Sigur Ros Biography

Icelandic dramatists Sigur Rós claim that to leave their native land for any length of time would be akin to ‘cutting the umbilical chord’, confirming that the magnificent music they craft is directly inspired by the stunning topography of their immediate environment. ‘It is a wonderful place’, they have stated of their homeland. ‘We have all these big empty places where no-one lives, with glaciers and lava. The sky is so big in this country.’

The band was formed in Reykjavík in 1994 by Jónsi (Jón Pór Birgisson, 23 April 1975, Iceland; vocals/guitar), Goggi (b. Georg Hólm, 6 April 1976, Iceland; bass) and Ágúst Ævar Gunnarsson (b. Iceland; drums). Their moniker is appropriated from Birgisson’s sister Sigurrós, who was apparently born on the day the band was conceived. Von was released on the local Smekkleysa label, and was followed by a remix collection featuring tracks remodelled by Icelandic illuminati such as Gus Gus and Múm. Kjartan Sveinsson (b. 2 January 1978, Iceland; keyboards/guitar) was added to the line-up for the recording of 1999’s Ágætis Byrjun, and Gunnarsson was replaced by Orri Páll Dyrason (b. 4 July 1977, Iceland) shortly afterwards.

The music created by Sigur Rós recalls atmospheric melancholists such as Mogwai, Tangerine Dream, Bark Psychosis and My Bloody Valentine (who they claimed never to have heard). Re-igniting the experimental impulse of epochal late-80s dream-pop acts such as Butterfly Child and AR Kane, and endearingly claiming they will ‘change the future of music in everyway’, the Icelandic quartet forge music that is rapturous and romantic, dramatic and alien. They alluded to such otherness on the sleeve of 1999’s Ágætis Byrjun, which depicts a foetus with angel’s wings. The band opts to sing in a combination of Icelandic and their own private language Hopelandish (‘Nobody understands it but me’, Jónsi has asserted), suggesting an existence as otherworldly as Drexciya’s mythological, subaquatic creations. Despite this barrier to literal comprehension, however, they still manage to sound fantastically, desperately poignant.

Sigur Rós made their debut for adventurous UK imprint FatCat Records with the EP Svefn-G-Englar. The beautiful title track (originally featured on Ágætis Byrjun) was used to great effect in the Cameron Crowe movie Vanilla Sky. The band’s title-less 2002 album was another deep, glorious and mysterious recording, although the absence of sleeve notes was irritating. Their 2005 studio debut for EMI Records, Takk... was a thing of expansive and monumental beauty, and was deservedly garlanded with praise by the music press. The track ‘Hoppípolla’ received widespread coverage in the UK when it was used on the television programmes Planet Earth and Match Of The Day.

Other esoteric projects undertaken by Sigur Rós include the soundtrack to Englar Alheimisms (alongside composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson), contributing backing tracks to the explicit poetry of Icelandic author Didda, and working with Steindór Andersen of the Icelandic poetry society Iounn. In 2003 they composed music for Merce Cunningham’s dance piece Split Sides; these tracks were later released on Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do. In 2007 they released the documentary film Heima, which chronicled the band’s tour of Iceland the previous year alongside an intimate acoustic show at a coffee shop in the small town of Borg.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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