Amiina are girls after my own heart. In photographs they knit in pretty dresses and brandish cups of tea. Their music features bells and saws and wind up boxes. Their first album, was named after the Icelandic word ( “Kurr”) for the sound that birds make. Described by The Guardian as inhabiting " a strange powerful place between sophistication and innocence," they indulge my fey sensibilities whilst maintaining an ideal of playful experimentation. Graduates of the Reykjavik College of Music, Amiina spent their formative years providing Sigur Ros with a string section. 10 years on –and with the addition of two men– their second album, " Puzzle", is released this week. Listening to Amiina and wondering aloud what to ask them, Daisy –my favourite violin playing eight year old– chirped in with: "What is your favourite colour?". In a moment of Amiina fuelled whimsy, I decided to embrace The Guardian's conjecture and simultaneously find Daisy her answer. Therefore, alongside my own questions to Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir of Amiina, I have included suggestions from Daisy and my Dad (an enviably knowledgeable music enthusiast). I'll leave the authorship of each to speculation. What's your favourite colour?
Amiina has no favourite colour, but mine is blue.
Tell us about your name – I understand you added an ‘i’ because there was another musical ‘Amina’, but did you start from anima, the soul and the feminine principle?
Well, our name does come from the word anima – it was a name we used back when we were mainly playing classical music together as a string quartet. However, the group changed and so did our music and in the end we decided to slightly alter our name to reflect the change.
There is an inventive, playfulness in your approach to both the instruments you play and the manner in which you play them, how did this develop?
It all happened very unconsciously. In the beginning we started making music with whatever was at hand and that turned out to be all kinds of small instruments that later became a part of our sound. We have always been greedy for new instruments and sounds, and the fact that we don't know how to play them all might play a role in the outcome.
How do you think your classical roots inform your current sonic aesthetic?
It probably does in some ways, but I think there is influence from all sorts of other musical traditions as well. Our classical upbringing probably has influenced our working methods the most. I think we took what we knew from playing classical string quartets together with us to what we do today.
Your collaboration with Lee Hazlewood sees a merger of incredibly disparate sounds. How did it come about and how did you feel about the resulting track?
Our A&R at our record label at the time was Lee's manager. He really liked the idea of collaboration between Lee and Amiina, and also made the lyrics to the song Lee later recorded. It was a difficult task for Lee, since he was seriously ill, and it turned out to be the last recording he ever did. The track holds special place in our hearts for that reason besides the fact that we really like the outcome. Adding drums inevitably changes the shape and impact of the music – how has that gone?
It was great to have Maggi and Kippi join Amiina. Both of them brought something fresh and clever to the table and we've been having a really good time working together. We had been working together, just the four of us for a very long time, so it was refreshing to shake things up a bit.
You have been playing together since before I was born. Some big superstars have 2,000 albums. Why is this only your second?
It's been 3 years since our last album, and this one (Puzzle) has taken us two years to make. In the year we didn't record much we were on the road a lot, and didn't have time to spend in the studio. We're just one of those bands that need time to feel our music has reached maturity and is ready to go out to the big world.
How has the (prolific) extent of your touring effected your work?
Sometimes it's hard to find time and energy for making new music while touring a lot. But it's also inspiring to be able to perform our music to new audience.
Structurally your current sound seems more in line with improv - less structured, more organically driven. Do you anticipate a return to the didacticism of classical sheet music in the future? Or is it something you have left behind?
We've always allowed our music making to go where ever it wants to go. If we find that we want to start writing our music on paper and plan it differently to what we do now, then that would be an option I'm sure. But to be honest I don't see that happening any time soon (except in cases where we need to arrange our music for session players, for example).
Why do you sing?
Well, we didn't sing much when we started doing our own music. We were so used to expressing ourselves musically with our instruments, which is quite different and more abstract from when there is singing. We felt it was a big step for us to start singing on Kurr, and even bigger now on Puzzle where we have lyrics and more singing than before. It's more personal in a way, people connect to a human voice.
It’s a cliché to make out all Icelandic musicians are tapping into something similar – elves scampering playfully across volcanic landscapes, etc – how rooted in one country do you think your sound is?
You are right, I think most Icelandic musicians are quite bored with that subject. I believe our music consists of everything we have experienced, heard and seen, and of course that includes our surroundings. But for us it's hard to hear a particular "Icelandic" sound in our music. Why are you knitting?
On the cover of Kurr, our last album, there is a picture of us girls knitting together a giant piece of clothing (or something abstract). For us it felt really descriptive of what was on the album; the music and how it was made. We wove it together bit by bit until there was something whole, soft and warm. I don't think we knit more in everyday life than other people.
Next is touring the new album, and hopefully start on some new material :)