“We didn’t have any goals for this project other than to make some banging techno music together,” explains Kiasmos co-founder Janus Rasmussen. “Then the music evolved just as we did. Let’s just say that we are older and wiser now.”
Not to mention busy with other work, including Rasmussen’s longtime electro-pop gig Bloodgroup and Ólafur Arnalds’ own solo commitments and side projects (like a recent Chopin record) in the neo-classical realm. The longtime friends are focused on Kiasmos in the months ahead, however, including a rare North American run that starts today, lots of summer festival stops, and new music like the #selftitledpremiere below, which is available alongside a rapid fire interview:
Let’s start with the story behind “Swept.”
Ólafur Arnalds: We had time off from other projects during Christmas break so we decided to use that time to work some more! We made three songs I think, but “Swept” was the one that we felt was most fitting for a summer release.
Going back a bit, when/where did the two of you first meet, and what were your first impressions of one another?
Ólafur: We met when I was working as a sound technician at a local venue in Reykjavík. Janus’ band Bloodgroup was playing there quite frequently. First impressions? I loved their music!
What are a few electronic records you bonded over early on?
Janus Rasmussen: We were really into the evil techno that was going on back then. I remember the first time we heard Jamie Jones’s “Summertime” in 2009. It was in a very dark and crazy club in Reykjavík. We totally lost our minds! A classic track.
What’s the first memory that jumps to mind from when you guys started hanging out more frequently?
Ólafur: I actually remember making our first song together. I was renting a small studio apartment, which actually belonged to a big house and had a jacuzzi in the back yard. I remember meeting up for a beer at my place, watching a bunch of funny YouTube clips, making our first song (“65”), and jumping into the hot tub afterwards. All in all a good night I’d say!
When did it become clear that your loose studio collaborations needed to be its own project?
Ólafur: We had a name for the project very early on, but never really did it in any organized fashion. In the end it was a bit of pressure from my management and label after they heard some demos that made us take this a bit more seriously.
Janus, you’ve said that Kiasmos’ debut album ended up “deeper and more emotional” than you expected it to be. Can you elaborate on that? How did you see it sounding initially?
Janus: I was surprised at how much emotion you could put into an album like this. All of my other projects have been very vocal-driven, so writing an instrumental album was very new to me.
Why was it important for it to sound like more of a flowing piece than separate songs? Was it because you didn’t want to break the spell this kind of music often creates?
Ólafur: I think an album is an art form in itself and should not just be a collection of singles. It’s an interesting format which is kind of dying out. We wanted to do an album.
What are a few surprising records and/or artists that have been reference points for what you’re trying to do with Kiasmos?
Janus: We were listening to quite a lot of D’Angelo while writing the album, which maybe isn’t that surprising. You will definitely hear some references if you listen closely. Other than that we try to stay quite current with all new pop music. Don’t be surprised if you catch us dancing to an Ariana Grande song. That tends to happen.
How about some non-musical influences?
Janus: I think we bonded over David Lynch movies quite early on. It’s getting harder to watch his movies as I get older though. It’s like they affect me way more than they used to.
You’ve known each other for a little while now. What do each of you bring to Kiasmos on both a creative and personal level, and how does that combine to create something totally different from your other projects?
Ólafur: We have different work ethics and backgrounds. I think I’m bringing the more organiZed parts—arrangements, strings, etc.—while Janus is maybe bringing the more improvised bits?
Janus: I can be quite chaotic at times.
What can people expect from your live show? How has it changed since your first gigs in 2009?
Janus: Our shows are usually quite sweaty. It’s constantly building up to a climax. Sometimes it’s really hard to have to stop playing, but the thing is that we only have one album out yet. Don’t worry though; we will be playing a couple of new songs as well.
Back in 2009 we were just playing random demos of ours and hoping for the best. It was a lot of fun, but very different.
Finally, what do each of you have planned for the rest of 2015? Do you have other records/sessions on tap beyond Kiasmos?
Ólafur: Lots and lots of festival shows this year! We are traveling nonstop until the end of the year. I have a few other projects in the oven as well… Actually seven. I counted yesterday.
Janus: Lots of traveling and playing gigs this year. I’m finishing producing an album for a band right now; it will be out later this year.
Kiasmos tour dates:
5/26 Brooklyn, NY – Rough Trade
5/27 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom
5/28 Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
5/29 Montreal, QC –
5/30 Toronto, ON – The Drake
5/31 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
6/2 San Francisco, CA – The Independent
6/3 Los Angeles, CA – Masonic Lodge @ Hollywood Forever