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MÚM

Icelandic quartet Múm came out of nowhere four years ago with their first album, Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today Is OK. Formed of Gunnar Örn Tynes, Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason and twin sisters Gyda and Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, the band presented an extremely poetic version of electronic music. Four years on, and following the departure of Gyda Valtýsdóttir, Múm are returning with their third album, Summer Make Good. We caught up with the band as they were making a flying visit to London.

It’s been a while since Finally We Are No One. What have you been up to since?
Gunnar: We’ve done a lot of touring after the album. We did a couple of tours…
Örvar: Then last winter, we went to Berlin to start working on the new album. It didn’t feel like a lot of time between the albums. We were making some new music.
Kristin: I also played with another band in Iceland for a short time, with two other people, when I was there. I played in this Bulgarian folk music band, which was a lot fun. There were about ten people in the band, and everybody had to go do other things.

So you didn’t really have any time off in between?
Gunnar: When we are working on some new music, it is a bit like time off.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s what we want to do…
Gunnar: We’re like work and play type of people…
Kristin: We play, and we eat… It’s only when we finish a record and we start promoting it that it becomes more like a job.

How did you all come together? How did you start Múm?
Örvar: Gunnar and I met through a friend who was trying to put together a band. I’d played in another band with this guy for a few years.

What kind of music was it?
Gunnar: Guitarioso… It was like guitar, bass, drums, keyboards. It was more rock orientated.
Kristin: One day, they came and played at me and Gyda’s youth centre when we were fifteen, and we knew we would get to know each other, and we did about six months later.
Örvar: By that time, Gunnar and me had started Múm. We’d started to work on some music. We met Kristin and Gyda at their school. They were in drama school, and we were doing the music for one of their shows, and they just joined the band.

Did it take long between the moment you started working all together and the moment you released your first album?
Kristin: It took about a year, didn’t it? (to Örvar).
Gunnar: We were already working on the album when we got to know Kristin and Gyda. They joined when we started recording the album, so they just came into the process.
Kristin: We had songs that we played to the guys, which were recorded for the album too.

Has the way you work changed a lot since those days?
Örvar: It has changed on a technical level, the technology that we use, but really, the way we just… fart something into the horizon hasn’t change (all laugh).
Gunnar: It’s basically… you know we all just do our stuff, and something comes up. Of course, we’re getting better at knowing how to get to what we want, but there isn’t a method that we use to create. It’s just… whatever.

So you don’t have specific roles in the band?
Örvar: Sometimes, but not all the time. There’s no method that we use all the time you know…

On the first album, you used a lot of found sounds recorded around the house. Do you still do that a lot?
Gunnar: Yes. It’s something that we’ve always done, recording sounds everywhere… We like treating all sounds with equal respect. If something sounds good, then it sounds good. It’s as simple as that really.

The first album was very well received both by the press and the public. How did you react to that?
Kristin: The first album? I don’t think it got any press at all (looking at Örvar)
Örvar: The first one?… Well, it got some press. Over here it did.
Gunnar: I think we were pretty surprised. We were not trying to get noticed, we were just doing it and releasing it to get an artistic outlet. People in England started buying it when it got available to people outside of Iceland. It was quite mind blowing for us really.

Do you think the fact that people started listening to your music had anything to do with people like Björk or Sigur Rós already being well known in England?
Gunnar: I think our music came out at a time when there was a very big opening in electronic music. People were very hungry for good music.

Is that why you started working with Fat-Cat?
Örvar: The people from Fat-Cat used to come up to Iceland quite a lot
Kristin: Yeah, we kind of knew them a bit before we talked about working together.
Örvar: I think it is the perfect label for us. We couldn’t imagine a better label to work with.
Kristin: They really believe in use, and respect our beliefs about our music.

Kristin, you are classically trained, and so is your sister. How does it influence the work of the band?
Kristin: I don’t know how it does, but I’m sure it does…
Örvar: You can play the accordion like ta-la-la (does some fast movements with his hands).
Kristin: Yeah, but I don’t usually play that fast when I play with you. I think it just comes through, like all the music you’ve heard before, like something you’ve worked on for a long time. It becomes a big part of you, it is inside you. I really like Prokofiev when I play. I think like Peter And The Wolf influenced these guys…
Gunnar: You listen to Prokofiev and we listen to Peter And The Wolf… (all laughing).

Is it true You recorded Finally We Are No one in a lighthouse?
Örvar: Well, it is more like a light keeper’s house.
Gunnar: It’s a place we worked on the new album too. We recorded in the summer…
Kristin: Yes, were there in the summer, and it was really nice to be there and do things. We were in a lighthouse when we worked on Finally… but we went to a studio to record it. For Summer Make Good, we knew we needed a good place to work. So we went back to the lighthouse, went on tour after, and when we came back to Iceland, a friend of mine told us about this empty house, and it was just a coincidence that it was also a light keeper’s house. We recorded there.

How would you describe the new album compared to what you’ve done before? The sound seems to be a lot more confident…
Gunnar: I think it is a lot more fragile in many ways, because it is a more personal and open album.
Örvar: We let more out on it…

In what way?
Örvar: I don’t know…
Kristin: I think there’s more tension
Örvar: Yeah…
Gunnar: It’s more personal

You’re just about to start a long tour in April. You have more people on stage…
Gunnar: We’ve got a big band on stage…
Kristin: Three more people playing with us. They also played on the album.
Örvar: We’re six!

How does it work between you three as a band and these people?
Kristin: We’re one team and they’re another, and there’s a ball in a middle… (laughing).
Örvar: They’re really good friends of ours, and they’re very easy.
Kristin: Yeah, they’ve played on all the albums…
Gunnar: When we work with other people, we give them a sort of freedom to be themselves, to bring their personal touch to the music. We give them some indications, like ‘maybe you should do this a little less, or go this way’ but we don’t tell them how to play or…
Örvar and Kristin: And they do the same to us too…
Kristin: That’s how a band works I guess… I guess we’re a band (laughing). They all came to visit us in the lighthouse as well. Nobody’s thinking too much about it really.
Gunnar: Also, people go away for a while…
Kristin: Yeah, some of these people are doing other things too. Some of them might have to leave for a while, other people come in…

How do you see Múm evolve in the future, or is it something you don’t think about?
Örvar: I don’t see it…
Kristin: I’ve got this image of Örvar old with very big ears and wild hair… I think Gunnar and me will look the same, but Örvar…

Interview done on 27 February 2004 in London
Thank you to Kristin, Gunnar, Örvar and Serena.

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Reviews
05'02
Finally We Are No One

Wallpaper
The Good Life

THE SURFER'S GUIDE TO MÚM
Random Summer
Múm Fan Site
Fat-Cat Records

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