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For 16 years, Jon Thor Birgisson has, under the sobriquet Jonsi, sketched surreal soundscapes with his Reykjavik-based art-rock outfit Sigur Ros, coaxing curious tones from his guitar with a cello bow and falsetto-crooning lyrics in a nonsensical language he dubbed Hopelandic. All along, he also was compiling a collection of his own even quirkier material — English-language oddities like “Tornado” and “Animal Arithmetic” — now collected on his first solo set, “Go,” while the group is on hiatus. Jonsi plays two Bay Area dates next week.
Have you seen the volcano erupting in southern Iceland over the past few weeks? No, not personally. Just through the Internet. But living next to it, it just seems quite natural, almost. So I’ve never seen one of our volcanoes erupt with my own eyes. But if I was there at home right now, I would probably go and see it.
It must be weird to live at nature’s mercy like that, right? Yeah, I know. But I think it’s probably also quite liberating, I guess. It makes you realize you’ve got to enjoy every day for all it’s worth.
Do you feel more at home in the city or the country? Both, in a way. I like the feel of a city and I like to see lots of people. But I also like to be alone because I like the quiet. So I have a tiny house in the countryside, and I sometimes go there just to enjoy the silence.
How did you fare after the Icelandic banks collapsed? I’m OK. I’m quite lucky because I get my salary from England and also America, so I haven’t invested in anything in Iceland for a long, long time. So I survived, it appears.
And you actually recorded bees for “Go”? Yes. They’re on “Animal Arithmetic.” We also recorded some birds flapping and wolves howling, just recordings from my house, and then we worked them into the song.
In “Tornado,” what is it that “kills from inside”? I think it’s just fear. The fear that lives in your stomach, the fear that you eventually have to overcome. I had to overcome my own fear of the unknown (with “Go”), because it’s actually quite scary being on your own.
Is it true you have a song on the “How To Train Your Dragon” soundtrack, called “Sticks & Stones”? Yeah! The director of it did the movie that’s included in my special-edition album. He was also doing “Dragon,” so he asked me if I wanted to be a part of it.
IF YOU GO
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. April 16
Tickets: $35 to $36.50
Note: Jonsi also performs at 8 p.m. April 15 in Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.
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