Hopes and Fears

Posted October 14, 2010 in Music

Go sing/Too loud,” he sings in a voice that has been all too often referred to as “pixie-esque” or some such variant, to say nothing of the statement’s accuracy. “Make your voice break/Sing it out…


These lines open up “Go Do,” an ethereal number accompanied by equal parts woodwinds and pounding bass drums that itself opens up Go, the latest solo album from Jón Þór Birgisson. Birgisson, more commonly known as simply Jónsi (that’s yon-si, not Jonesy), has spent more than a decade and a half with Icelandic post-rockers Sigur Rós, and with songs like “Go Do,” is spreading a message all but uplifting.


“I think, looking back on it, all the lyrics [talk about] hopes and fears,” says Jónsi from his home in Iceland. “How cheesy that must sound,” he laughs as he takes a break from doing something a bit less epic than his sprawling album sounds: painting his bathroom.


“The lighter, more poppier songs have more beat, they’re more energetic. I think they kind of have this optimistic feel about them, like you should just go for it, go do it. Go do everything you want to do in life, basically. I think it was just kind of how I felt at the moment, because I was doing everything on my own and I could do everything I wanted to do.”


Every yin must have a yang, however, and on Go, this lighter fare of which Jónsi speaks isn’t all there is to be found.


“At the same time, the heavier songs, the more sad, more melancholic and depressing songs are more all about like the fear you have in your stomach. For example, with me, when I’m thrown way outside my comfort zone […] I’ve been in Sigur Rós for 16 years now, to be all of a sudden taken out of that space, just on your own, it’s quite scary.”


That concept of fear is something that Jónsi seems to always come back to. Over the course of our conversation, he mentions it multiple times, including when the topic of his world tour (one of which he is in the middle, not to mention one which includes a stop at Pomona’s Fox Theater on Monday) is broached. The final date of the nearly year-long tour will be its first on his home turf of Reykjavik, Iceland, a fact that can be a bit unnerving.

“I think it’s always scariest for a band to play back home after they’ve been outside their country for a long time,” he says. “When you come back home, it’s always quite scary to play for your friends and family and stuff. When the people that are closest to you are there, you’re maybe most scared to play for them.”


This isn’t the first time fear will have manifested itself on the tour, however. A trip to the Land of the Rising Sun in August had Jónsi a bit shaken up, albeit for slightly less heavy reasons.


“With Japan, they were super polite and didn’t clap at all after the first two songs,” he laughs. “I didn’t know if they liked it or not, you know? I kind of knew there would be a lot of politeness in Japan, so it’s kind of funny. They’re really respectable, like they respect what you’re doing and really focus on listening to you play. It was quite scary, but funny at the same time.”


Ultimately, it seems as if Jónsi is in “[his] own bubble,” as he likes to put it, making music and touring the world with a dazzling visual presentation accompanying his otherworldly sounds. But if you find yourself distracted, well, that might just be the point, something to which he alludes with tongue planted firmly in cheek.


“[The visual aspect is] just to make it more interesting. More fun. To stimulate more senses, I think. And also, if the band really sucks and we all played really badly, the show is at least really good. That’s good to know.”


Jónsi w/Mountain Man at Fox Theater Pomona, 301 S. Garey Ave., Pomona; www.foxpomona.com, www.jonsi.com. Mon, Oct. 18. Doors open 7PM. Tickets $25-$35. All ages.


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