The rising Icelandic indie singer has just released her new album and it’s an ethereal, infectious exploration of Brynja’s life, emotions, and important issues like climate change. Her silky voice glides over beats you might expect from hip hop and her spoken word raps call out for you to listen up.
Brynja is an artist of many talents, counting producing and dancing in her repertoire. It’s easy to see how and why she is so effortlessly cool and inspiringly artistic in our chat about all things Repeat, including the ‘Breathe’ music video, her “traveling copy” of the album, and how she’s supporting sustainability in the music industry.
Check it out below!
This album is truly beautiful! Congratulations on your debut! Where did it first begin? Did you set out to make this album with a clear vision in mind, or did it sort of come together as you wrote?
Thank you! It began on the train on my way to school where I was studying audio engineering in Amsterdam. I took the train for an hour every morning and used my time listening to a podcast called Dissect where iconic rap and hip-hop albums are dissected. The idea of the album was largely inspired by that podcast, it taught me that some artists have a vision for their albums before writing the songs. That was totally new to me. I guess I kinda thought creating an album was about writing songs and bundling them up into an album. So yes I had a very clear vision of the project before going into it, I dove into the ideology of the album before creating any of the songs. Of course the idea developed as I went into the process and some events from my personal life also put a mark on the writing. But even though the idea shifted a bit in the process I still feel like the final product isn‘t far off from what I intended to create.
As for ‘Breathe,’ in particular, how did you come to include rap/spoken word verses?
I think it was inspired by that new chapter of my life where I started my audio engineering studies. All of a sudden I was surrounded by rappers and producers, a totally new crowd for me. One of my classmates asked me to do a collaboration with him and sent me an inspiration track. I had a listen, sat down with my guitar and out came the first two songs, ‘Fight’ and ‘Breathe.’ It didn’t feel so much as a decision to include spoken word, it was more something that came out, I literally had no idea where I was pulling the words from. It was a combination of my inspiration found in my new classmates, my new musical inspirations found on the Dissect podcast and my frustration towards society and our inaction towards the issue of climate change.
Can you elaborate on your journey from listening to a podcast about rap and R&B records to making Repeat? It’s so cool.
Don’t know what more to say about it, other than that it had a huge impact on me and really motivated me to go on and write new music. Write music in a new way. It introduced me to music I’d never listened to before and showed me how meaningful music can be.
‘Change’ is such a mesmerizing and sonically interesting song. Will you tell us more about where that track came from and how you found that sound?
Oh love that song too, very glad you like it too. I’d been pondering on the question of how we as individuals can make a change in this world. It seems like such a big task and it can feel like we are so tiny pieces in the puzzle that nothing we do really matters. I found inspiration for the song in a podcast (surprise, surprise). It was a Ted Talk (and I’m embarrassed to say that I don‘t remember by who) but I remember the lecturer explaining that the best thing you can do to make a change in this world is by starting with yourself. He explains that we as humans are such herd animals, if everybody starts changing their behavior for the better you don‘t want to be the odd one out. I found comfort and hope in this and the song is inspired by this message. You can be the one initiating change and chances are others will follow. The production is all LUVR’s. He’s a magician when it comes to sounds and soundscapes. I presented the line “Change, creating the new norm,” and we went to the studio and this is what we ended up with. This production came so easily.
Your music has been described as hopeful. How does hope appear in your music? Do you consciously think about that when creating?
It’s not something I consciously think about, I guess it has to do with me as a person. I want to see hope in things. I’ve always used my music as a way of healing so when I’m writing about a dramatic experience I tend to add a hopeful message in there as well, like.. d*** that sucked but it’s gonna be okay. But actually for Repeat I wanted the first half of the album to be darker and the second half to be brighter. Because of that some songs are just purely dark and I get to fully indulging in my negative emotion. Like ‘Inherit,’ ‘My Oh My,’ ‘Breathe’ and ‘What Scares Me,’ those are just full on depressing. Not gonna lie, it was pretty freeing to allow myself to go there.
