that kind of reshapes a little bit after we rehearse it. But yeah I think that’s the unity, because it’s coming from one mind.
Gus : And there is also the fact that you come from Iceland, which here in France is often regarded as a country with weird artists, weird bands, not to mention a name. […] Is there something in the air of that country that we should know about?
Arnor Dan : In the air? Not for me. Well I was raised in Denmark so I don’t know, it’s a question we get all of the time and one should be ready with an answer but I don’t know man. Yeah it’s a special place you know, beautiful nature, contrast between the climate during summer and winter you have the summer of non-stop light and the winter of no light but regarding the music, I don’t know maybe it’s a combination of: there’s no mainstream and the music scene is so open and so, I don’t know it just feels so open and not, what the word… contrived, no that’s a weird word to use. I don’t really know how to answer this question.
Toti : I think basically there are so few people there that there’s not really room for genres so when we’re playing, we’re never playing with bands that are very similar to us. We’re always playing with electro or hip hop stuff or something so you’re not influence, there’s no pressure to be in a genre to be able to live from music because it’s very hard to live of music in Iceland also so I think a part of it is that there is no money really involved.
Arnor Dan : Yeah, you’re purely doing it for the passion and that shows in the music. I don’t know it gives it just a lot more depth. But yeah there’s a lot of bad music as well in Iceland you know. Like let’s not make it into a fairytale but… […] I am of course blown away by the amount of good music in Iceland and the great musicans and just how the scene is really vibrant and just fantastic to be a part of yeah. But it’s difficult for us to say, maybe if we could get more perspective, more distance from Iceland we would realise it but it’s weird man.
Gus : One of the things, that I really appreciated while doing my research and just adding to the record are the music videos which really fit the music surprisingly well while still being tough to describe to say the least. Who’s behind the ideas in those videos so that I can know to never be in the same room as that person?
Arnor Dan : (laughs) Hello ! I really like doing music videos so I always am, I don’t know if you can call it producer, but I definitely am very far up the ass of the director that I talk to and everybody that is involved because I really respect music videos too much to not care or to trust anybody else with it. I trust the vision of other people, but I always feel like that I have to have a connection to the video and there has to be a conversation going on and there has to be a thread between, the song and the video so every single video that we’ve done for Destrier has been really close, I’ve worked really closely with fantastic people in Iceland, and I think the video for “Wait For Me” where we decided to take all my personal footage and video. I don’t think right now i could ever do a video better than that, because it can’t get more personal and I’m so proud of it yeah. I love doing that because I find it to be a part of AGENT FRESCO. You need to take care of your videos as well because it’s a part of the animal that is AGENT FRESCO. SO yeah, I love doing it and there’s a lot of great talent in Iceland and there’s many more we want to work with so hopefully we will have the possibility to do a couple more videos.
Full interview to be found in the podcast.