For her second record, Sóley wrote songs out of a necessity to address her fears. After the birth of her first child, the Icelandic singer-songwriter she found that regardless of how happy motherhood made her, the long-standing anxieties she held were still with her.

As the title suggests, Ask The Deep is an introspective piece which takes the listener through nightmares, morbid fairytales and the singer's state of anxiety. A main character of the record is the Devil who she explains is the personification of the fears and shadows she finds within. She battles with this presence throughout, with its seductive power, opening the album questioning "Have I danced with the devil, Does he still love me?". The dreams she sings of are cast in shadowy electronics, foreboding vocals and penetrating piano melodies. Andrew Darley spoke with the singer about how this album was not meant to be a personal experience but instead became one.

BTS: Soley

A central character of Ask The Deep is the Devil. It opens with the lyric "If my mind is the devil, I'll have to leave - Otherwise we'll grow together." Why did this idea become central to this record?

I was dealing with myself and my mind at some point while composing and recording this record. Writing down my feelings made things easier rather than keeping them inside myself like I'd been doing few years earlier.


 


Would it be fair to say that 'the Devil' in these songs is a personification of the anxieties our mind can torture us with?
That's very fair to say, yes.


 


Was writing this record an intense experience for you?
Well it was made over a two-year period where a lot of things happened to me - those things I didn't talk about so I just kept it all inside. When I got pregnant all those things I had locked inside of me came back, so the pregnancy became a big horror at a certain point. I was very anxious and afraid and I didn't write much music until my beautiful baby was around 4 months old. Then I could kind of look back and say to myself that everything went well, my baby was healthy and fine. Yet, I had not worked things out with my fear. So I started writing about it. And then it suddenly just became a part of the album. So the album was not supposed to be some personal experience, but it became one.





How did the Krómantík EP inform where we you wanted to go with this album?
I put Krómantík together in 2011. Some of the pieces I already had made, and some I made that year. I always wanted to make a piano album and since it had been a while since my first record came out, I asked my record company if I could release this piano album that I'd made. I just wanted to show the world more than just Sóley's pop songs because I'm really interested in making instrumental music too.


 

 


When did its title Ask The Deep come to you in the writing process? How did you come to that title to represent the album?
In one song it says "Ask the sea" and first I was thinking about that as a title, but when I thought about the concept of the album, it made more sense to use Ask The Deep since it was more about my deep mind rather than the deep sea.


 


On 'Ævintýr', you urge that "You must face your fairytale". Does this refer to how sometimes the stories we tell ourselves are not always true?


 In a way yes. It was also just my thought of, "If this story was a fairytale and this guy who was being buried alive (which is what the song is about), he would kind of just need to face that". He's in a fairytale, a bad one, that doesn't end very well for him and he just has to face it. It makes no sense, I know, but sometimes I'm into that kind of nonsense when I'm writing. If it makes sense to me, I can write it. Then people can make up their own story behind it.

Were there any references (music, books or film) that helped your own vision of the record?
Mainly poems. And my daily fear.





It's interesting that you connect darkness of the mind with fairytales, which are typically associated with children - and were written/told to teach them lessons. Is this any way related to have your own child last year?
I can't really tell, I don't think so. At least I'm not telling my one-year-old daughter horror stories yet, though sometimes we listen to very experimental music in our home. I only sing happy songs to her!


 


Did you do any research into fairytales and the world of dreams?
I really like dreams. I've read a little bit about it but usually I just think about my own dreams and how surreal they are. My boyfriend gave me a book by Sigmund Freud that I've been reading here and there but not really gotten into it yet. When my daughter goes to kindergarden finally I'll sit down and have a read!





There are so many layers and textures within each song, did you feel a challenge in using more electronics and organ? Was it exciting to shift the focus away from the piano?
Yes, it was very nice to change the sound world a little bit. I made Krómantík which is a 100% piano album so I felt like I had the freedom of doing other things at least for one album.


 


There an attention to fine details in the placement of the piano notes and the sharp sounds of the electronics. Would you say you're a perfectionist when it comes to making music?
A perfectionist in my own way, definitely! You know, when it comes to placing the microphone when recording piano, I just place it somewhere and try to find where it sounds good. But there are things that have to 'sound' right to me.


 


Do you envision that your live performance will change too with music?
I think the live performance always changes with each tour. New songs that we play live get better with each show and stuff like that.


 
 BTS: Soley

The artwork for the album appears to be a surreal and gothic portrait of you. How did this come together?
My friend Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir is the artist of the artwork. She is amazing and I'm really happy for what she did. I had nothing to do with it except I might have told her about some color preferences.


 


These songs are very much about an internal world, how we reflect and the relationship we have with ourselves. Would you describe yourself as being an introvert?
If I would let myself be more introvert, I would, but in this music business you kind of have to be strong and smiling and nice to everyone. Even if you feel like not talking to anyone.





When you started writing music on your own, did you want to carve out something completely different to your previous work in bands?
Everything I have done, for example on my first EP Theater Island, just happened without trying. I wasn't trying anything specific--I guess this was the music that was inside of me.


 


What are the differences, both bad and good, of working in a collective and on your own?
On my own, I can be my own boss. No one to tell my that some idea is not good enough, which can be good and bad. Sometimes when you work alone, you stop seeing the whole picture because you're in the middle of one word in one song for hours. So then it's good to have people around to tell you to step back and look at it as a whole.


 


On the final song, 'Lost Ship', it appears as though that you have somehow learned to live with these intense feelings or possibly accept that they exist. Did writing these songs give you clarity, comfort or even conclusions?
It was even better than going to the psychiatrist. At least I thought they never understood me.


 


Since Ask The Deep is much about the world of our dreams and imagination, can I ask what has been the best dream you have had recently?
I dreamt last night that me and my boyfriend were moving to this fancy apartment in Iceland, but it had an ice cream shop on the balcony. There were always people in our apartment which I was not very happy about! It must have something to do with my drummer being a big fan of ice cream and we are somehow always talking about it on tour!


Ask The Deep is out now.