On ‘What Scares Me,’ we hear anecdotes from different voices. What made you want to include that track, and where did the voices come from?
In the process I’d been recording these interviews with people asking them about their thoughts on climate change. I did not have an exact purpose for it, I thought maybe I could chop them up into interludes or maybe they’d just be something for me to get inspired from. This was one of the last songs to come together. A friend of mine made a different version of the production of ‘Breathe’ with some sharper drums and electric violins. Although I thought his version was cool I liked the more lo-fi version better for the song. At some point I tried playing a part of his version straight after ‘Breathe.’ I thought it had something and me and LUVR ended up chopping pieces of the interview on top. I really love the transition going from ‘What Scares Me’ to ‘Inhale.’ It feels like with ‘What Scares Me’ you hit rock bottom. On the vinyl that’s the moment you switch from Side A to Side B. After that you can take a breather.
What mood do you want this album to convey? Did you have in mind a particular overall message?
All of the moods. I want to take the listener on a journey going through the whole scale of human emotions. Anger, fear, confusion. Hope, joy and acceptance. You arrive at acceptance with the last song ‘Aftur & Aftur.’ The title, Repeat, suggests that you never fully arrive.
This album feels very visual, like we could envision movement from the sound. We are wondering, how does your background in contemporary dance intertwine with your music?
Oh I’m so curious what you‘re envisioning! Would love to see your interpretations! It’s a very good question, I’m not sure if/how my background in contemporary dancing affects my music creations. But I do know that my time in my dance studies trained me to think visually, even more so because I think that’s something I’ve pretty much always done. Often when I write a song I start picturing the visuals for it, the colours and moods. The perks from having studied dancing is that I’m able to work with my buddies from school on my music videos. I won’t forget how disappointed my grandparents were when they heard I was moving away from dancing after my graduation to music. From their perspective I’d spent 4 years of my life studying something they didn’t think would give me stability, then to move on to the next thing. But look at me now, combining the two.
And speaking of visuals, the ‘Breathe’ music video is stunning. How did that come together, and how much input did you get to have?
Thank you for that! The biggest shout out to Carlijn Andriessen who performs the songs chorus and directed the music video! A lot of the ideas came up through conversation between the two of us. I remember having the idea of combining city and nature and I wanted mirrors to represent how we all mirror each other, as individuals and as society. Carlijn took those ideas to new heights. I’ve been my own director quite a few times. I’m used to calling the shots and making the decisions. But it was so comforting to work on this with her, she had a strong vision and I had full trust towards her. If I was ever in doubt or if she felt strongly about something I let her take the lead. Oh and by the way, this was her first time directing so hats off to her! And she just released her first song as a solo artist this year so be sure to check her out! (Find her music under the artist name Care.)
Can you tell us a bit more about your passion for sustainability and what you’re doing within the music industry to raise awareness? We love that so much.
To be very honest with you it’s something I’ve struggled with a lot. Making my aim to be sustainable align with my goals of promoting my music. I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles and I’d love to hear more from other musicians that have found ways and have ideas on making the music business more sustainable. I debated if I should make physical copies of the album or not. I wanted as many people as possible to get to enjoy the full effect of the album in its physical form but didn’t feel like mass-producing it. I decided to press vinyl only in limited edition and one of the copies will be a traveling copy. I’ll hand it to the first person who gets to keep it for a week and then pass it onto the next person that also keeps it for a week and so on. I’m pretty excited about this social experiment. I’m even thinking of making an Instagram page especially for the project to keep people in the loop.
Lastly, what Repeat songs are you most excited to play live next year on tour?
Ooh, good question. It depends on the band and the people that end up joining me on the journey. I’ve played some of the singles from the album live but I’ve never played the album in its entirety back to back. The release concerts will be 23.03.2023 and I’m excited to start rehearsing. I’m curious to see how we’ll perform the interludes like ‘Change’ and ‘Repeating’ for example.
Stream Repeat here!