Jón Þór Birgisson
Jónsi performing in Victoria Park, London (2016)
|Born||23 April 1975|
|Genres||Avant-rock, ambient, worldbeat, contemporary classical|
|Instruments||Guitar, bass, vocals, piano, harmonium, mellotron, banjo, ukulele, harmonica, sampler|
|Associated acts||Sigur Rós, Jónsi & Alex, Klive|
Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson (pronounced [ˈjoʊ̯n ˈθoʊ̯r ˈpɪrkɪsːɔn, ˈjounsɪ] (listen); born 23 April 1975) is an Icelandic musician, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós. He is known for his use of a cello bow on guitar and his falsetto or countertenor voice. He is blind in his right eye from birth as a result of a broken optic nerve from the brain. He is openly gay. Apart from Sigur Rós, Jónsi also performs together with his partner Alex Somers as an art collaboration called Jónsi & Alex. They released their self-titled first book in November 2006, which was an embossed hardcover limited to 1000 copies, along with their first album, Riceboy Sleeps, in July 2009. On 1 December 2009, Jónsi's official website, jonsi.com, was launched in anticipation of his debut solo album, Go, which was released on 5 April 2010. After the release of the album, Jónsi promptly started a worldwide tour across North America and Europe, featuring songs from the album plus a few other selections, planning to tour from March to September.
In late January 2010, Jónsi announced that Sigur Rós was on "an indefinite hiatus", as the band had scrapped plans for a new album previously announced to be released in 2010, saying that "they were just rumours". The band decided to take the year off, as several members of Sigur Rós recently had children, and as Jónsi developed his solo career. As of 2012, the band is now back together again and released the album Valtari on 28 May 2012 with a following tour starting in August of the same year, and more recently the album Kveikur on 18 June 2013.
When Birgisson was 13 years old, he learned his first song, Wrathchild by Iron Maiden, on guitar. Iron Maiden remains one of his favorite bands to this day. In 1995, Jónsi fronted a band called 'Bee Spiders', under the alias 'Jonny B'. He wore sunglasses on stage throughout whole concerts. Bee Spiders received the 'most interesting band' award in 1995 in a contest for unknown bands called Músíktilraunir (English: Music Experimentations). The band played long rock songs and was compared to The Smashing Pumpkins. Jónsi also fronted a grunge band called Stoned around 1992–1993. He also uses the alias Frakkur to release his solo material, e.g. the contribution to Kitchen Motors Family Album which marks the first release under this name.
Since 1994 Jónsi has been the singer and guitarist for Sigur Rós. To date they have released seven albums.
Aside from his many years with Sigur Rós, Jónsi collaborated with his partner Alex Somers on their album, Riceboy Sleeps, under the moniker Jónsi & Alex, which was released in 2009. In April 2010, Jónsi released his first solo album, Go, and began a worldwide tour to promote the album from March – September across North America and Europe.
Jónsi also wrote the score for the 2012 Cameron Crowe film, We Bought A Zoo.
Boy Lilikoi, and instrumental versions of Tornado, Sinking Friendships, and Around Us were all included in the 2012 documentary This Is What Love In Action Looks Like.
In 2014, he co-wrote the song "Where No One Goes" for the film How to Train Your Dragon 2 with the film's composer John Powell. He also co-wrote the melody for "For The Dancing and Dreaming" for How to Train Your Dragon 2. He also wrote a rough-demo (entitled "Mama's Boy") for How to Train Your Dragon 2 that was eventually replaced by "Flying With Mother". Jónsi also collaborated with John Powell on a track for the final installment of the Dragons franchise, The Hidden World.
Jonsi's song "Grow Till Tall" was used by the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps in their 2017 competitive program, Jagged Line. It was also featured in the trailer for the upcoming third installment of the Divergent series, Allegiant.
Riceboy Sleeps (2009)
Jónsi and his partner Alex Somers completed their first album together, entitled Riceboy Sleeps. The instrumental album was recorded in Iceland and played solely on acoustic instruments and mixed in Hawaii. On the album there were also appearances by the Icelandic string quartet Amiina and the Kópavogsdætur choir.
A post that appeared on the official site on 26 May 2009, stated that Jónsi was working on a new solo album that will feature predominantly acoustic music and string arrangements from classical composer Nico Muhly. The album was set to be produced by Peter Katis (Interpol, The National, Tokyo Police Club).
On 4 December 2009, a free MP3 of the track "Boy Lilikoi" was made available to mailing list subscribers through his website. The MP3 announced the title of the album to be Go and gave a worldwide release date of 'the week of 5 April 2010' through Parlophone and XL Recordings.
