As the frontman for Sigur Rós, Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson sent elated chills down spines with his ethereal falsetto. The Icelander’s voice draws comparisons to aliens, whales and angels. It makes people go mushy. The comments under his albums on iTunes read like religious testimonials. On his first solo tour, promoting the gorgeous new Go, the 34-year-old matches brighter, poppier tunes with a massive multimedia theatrical set. Wearing avant-garde homemade clothes, he rung us up from outside a Portland theater.
In your show, there’s a lot of imagery of animals dying and being reborn. Are death and rebirth important themes for you?
When I was doing the music, I heard a lot of animals lurking in the background—wolves howling, beasts thrashing, birds flapping wings.
It’s a very operatic production. Are you a fan of opera?
No. Not at all, actually. I usually hate opera.
That’s surprising. I would describe your voice as “operatic.”
I’m from the rock world, but I find it a little boring. When we were thinking about what to do for the show, we wanted designers that came from such a different background, theater and opera.
Is that your natural singing voice?
I’ve been singing for a long, long time. I started in bands young. I was always the only one who wanted to sing. One day I started to sing in falsetto, and that kind of stuck because I could control my voice a little bit better.
Were you in punk bands as a teenager?
More like grunge bands.
That’s hard to imagine. Will we ever hear that stuff?
I don’t know. It’s quite embarrassing now!
Who did your costumes?
A friend in Iceland. She only works with recycled clothes, old clothes mixed together. When she was first talking about the concepts, she was thinking something really romantic. And I was like, yeah, maybe I should use this opportunity. I hate shopping for clothes. So I asked for her to design a wardrobe I could wear on a day-to-day basis. She made me four or five outfits for everyday wear.
I was surprised to hear your music in How to Train Your Dragon. It’s not what one would expect in a Hollywood cartoon.
I know. I agree. I was surprised when the director asked me to do it. One of the directors [Dean DeBlois] is a good friend of mine. He directed Heima, the Sigur Rós movie.
That is a stylistic leap. But it kind of explains the Viking theme. Have you noticed more kids becoming fans of your music now?
Uh…no! [Laughs] But I really liked the movie. There’s really good humor in it.
Iceland suffered like few other countries in the recent economic crisis. Were you affected by the collapse?
I was not affected, but I know some people who were affected, who lost a lot of money. I think in the long run it’s going to be good.
People are knitting more and making their own socks. They’ve gone back to basics, spending time with families. Hopefully, it’s going to be good.
Jónsi visits the Vic Tuesday 27.