Jónsi is the guitarist and vocalist for the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós.
He is known for his use of a cello bow on guitar and his falsetto voice.
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.
This album is largely acoustic and feature string arrangements from contemporary classical composer nico muhly.
word of the band has reached america where, because the release has been delayed, “agaetis byrjun” has been boot-legged from the internet, in record numbers. this, despite the fact that sigur ros sing either in icelandic or in a language of their own making, “hopelandic”. no matter if audiences can’t understand the words.
“they get to make their own words and dreams,”
says the softly spoken lead singer, jonsi birgisson.
mr. birgisson has the makings of a superstar. he is something of a viking anti-hero: slightly built, his locks shaven but for a spare tintin-style quiff, blind in one eye, openly gay and (most scandalously for an icelander) a vegetarian.
his voice and guitar drive the band, who use conventional instruments in unconventional ways. mr birgisson attacks his guitar with a violin bow and sometimes sings directly into it, producing a dreamily distant sound. his exquisite countertenor voice serves as another instrument, while strings and keyboard produce something not far from whalesong.
Sigur Ros (it means ‘Victory Rose’) are the experimental/ ambient/ progressive band (delete according to taste) whose songs are, like those of The Cocteau Twins or Cranes, often sung in an invented tongue, in this case Hopelandic (or Vonlenska). Which renders singalongs difficult, but it doesn’t stop their fans, many of them shoeless in tribute to Jonsi’s own fondness for removing his footwear onstage, from trying.
The devotion Sigur Ros inspire is a touching, and bewildering thing. SR do not believe in the cult of personality: wearing unadorned brown T-shirts, they are static for most of the show, and for much of it, one might as well be listening to a CD… although singer-guitarist Birgisson and bassist Georg Holm do play their instruments with a violin bow and drumstick respectively, and at one point the former lifts his guitar towards his teeth, and you think he’s about to do a Hendrix. …
Watching the dazzling work-in-progress reels from the concert, which reaches Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley next week, it looks as if the team is putting in as much effort as a typical Beyoncé or Madonna arena extravaganza, only with slightly different results.
Combining elements of cinema, art and theater, the designers have created an epic, immersive stage experience involving virtual worlds and roaming wildlife, all built around Jónsi’s sublime, falsetto-driven new songs.
“There’s kind of the joke with the band,” the singer says. “If we suck, the show is still going to be good.”
He’s got a reputation to uphold. After spending 16 years as the lead singer of Sigur Rós - Iceland’s second most popular musical export after Björk - people have come to expect a spectacle from Jónsi. Fans have always described the group’s stage shows as bordering on religious experiences, thanks to the ethereal projections flanking the stage and the uniquely engrossing music coming from the musicians in the shadows.
This is, after all, the band that by the time it released its third album in 2002 was over using words - the disc is titled “( )” and the lyrics are in a made-up language called Hopelandic. Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow famously played Sigur Rós in the delivery room during the birth of their daughter, Apple. And in his autobiography, Mötley Crüe’s hell-raising drummer Tommy Lee recounts curling up on the floor in a puddle of slush while listening to the band’s music.
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, harmonium, mellotron, baritone ukulele, and the banjo.