On 5 April 2010, as promised, the album was released in Iceland and the United Kingdom, with a worldwide release date of the following day. The album was sung mainly in English, making a change from the majority of Jónsi's previous work, which was sung mainly in Icelandic and Vonlenska. The album charted at No.20 on the UK album charts on 12 April 2010, and reached #23 on the Billboard 200.
The "Go" limited edition box set also included Go Quiet, a 45-minute film, directed by Dean DeBlois (director of the Sigur Rós concert film Heima), that features all nine songs from the album performed acoustically at home in Reykjavík, over New Year 2010.
Jónsi went on tour with his album Go on 6 April 2010, and was until later in the summer. The tour does not include any venues within Jónsi's home country of Iceland. Jónsi touring band includes Alex Somers on guitar, soundeffects and keyboards, Thorvaldur Thór Thorvaldsson on drums, Ólafur Björn Ólafsson on keyboards and Úlfur Hansson on bass and monome.
Jónsi makes a guest appearance under the alias 'Frakkur' on track 13, "Skyscraper Heart" on "Hi-Camp Meets Lo-Fi - Explosion Picture Score" by DIP, 1999
Jónsi provides vocal material on three collaborations with The Hafler Trio:
Exactly As I Say (2004 CD, A separate limited edition of 111 copies also exists containing DVD and 5.1 surround sound)
Exactly As I Am (2005 Double CD)
Exactly As I Do (2005 Double CD)
Jónsi makes a guest appearance on Tiësto's track, "Kaleidoscope", on his album of the same name which was released on 6 October 2009.
Jónsi appears on the album In a Safe Place, released by The Album Leaf, on the song "Over The Pond".
Jónsi is a vegetarian. He states that he "didn’t go vegetarian because of the animals" but became gradually more concerned for their welfare. Jónsi elaborated that he would find it difficult to date someone who eats meat, saying "I just love animals and I do not want to kill them, cook them or eat them so it’d be hard for me to watch anyone do that." He briefly followed a raw food diet, although he no longer practices this as he felt it hindered his social life and he was "getting antisocial" when on tour.
On the first three Sigur Rós albums (Von, Von Brigði, Ágætis Byrjun), Jónsi sang most songs in Icelandic but two of them ("Von" and "Olsen Olsen") were sung in 'Hopelandic'. All of the vocals on ( ) are in Hopelandic. Hopelandic (Vonlenska in Icelandic) is the 'invented language' in which Jónsi sings before lyrics are written to the vocals. It is not an actual language by definition (no vocabulary, grammar, etc.), but rather a form of gibberish vocals that fit to the music and act as another instrument. Jónsi likens it to what singers sometimes do when they've decided on the melody, but haven't written the lyrics yet. Many languages were considered to be used on ( ), including English, but they decided on Hopelandic. Hopelandic (Vonlenska) got its name (from a journalist, not Jónsi himself) from the first song which Jónsi sang on, "Hope" (Von).
Like a few other players of bowed guitar, Jónsi plays mainly variations of the Les Paul. He also plays Ibanez Les Paul copies, model PF200. The first Ibanez used to be his main instrument during the Bee Spiders era all through Ágætis Byrjun. It was largely refinished and decorated (as can be seen in Ágúst Jakobsson's documentary Popp í Reykjavík ). That particular instrument got stolen and broken but was on display in Reykjavík Art Museum in the summer of 2003. During the recordings of "Takk..." Jónsi bought another PF200 to replace the Les Paul. Since summer 2006 Jónsi has been using a guitar that was made on the road by his then guitar tech Dan Johnson. The guitar is usually referred to as "The Bird," after the band's bird designs seen on previous album designs/artwork that adorn the neck and frets of the guitar. "The Bird" is based on the body of Ibanez PF200. He also has been seen playing a variety of other instruments, like the piano, acoustic guitar, electric bass guitar, harmonium, mellotron, baritone ukulele, and the banjo.
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|2011||We Bought a Zoo
|2014|| How to Train Your Dragon 2
|"Skyscraper Heart" (credited as 'Frakkur')||Dip||1999||Hi-Camp Meets Lo-Fi: Explosion Picture Score|
|"Over The Pond"||The Album Leaf||2004||In a Safe Place|
|"Ammælisstrákur" (credited as 'Frakkur')||Various||2006||Kitchen Motors Family Album|
|"Sticks & Stones"||Various||2010||How to Train Your Dragon: Music from the Motion Picture|
|"Where No One Goes"||Various||2014||How to Train Your Dragon 2|
|"For the Dancing and Dreaming (Melody-writer)"||Various||2014||How to Train Your Dragon 2|
|"Simple Gifts"||Danny Elfman||2017||The Circle (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
(with Troye Sivan)
|Jonsi||2018||Boy Erased (Original Motion Picture Sountrack)|
|"Together From Afar"||Various||2019||How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World|
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