CeaseTone is an electronic rock band from Iceland. With the recent release of their powerful video for “The Bright Side”, the band kicked off a tour of America, centred around their appearance at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. Their melodic and often upbeat tracks are recognizable for their dark lyrical edge and electronic underscores. The band is Hafsteinn Þráinsson on vocals, guitar and synth; Sólrún Mjöll Kjartansdóttir on drums and the drumpad; Steinar Karlsson on bass and synth; and Jökull Brynjarsson on the synth, sampler and piano. I had the chance to interview the band while they embarked on their American tour.
Hey CeaseTone! How is the tour going?
Hey, the tour is going great so far!
You have quite the backstory. What sparked the shift from Hafsteinn’s solo acoustic project into the current state of CeaseTone — a band that is anything but a solo acoustic project?
I have always had a hard time tying myself to some specific sound or genre. I have always been making all kinds at the same time, electro, folky, technical rock or ambient. I started with the folky acoustic sound because it was easy to do alone but the music I was making was way more complex. I really wanted to be able to just play all these different genres under the same project witch really didn’t work, so it took some time to create music that was just a mixture of everything I liked doing and with a good balance between acoustic and electronic elements. When I finally felt like I was on to something I figured I was never going to be able to play this music as a solo project so changed it into the group Ceasetone and left behind the acoustic guitar.
Who are your music influences?
I guess I’m quite the wildcard. Right now I’m sinking deep into hip hop, both new and old, Digable Planets, N.W.A, Drake and then Kendrick Lamar is my absolute favorite.
On the other hand I’m listening a lot to Claude Debussy and other 20th century composers, finally there is stuff like Mac Demarco, Radiohead, Alt-J and so on.
In terms of what influenced the music I’m making I guess I wouldn’t really pick any specific artists or genres, If I think something sounds good, I listen to it. The sound of Alt-J, guitar playing of Tallest Man On Earth, the soundscapes from Sigur Rós and the production of Radiohead where a couple of things that inspired me and put their mark on my music.
It happens a lot that just something random triggers me into making new songs and when I am the least aware of the fact that I’m working on something the better I work. It is more rare that I decide to just sit down and write something, though that of course can happen to and that is the way I always work when I am writing for example someone else, but then they usually have given you some idea of what they want, beats, theme music, so on.
The lyrics are usually a completely separate process. I get compelled to write lyrics when my spirit is down so they often reflect on some trouble I have to deal with in my mind.
You made the music video for “The Bright Side” yourself! How long did that take? Would you consider making more music videos yourself?
I took about 2-3 weeks, I didn’t really count the hours but there were some long sessions in there. But inspiration just overtook me making this, It’s the feeling of doing something completely new that drove me on and kept me from thinking about how seriously time consuming the process was.
I’d definitely be interested to do more things like this. It is a beautiful concept to deliver out to the world a work of art with the whole spectrum of it coming from the same mind, but it is also wonderful getting other people’s touch on things as well, maybe they come up with something you would have never thought of which can turn into something way better, it all depends on the project.
Let’s talk Iceland. Do you feel as though location plays a role in the uniqueness of your sound?
There is a certain freedom in creating things in Iceland.
Honestly I won’t say the nature itself has any part in my music, maybe the long nights in the winter or the long days in the summer. But mainly it is the musical society that just blossoms in the freedom from major labels and big artists completely trying to control the currents of musical styles witch means different kinds of music get a bigger chance than they maybe would get anywhere else.
What music has been inspiring you lately?
The whole rap game, both in Iceland and abroad, also a bunch of classical music.
“The Bright Side” is the third single off of your upcoming album, Two Strangers. Can you tell us anything about that album?
It will be very diverse when it comes to musical style but that is simply who I am as a character and probably will be forever, I’ll always be changing up my ideas and inspirations so there is always the feeling of exploring uncharted territory, also I know we all change as people through life and I don’t want to get stuck in a loop or in the past.
It will be very dynamic, with some big drops and soundscapes contrasted by calmer more folky guitar-style from my earlier influences. But it all holds together, the concept of diversity is what brings all the sounds together.
What are your plans for after your American tour?
Focus on getting the album out there and then we set sail for Europe hopefully as soon as possible!