A homage to the absurdity and grandeur of classic rock at it's most epic (think The Who's Tommy or Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust) and with with influences including Radiohead, Grizzy Bear, and Sufjan Stevens, the album weaves a tale of love, war, and brotherhood that that all takes place within the microcosm of an oblivious man's elbow. With the added dimension of an off-Broadway theater production of the same starring Tony winner Cady Huffman and former Miss America Kate Shindle, the album's "alternation between elegiac grace, alternative pop current, and Bacharach hints" (The Big Takeover) makes it the perfect metaphor for big things happening in small places. So off we went to chat with Jònsson to discuss his strange yet wonderful concept album.
R. Before we get started, we wanted to let you know that we have been practicing our Icelandic language. Lets first start with "Hallò" (ha-loh), and thank you for taking the time to chat with R360. It's been a while since I've listened to a concept album. My early memories of concept albums go way back when the great iconic legends took music to a whole new level and shifted the entire spectrum of music and sound. What was the motivation behind this album and how did it all come about?
IJ. That's a very respectable attempt at Icelandic! Well, my objective with this record was twofold. I want to tell a story, and I wanted to make the best damn music I was capable of. Something I'd listen to myself. I was lucky enough enough to find Stefan Orn Gunnlaugsson, who then became my producer and helped me in my quest to make to make the album possible.
R. Perhaps the most obvious question would be to ask. Who is Ragnar Agnarsson? What about Furniture Painter? Revolution in the Elbow? please explain? Are you anywhere inside this microcosm fantasy?
IJ. Ragnar Agnarsson is a middle-aged man, rather scruffy and untidy. He is in a way irrelevant to the story. He is absolutely oblivious to the fact that there is a tiny village inside his elbow. His profession, painting, is quite new. In fact, I don't thing it even exists. Revolution tells the story of three brothers, two of whom fall in love with the same woman. one of them leaves town, while the other one gets the girl and invents a Prosperity machine. Things blossom in new-found prosperity, until reality knock son the floor. I myself am not anywhere inside the elbow of Ragnar, but Ragnar lives inside my brain and Elbowville lives inside Ragnar.
R. The first track of the album The Legacy of Elbowville is atmospheric in sound, seductive with industrial undertones and hidden classical notes. I did very much enjoy! Who does the over-all writing/art/literature?(Discuss the songwriting and production process in detail.)
IJ. Thank you! I write the whole thing. I usually come up wit a chord progression and melody, singing some gibberish. If the song is up to my standards, I write a new lyric and re-record. Stefan Orn, my producer, then arranges the song and records it. That's how Legacy was done.
Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter will open as a theatre production in New York's City's West Village in August 2014
R. If you had to categorize your music, what genre would it best fit? (name up to three)
IJ. It's hard for me to put my music in a box, although I understand the need for people to understand what is being talked about, I guess indie rock would be the closet genre, but I like the genre Ìvar Pàll Jònsson.
R. What can people expect to see at your live performance? Are you planning any tours over the summer?
IJ. People can expect an emotive, anthemic and powerful performance. We - The Revolutionary Cellular Orchestra - will be playing a release concert this Tuesday, the 15th of July, at Rockwood Music Hall. There are some other gigs coming up, including one at Joe's Pub on September 14th.
R. Does anyone in particular influence your artistic/musical talent?
IJ. I have lots of influences, I guess the biggest one would be Ludwig van Beethoven. I'm a big Bowie fan, I love Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age, Of Montreal, Frank Black, Wilco and on and on and on.
R. Which is the greatest concept album ever written?
IJ. Tommy by The Who is great. Sgt. Pepper is good and Jesus Christ Superstar also.
Last but not least...
R. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
IJ. That I exist. I don't think many people have heard of me.
Revolution in the Elbow Room of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter is available HERE
Ivar Pall Jonsson