Icelandic musician Jófríður Ákadóttir, also known as JDFR's newest EP Dream On is an enthralling experience full of soft pianos, strings, and hypnotising vocals. A meditation on her latest album release New Dreams, most of the tracks have been reworked, discovering new patterns, structures, and emotion in the songs, as well as some brand new tracks. There is a wispier, ethereal quality to the EP as it brings out a sense of spaciousness that allows the listener to be thoughtful and alive through the openness of the music.
You have been making albums since you were just 15 years old, can you tell us a bit about your relationship with music throughout your life and how it has evolved?
I had a fairly classical background soundtrack to my life, as my parents were studying classical music when I was growing up and my twin sister and I both went to music school for seemingly an eternity. My sister hammering sonatas on the piano through the walls still haunts my memory.
I started writing songs on the guitar when I was 11 and my parents gave me an electric guitar for Christmas. I had asked for it and wanted to start a band with my sister and our cousin, which didn’t exactly happen but I scribbled many a song in my bedroom until one day the band became a reality.
When we became teenagers, our father would sometimes take us to performances he did around Reykjavik, both in the avant-garde scene and at clubs and venues, which had a huge impact on me as a young teen and brought the music world and scene very close to me.
You spent some time working in groups such as Pascal Pinon and Gangly, how does the making of music as a solo artist change your methods?
I wouldn’t have had the guts to do anything solo if it wasn’t for the bands I was in. That’s where I learned by doing; how to work, play, perform, travel, communicate and, as well as how to fail and succeed and make mistakes and fuck up and everything in between.
To me, working as a solo artist means having more control over things but also more responsibility, and sometimes I miss the old band days when it was a joint effort and the weight of the world didn’t sit on my shoulders.
Your new EP Dream On is absolutely beautiful, and it is obviously closely intertwined with your most recent album, what are the ideas behind this EP and the way it ties with New Dreams?
Dream On is completely intertwined with New Dreams. It’s the homage that nobody asked for. When Covid happened I had a lot of time to reflect and I felt bad that I tour and present and celebrate that album. I put a lot of effort into New dreams, and the whole endeavour suddenly felt like a sort of anti-climax. So my idea was to do that – obviously not tour – but to present and celebrate.
When I was a teenager I would often go to the library and listen to Björk albums, b-sides and remixes, live albums, anything I could get my hands on. I grew to love alternative versions of songs and feeling closer to the artist and closer to the process. That’s a big part of what I’m trying to offer with this EP.
Jfdr Metalmagazine 6.jpg
I really want to talk about the four tracks that you have reworked from that album on this EP – Drifter, Taking a Part of Me, Care for You and Think Too Fast. You’ve captured different feelings and sounds by creating these ethereal and free-flowing versions of the songs that open them up even more, did you always have a number of versions from the beginning or was this a meditation after New Dreams?
All the reworks, apart from Taking a part of me, are recent meditations on the songs. Taking a part of me is the original demo which was a lullaby in a different time signature. I left it pretty much untouched from when it was written almost 3 years ago.
The others are closer to live versions, they are stripped back and raw. The Drifter remake was made in March for the release concert in Iceland that never happened. We made that version in the days before I left for Australia and so that always stayed with me as a hidden gem.
The sense of enchantment comes through on the new tracks you have released on here too, were they written around the time of New Dreams or did you find yourself writing new material as you began to be inspired by the songs you were reworking?
They were all written ages ago and were lying around in the massive work folder from the New Dreams workdays. They were songs I had struggled to complete and coming back to them felt like closing a chapter of my life that I had left open-ended.
One of the most amazing things I noticed, on a personal level, was how different I had become since I was the last working on those songs. I felt more confident in my production decisions and I was able to enjoy the process, where I had last been struggling. Finishing the songs was a beautiful and cathartic ritual.
Drifter also has a video, which is directed by Emily Avila, and it was filmed in the house she grew up in. That closeness really comes through and compliments the sense of intimacy in the song too, are music videos that chance for you to expand the space created in the song to a more visual level, and to work collaboratively with someone who has been inspired by the music?
Drifter was actually filmed in the house where my husband Josh grew up and where I’ve been living since March 2020.
Emily Avila, the director, had the idea of working with the house as if it were a character in the story. At the same time, I had been researching both old Icelandic witchcraft and tarot symbolism, which came to me in a dream just days before shooting. We tied those elements together, along with my grandmother’s wedding dress that she sent me when I told her I was getting married and a few other details from life in the past few months.
The house is an old Queenslander house which is culturally very significant for the area that we are in. To have presented something personal for me and this chapter of my life is very meaningful and beautiful to me.
The songs on this EP feel very meditative, grounded in real emotion and melody, and yet there is this element of mystery there too. You aren’t afraid to leave spaces in the music and allow us to use our imagination. How would you describe the sounds and melodies on this project, and is that sense of mystery a key element to that sound?
I have always been a minimalist and in my practice, I try to work with few elements but strong ones rather than a lot of little ones. I also like the anti-space and the nothingness to contrast the important moments.
I have been doing a lot of scoring lately and writing instrumental music and I’ve been very attracted to that process, allowing the music to flow and allow it to have long instrumental sections so I also played with that, in particular in Drifter and Givers Takers.
The last track on here, Good Time, is so bittersweet. Your lyrics are expressing this sense of longing and belonging, of something coming to an end and having to become something new. Having that vulnerability and openness toward those feelings is so touching for listeners as often music is our sanctuary to express and feel deeply, has music always been that place of comfort for you, where you can channel the stories you want to tell?
Good Time was written in a state of absolute urgency. I remember so vividly the desperate need to write that song and it just vomited itself out of me, if that makes any sense at all. It’s in these moments, where you are guided by the song, completely immersed in the feeling and the urgency, that magic happens.
The flowing, organic nature of the sounds and words are captured nicely in the artwork for Dream On, could you tell us a little bit about the story behind that piece?
I was doing a lot of drawings with my eyes closed and I sent a few of those to artist and designer David Stith. He drew upon that idea and the result is the cover, raw and flowing, intuitively with eyes closed.
Lastly, as someone who has made so much wonderful music and is only getting started, what is the next chapter like for you?
I’ve just gotten back to Iceland from Australia where I’m currently enjoying the cold breeze, nostalgic feelings, grey clouds covering the skies and naked trees shivering in the wind outside my window.
I am deeply excited to start working on the next album, trying to capture everything that I’ve experienced, dreamt, thought of and forgotten in this long interim.
Jfdr Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Jfdr Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Jfdr Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Jfdr Metalmagazine 1.jpg
Jfdr Metalmagazine 5.jpg