A couple of months ago, the Icelandic band Dymbrá released their self-titled EP on Spotify. Dymbrá consists of three young girls with a background in classical music from the music schools in Reykjavík. They make beautiful, soothing, atmospheric and occasionally dark music with mostly classical instruments such as violin, cello, piano and flute.
However, they listen to, and are inspired by, artists such as Icelandic Sigur Rós, Amiina and Mammút, but also British artists such as Radiohead, Massive Attack, Portishead and PJ Harvey. They also have a great fondness for Norwegian Aurora. They have been playing together since the age of 15 and came to last year’s final in Icelandic Music Experiments (Músíktilraunir).
Disharmoni.no got an interview with Eir Ólafsdóttir, Nina Solveig Andersen and Eyrún Úa Þorbjörnsdóttir on Skype. They were very enthusiastic and eager to share their views on how they make music, why they want to stay independent and about the power of teenage drama.
First and foremost, they appear to be reflective and with good self-confidence when it comes to the music they make.
During the interview, Eir told me – and showed me – that she was in Sundlaugin, a studio where i.a. Sigur Rós has worked (check the picture at the bottom of the interview). This exemplifies how close the Icelandic music scene is. It also shows that the three girls in Dymbrá have big shoes to fill. Not that I think they think about it that much. First and foremost, they appear to be reflective and with good self-confidence when it comes to the music they make.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Eir: – I am 17 years old, I will be 18 years old in a month. I play cello, the bass, drum, and sing. I have lived in Reykjavík all my life except for two years in Spain. I speak Spanish and a little Norwegian.
Nina Solveig: – I am 18 years old. I play the violin, the keyboard, and I sing. I come from Reykjavik, but my father is Norwegian. I speak Norwegian even though I have never lived there.
Eyrún: – I am 18 and live in Reykjavík. I also lived in Spain for a short period and speak Spanish. I play flute, glockenspiel, the bass and bottle (beatboxing).
Even if you have a background in classical music, it does not seem that you have a classical approach to making music?
Eir: – After ten years of only playing classical music, it becomes a bit monotonous. We wanted to try something different. We never decided what kind of music we were going to make, we just tried different things with different instruments to see what came out of it.
Nina Solveig: – We experiment a lot, and we often create the basic stem and rhythm with Ableton and build the music around it.
How important are lyrics and vocals in your songs?
Eyrún: – They are important, but we mainly see the vocals as part of the instrumentation. The vocals are not more important than the other instruments.
You can call our music whatever you want. Some people have said that it sounds like film music.
I find it hard to place your music in a specific genre. What music genre would you say you are in?
Nina Solveig: – You can call our music whatever you want. Some people have said that it sounds like film music.
Yes, there is a cinematic vibe to the music. Would you like to make music for film?
Nina Solveig: – We will actually make music for a short film, a documentary. We cannot tell you much about it right now, but it may be interesting.
What about music videos?
The atmosphere of Icelandic nature clearly affects the atmosphere of our music.
What ambitions do you have for your music?
Eyrún: – As long as we enjoy what we do, we will continue to make music. The music for the EP was made two years ago, and it was important for us to released it to document what we have made. Eir moved to Spain after the songs were made and stayed there for two years. When she returned, we recorded the EP and started composing again. The music we make now is quite far from the concept, and far from the emotions we had then. Our voices are also more mature, and we are better instrumentalists now.
Has living in Iceland and having the Icelandic nature around you had an impact on the music?
Eir: – Yes! I was not aware that we have so much untouched nature here before I went to Spain. The atmosphere of Icelandic nature clearly affects the atmosphere of our music.
What does the word Dymbrá mean?
Eir: – It’s not really a real word, but I’m a language nerd, so I have managed to abstract some meaning in it with regard to how the language changes. It may have something to do with sound. «Brá» means the part around the eyes. «A deep sound coming from the eyes.» It can also mean «a ray of sunshine into a nest». I studied Latin and Greek in Spain, and I loved it! Language is so much fun!
What about the song titles? What do they mean?
Eyrún: – Apart from the song «Tíbra» which means «fata morgana», all the song titles have something to do with the eyes. «Brá» means eye or the area around the eyes, as Eir said. «Dulbrá» means «mysterious eyes», «Solbrá» means «bright eyes», «Kolbrá» means «dark eyes» and «Lokbrá» means «closed eyes». «Lokbrá» is also the last song on the album, so we thought it would be nice to «close» the EP with that song.
Right now we want to continue to be independent. We know how to do things now.
You compose the music, play all the instruments, and produce yourselves and seem to be very independent? Do you want it to continue like this, or are you considering getting a manager or signing for a record label at some point?
Nina Solveig: – Right now we want to continue to be independent. We know how to do things now. We learned it during the process of recording the EP. An example of this: We sent the mix for mastering, but we were not completely happy with the result, it was not the atmosphere we wanted, so we mixed it again.
How about making physical copies of the music?
Eir: – We would like to make a CD of the EP at some point. Then we will see if what we release in the future will be released on vinyl or CD, or if it will only be available on streaming services.
It is fascinating that you make such good music at such a young age. Where do you get your strength and inspiration from?
Eir: – One should never underestimate the power of a teenage drama! The feelings are strong and genuine when you are a teenager. I remember some of the moods behind the songs on the EP. In retrospect, it seems trivial, but when we made the songs it felt strong and real.
Check out Dymbrá’s self-titled EP here: