Icelandic singer Bjartmar Þórðarson is surprising fans with the new direction of his latest music. He’s just released the music video for “Hollow,” the first single of his upcoming EP called Deliria.
Although Bjartmar may be more well-known for his pop-influenced songs, “Hollow” marks a shift to a darker and more retrospective sound. But aside from this new direction, the music video for “Hollow,” directed by comedian and filmmaker Jonathan Duffy, is also something special.
Bjartmar Þórðarson: “The concept for the video is quite exciting because Jonathan Duffy made me learn the song backwards. I sort of half lip-synced the song backward in the video, and then the footage will be reversed to look like it’s being sung forwards. It contains quite a lot of lyrics, so it took me to a very long time to learn the whole thing backwards.”
How did you go about learning the song backwards?
BÞ: “To begin with I just turned the song around in a program. At that point I couldn’t even read the lyrics backwards and make sense of it. And even when you listen to it backward it sounds like a very strange mixture of Arabic and Welsh. It just sounds like nothing else.”
What effect does this have on the mood of the video?
BÞ: “It has an eery feel to it, almost like I’m thinking it in another dimension. And because the background is very dark and the music is very retro, the effects used on the footage are also very retro. The other theme in the video is stuff being broken. So I’m in this different dimension, and then there’s footage of destruction happening.”
“The concept for the video is quite exciting because Jonathan Duffy made me learn the song backwards … It contains quite a lot of lyrics, so it took me to a very long time to learn the whole thing.”
How did you begin working with Jonathan Duffy?
BÞ: “I met Jonathan through a mutual friend, and I had seen some of his work. I told him I’d really like to work with him and he agreed. He came up with the idea. It’s all his concept. I really wanted him to have a free card to play with his idea and I think it turned out really, really nicely. He’s very talented.”
To get a better idea of the concept, I asked Jonathan to describe the video.
Jonathan Duffy: “It’s a bit arty, it’s a bit dark. It’s got sort of a lo-fi theme running through it as well. Basically, interspersed between shots of Bjartmar singing the song we see items that are hollow being destroyed. But when you do watch it, he’s actually doing it backwards. So the way we recorded it is I made him learn the song backwards, and then he had to mouth the words and then we reversed it.”
What was the experience like of working with Bjartmar on this video?
JD: “When I heard the song I was really excited about it, because of the music videos I’ve been able to make in the past here in Iceland, this particular one has been so different. I’ve done two videos for Páll Óskar and one for Hera Björk, and they’re all kind of fun and high energy. I was excited about the opportunity to play with something new but also show people that I’m more than glitter and unicorns. I can do that, but I can also do other things.”
What drew you to this song in particular?
JD: “I really love the message of the song. What I took from it is that it’s about when you’re at a moment in your life when somebody loves you but you just can’t give yourself to them because you’re hollow inside. And I think so many of us have experienced that before. So when I started thinking about this concept of being hollow and self-destructiveness, it made sense to see hollow elements being destroyed. And then there was just something in the sound of the music that it made me think of things in reverse. So that’s how we came up with this concept.”
There will be four songs on Bjartmar’s upcoming EP, Deliria. How does “Hollow” fit within the rest of the songs on Deliria?
BÞ: “The whole EP has quite a dark and filmic type of sound to it. So this theme of destruction fits into it very well because, in a way, this song is about self-destruction and putting up walls and missing out on life and love and being the best you can be.”
“When I heard the song I was really excited about it … I was excited about the opportunity to show people that I’m more than glitter and unicorns. I can do that, but I can also do other things.”
What’s different about this new music compared with music you’ve made in the past?
BÞ: “I come from quite a big theatre background. I’ve also done a few songs with producers and writers, but as a vocalist. And I’ve been a co-writer on a few, but I’ve never actually been able to explore my style. But this is very much my style because I wrote everything myself, both lyrics and music. It’s great to be completely in charge of your own artistic process.”
What has the response been like to your new music so far?
BÞ: “The response has been, so far: ‘Okay, I didn’t expect that.’ So people seem to be really surprised with the change in direction, but hopefully pleasantly surprised. But I’ve gotten very good feedback from the few people who have listened to the whole EP.”
Bjartmar says he anticipates Deliria will be released soon. For now, you can check out the music video for the EP’s first single, “Hollow.”