Her album Haphe was released last year and is very much worthy of your time, featuring some incredible vocal work alongside innovative and varied sounds. Read our transcript with Konni below about the making of the album, what makes the Faroe Islands such a creative place, her top musical picks from the island, and some top picks for her current place of residence: Copenhagen.
So tell us about Haphe?
It's a collection of songs I wrote over the last few years, and I wanted to release them. I then met these amazing guys when I was taking a break from school back in the Faroe Islands, and we tried playing them and it really worked. Our connection was really special, really strong.
So that's where it started, and the sound became a part of us - everyone brought something to it and we arranged the songs together and recorded it, and we released the album as we felt it should be released. And it was (originally) only supposed to be released in the Faroe Islands, and I wanted to give something (back) because there's so much music there - and I had so much music myself, and I thought it would be fun to record it.
So that was my intention (to have a F.I. only release); but then it got covered by people (outside of the Faroe Islands) and other people liked it, and it went on beyond what I expected. So that's how it started and how it became what it is now.
And if you could tell us about the name behind the album, Haphe - it means "touch" I understand? And how that word or idea fits into the sound of the album.
Music to me is very emotional and I always use music for escaping, and entering feelings of happy or sad. So when I listen to music I often get touched. And I think my songs are very emotional too even though they can be understood in different ways.
I read this word when I studied medicine - haphephobia - and saw it in one of the medicine books from a Doctor, and it means "fear of touch". I liked the word haphe and I thought if fear of touch is haphephobia, then haphe (and our album) would be the opposite; so trying to reach out and to touch someone, or at least create a reaction. So to make people feel something - not deciding what they should feel, but trying to create some sparks.
So I brought it up in a band rehearsal and said "I have this word!" and they were all "yes, this sounds cool". I think our album is a universe for me (and for us), as it was created together with our friend who mixed and recorded it, and another friend created all the artwork surrounding everything.
So thought it would be cool to have a word that connected all of us and the music.
So you play the saxophone on the album and other instruments as well? Could you tell us a bit about your musical background, and what you learnt growing up and all of that.
Well, I come from a musical family in the Faroe Islands. My grandmother was a drummer and a singer, my grandfather was one of the first popstars there; there's a long line of musicians. So there was always music around in my home, a lot of instruments, a lot of guitars, pianos, drums (my father's a drummer too). I don't remember the first time I was on stage - that's how young I was when I first started - so it's always felt quite natural to perform and never really been afraid of performing, which is good I guess! I've never had a chance to be scared of it as I've always done it.
Then I started playing saxophone when I was young because my mother loved the saxophone, and I've always been singing without really taking classes, as I just love singing. I grew up listening to a lot of jazz; Billie Holiday and Ray Charles were my heroes. At high school I played some piano and guitar, and started writing songs. Then I went to Sweden to study music for two years - a jazz vocal line at a jazz school. So that's where I had the most intense musical training, with classes everyday alongside really talented students and teachers.
So that's my journey I guess, and I've never really paid too much attention to all the rules and to do what you're "supposed" to do, I've always done what felt good. And as long as I was singing and using my voice, I thought it would be okay. That's sort of my way of doing things.
You just touched upon it a little now, what with your family's rich musical background and talent; for such a small country, the Faroe Islands seems to produce a lot of great and creative music. I guess my question is, how, and why?
Well, that's a really good question. It's pretty amazing - I think there's different factors involved, maybe we have more musicality as there's a small pool of genes or something. But I think it's mostly the fact that we are using the music in our everyday, and we're always singing in schools and gatherings, and people are always singing at parties, on holidays and national days, with many choirs. There's just music all around - almost all my friends went to music school and learnt some instrument, just as everyone does that.
Then there are a lot of bands, and in the bands of course you always need guitar players or bass players; and as there's not so many people on the Island, they sometimes recruit their friends that don't play and teach them how to play, so more people are always coming into music. In the scene older musicians that are more established often help out the younger ones that have potential, and help find spaces.
For example, when I was 12 I started playing saxophone and after six months I got into the big band where most were 18 and over, as they saw that I could perhaps be good. I went into that bad not being able to do anything, but after half a year I was able to play with them. So I guess there's a big part played in in helping each other, and everyone knows each other.
The Iceland community is somewhat similar in a way. For a country that has just 300,000 people it produces an amazing amount of quite diverse music. If you are a specialist in your field - for example if you play the double bass, there's not a big pool of talent in so you end up playing in other bands as there's simply not that many double-bassists on the island. Which helps to form a proper community, somewhat the opposite to London for example.
Yes, that's why people play so many groups. For example our drummer who is really good, and is playing in all the bands on the Faroe Islands right now, so he also gets so much better from playing in all these bands; so he could play black metal, gospel music, just everything. We have to be open-minded because we are so few.
That's a really beautiful way of putting it.
Is there any act on the Faroe Islands you're enjoying right now? I'm really into Eivør at the moment.
I'm actually going on tour with her in May - I'll be coming to England and be the supporting act..
At St Pancras Old Church!
Yes, it will be me and not the band. Eivør are really cool; like I was talking about earlier with everyone helping each other, it's the same with Eivør. With her being more established she's been helping us and me, and I really love her songs and her music. I respect people that really know their instruments; and she really does. She's an amazing singer and her music is really good.
I've always loved Teitur - he's a singer-songwriter who is really cool. There's this guy called Heiðrik á Heygum - I'm living in Iceland right now for studies, and he's living there too and he's going back to a jazzier sound side of things but making it more up to date (also a singer-songwriter)
My next question was going to be based on Copenhagen, as I assumed you were living there but obviously not it sounds like..
Yes, I was living there for five years, and will be moving back there in a couple of weeks as it goes. So I studied medicine in Iceland - clinical studies and stayed in Iceland as felt like learning the language, so that's why I did it. Now I understand Icelandic but I'm not really comfortable talking in Icelandic but I'm getting there! It's similar to Faroese and that's why it's a bit easier - it's sort of like Danish and Norwegian.
Faroese sounds almost like a hybrid of those two languages?
Faroese is sort of in-between Icelandic, Danish and Norwegian I would say, so it's all connected.
So going back to Copenhagen, do you have three particular things to do there that you'd recommend?
Well I'd definitely recommend Byhaven, which means "city garden". It's a small place in the back of a venue called Pumpehuset where they have summer concerts on Wednesday to Sunday everyday, often upcoming bands. Everything's free and they have some cheap beer, and if the weather's good it's a great place to be - you can just go in and sit and it's really nice.
If you like flea markets there's a really cool one called Rita Blå's Lopper, and it's amazing and large, with often a lot of great music, DJs, beer, and coffee. It's normally once or twice a month.
Of course there's Papiroen (Paper Island) - I think there's a lot of tourists going there already as it's a really nice place. It's both indoors and outdoors and has street food on an island that's across from the amazing theatre, so it's a pretty cool place and has sun chairs outside - again it also has DJs and beer, and of course really great street food.
You can visit Konni Kass by heading over to Facebook.