GayIceland catches up with singer songwriter, Vasi about her fascination with the Icelandic landscape, playing music from a young age and her upcoming performance tonight at Pink Iceland’s Queer Fridays / Pop-Up Hygge and this year’s Airwaves festival.
Vasi grew up in a Russian/American family and traveled between the states and the Urals, where her mother is from, giving her a unique perspective on life that she carries through into her music.“I grew up going back and forth a lot between San Diego and Russia, which I think provided me with a beautiful perspective regarding how people live outside of western society, often times with very little,” she says. “I started playing piano when I was 6 or 7, which is pretty typical for children with a Russian parent, and then I started studying vocal technique with an incredible teacher named Peggy Lebo. I actually still accredit her to much of my vocal ability, because she was so vital to my training process.”
Vasi’s musical journey, mimics her physical one between America and Russia and eventually on to Iceland where she now lives and performers her music. Talking about her early performances and trying to make a name for herself in a highly competitive scene, she says: “I started with performing a bit in LA, but I decided to move over to Reykjavik a couple of years ago. I think the art scene here is just much more welcoming and open compared with a big, competitive place like LA.”
“When I was 10 or 11 I started getting kind of obsessed with Iceland, I’m not completely sure why, but I think it was around the time that Eyjafjallajökull erupted and was all over the headlines.”
But ‘making it’ in music wasn’t Vasi’s only reason for moving to Iceland, as a child she admired Icelandic performers, wrote to Icelandic pen pals and developed a fascination with its bleak natural beauty. “When I was 10 or 11 I started getting kind of obsessed with Iceland, I’m not completely sure why, but I think it was around the time that Eyjafjallajökull erupted and was all over the headlines. I had a few Icelandic pen pals and adored Icelandic artists like Björk and Sigur Rós. It all just really fascinated me. Finally, the opportunity appeared to visit Iceland. When I left, I immediately got the feeling of wanting to go back, so I packed up my stuff, bought a plane ticket on a credit card, and a couple of months later I made the move to Reykjavik with around $200 in my pocket and 2 suitcases. These are the type of moments when I very much agree that sometimes you have to take big risks in life, especially if they feel right on an intuitive level.”
Now where she wants to be and making roads into Iceland’s music scene, Vasi has released a new single entitled ‘HOUSE’ and accompanying video. The song focuses on the themes of home as something within yourself, not defined as four walls and a ceiling or even a physical place – which seems to fit in very well with this young traveller’s story of a life lived between countries and continents.
“‘HOUSE’ is a song written during my early days in Iceland. It was a confusing time for me, and I was far away from everything I had ever known. It was isolating in so many ways but reflective at the same time and I learned to rely on myself and on what’s within for support. ‘HOUSE’ is about the fact no matter where you go to, you take yourself with you … You can create your own home, because a true home is not based off of a physical location, rather the interpretation of this sacred space you create for yourself. That’s why the lyrics are ‘But that house just isn’t home, cause our home is somewhere else, somewhere that we lift ourselves, a life that makes us feel so whole, a life that wraps us up in warmth’”.
In the video for ‘HOUSE’ the stark and rugged beauty of Iceland’s natural landscape takes center stage, and it is clear that Vasi has been inspired by it. “It is so harsh and stark out in Icelandic nature, yet hauntingly beautiful. I’d say a lot of my lyrics mimic this style, because they’re a bit dark and emotional, but at the same time they always present a thoughtful meaning and usually try to bring up an emotion or question that has been lingering in my mind for a while. There are so many geological processes going on under the Earth that we have no idea about, and just considering this really makes you think. Much like my music, Icelandic nature is not always what it seems.”
Whilst ‘HOUSE’ pays homage to Iceland’s rugged beauty and natural cycles, Vasi’s costumes in the video are floaty and ethereal, and create a beautiful contrast on film.
“We had about 6 different locations planned during the shoot, each one with a different makeup/hair concept and also costume. This was on purpose, because the only thing consistent in each shot was that I was featured in it. Michael Thor Paoli was the stylist on the project. He physically sewed each costume on me before the shot, and at the start it was all just carefully selected pieces of fabrics that he prepared in advance. I wore a corset on that day, and the fabrics were then wrapped and draped around this structured base, but these pieces were a once in a lifetime chance, because after the scene was done, they were deconstructed and just became fabric again.
I felt like this process represents life and death quite brilliantly.”
Vasi will be playing tonight at Pink Icelands’s Queer Fridays / Pop-Up Hygge and at the Iceland Airwaves festival in November, and feels ‘honoured and excited’ to be invited to perform. When asked what audiences could expect from her performance she says: “I like to think of my music as lyric heavy, and hopefully the audience can sense the poetic nature of the songs and interpret the lyrics for themselves. The themes are a lot about usual human emotions, things that most humans can relate to, so I hope that the people listening feel understood if they have been alone in the midst of some internal battle.”
Vasi is currently working on an EP, which is being produced by by Árstíðir frontman, Gunnar Már Jakobsson and Faroese electro producer, SAKARIS.