Who Are…Pascal Pinon

Laura Studarus

By Laura Studarus

on 02.26.13 in Who Is...?s

File under: Ethereal folk/pop interwoven with haunting vocal harmonies

For fans of: Sigur Ros, Sin Fang, Fleet Foxes, and Psapp

From: Reykjavik, Iceland

Personae: Twin sisters Jófríður and Ásthildur

When they were 14, Jófríður and Ásthildur started a band for no other reason than it seemed like fun. However, the twin sisters never anticipated Pascal Pinon would be anything more than an enjoyable after-school activity.

“We’re so super shy,” says, Jófríður laughing while recounting the horror of their first concert. “We couldn’t stand, we had to sit down. My feet were shaking tremendously! I could barely speak between songs.”

Now 18 and on the cusp of graduation, the girls’ hobby has taken them further than they could have anticipated. On the strength of their childlike self-titled debut they signed to Morr Music (home to likeminded acts such as Sin Fang, Mum, and Amiina), and caught the attention of Sigur Rós producer, Alex Somers. Pascal Pinon’s second album Twosomeness (produced by Somers) is full-spectrum expansion on their delicate blend of porcelain Icelandic/English vocal harmonies, ghostly found sounds and familial intimacy. There’s still a hint of childlike wonderment, but maturation — as it turns out — can be pretty magical as well.

Before Jófríður left to watch a symphony performance, she told Laura Studarus about Pascal Pinon’s fragile beginnings, surviving the teenage years, and how working with producer made them more themselves.

On their humble beginnings:

When we started, we were 14 years old. We both felt that we didn’t fit with our classmates. We were kind of outsiders. They were just kids who lived in our neighborhood who we had nothing in common with. For that reason, when we started, I thought that they would hate it, that they wouldn’t like it at all. I was very shy. I didn’t want them to see it or hear it at all. But then, we got such positive response from people I had never talked to at all! I felt like people actually respected that we were doing something. Nobody laughed at us, which I thought initially they would do. It was very encouraging. We were so young and everything was so fragile at the time.

On common talking points:

People try to create an image for you because they want to market you. It’s a thing that comes with doing pop music. It’s not necessarily a good thing, but it holds hands. You create something that you are, and is easy for people to recognize. I feel like sometimes it’s necessary for me as well. When I’m listening to a new artist, I see a name and I want to know the backstory. The easiest thing and the most eye-catching thing for us is that we’re twins and we started young. Both of those things are actually true. So I’m not going to be fighting against it. I don’t feel like it’s negative, it’s just facts. It’s okay for me. As long as it’s not fake or pretentious. I feel like you shouldn’t fight against something so normal and natural.

On growing up with your best friend:

We fought all the time! We were like cats and dogs. We disagreed on things; we used to fight physically and with words. At the same time, we were really close. When we were not fighting, we were really happy. Now we’re really tight, actually. It’s really good. I’m really, really happy that I have her. It’s like having your best friend all the time. You don’t have to worry about ever losing them. They’re just going to be there. Sometimes that makes you feel like you can mess around with them too much. But if you don’t do that and have respect for your twin, it can be amazing.

On experiencing their teen dream:

I remember I vowed to myself that I would never have “teenage sickness” where you become very moody and make drama out of everything. I said, “I’m never going to have that thing!” But of course I do, like everyone.

I often would think, “In the future I want to do this and I want to do that.” Now when I think back, I think I’m exactly where I wanted to be. I’m doing all these things I find are incredibly interesting, especially when you’re meeting people that you always thought were so far away. But suddenly they’re close and so normal. Like meeting your idols and realizing that they’re just normal people. It’s something that’s weird to think. Because we’re working with Alex [Somers], we met Jónsi. It was strange. I had listened to Sigur Rós for a long time. I got their CD when I was 12. That’s something that I never would have thought of when I was a kid. But when I look back, it’s something that I always wanted. I’m glad now.

On finding inspiration in the absurd:

If there’s something on my mind, it’s very easy to deal with it by writing about it. I don’t know why I do that, but I feel like a lot of people do. It’s a way to clear it up. If there’s something that’s very complicated to you, just some emotions and stuff, it can be easy to get rid of it or make sense of it by creating. It definitely has helped me, and it has given depth in some of the lyrics. I try to be as honest as possible. Even if I don’t tell all the story — that would be boring — I take the feeling of them and make something around it. Or I exaggerate what is good and interesting. Life is an inspiration — normal things, things that are on your mind, and things that aren’t normal at all. All kinds of stuff.

Sometimes I feel so empty if there’s no drama going on in my life. It’s definitely sadness that makes the best songs, for some reason. It’s interesting, because you don’t want to be sad, but it can help you when you’re trying to be creative. A lot of the songs have some kind of sadness in them. But I also try to blend it with some kind of hope. I try to tweak it and make it a good song.

On working with producer Alex Somers (Sigur Rós, Sin Fang):

Alex has a way of exaggerating all the things about us that are weird. It was so good to work with a producer who doesn’t do all the creative work for you. He has his knowledge on how to do things. He talks to us and makes us create something, and then we get ideas, and he’s good at making them happen. That’s how we worked together. It was brilliant. At first I was so scared of doing it with a producer because we thought we’d lose all our characteristics. But it was totally opposite. He made it much more like us, and put all our characteristics in there.

On maintaining perspective:

I’m not sure if being a pop musician is something that I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s something that is interesting while it’s going on. I know this isn’t going to last forever. I want to get an education and go to University and stuff like that. I have to figure out what’s the best thing. You see these things happen and people are very successful, but after being on tour for 10 years, you come back and there’s no special position you can work at. You’re not building up something if you just want to quit. You have to decide if you want to study something and then go back and create a home and work somewhere, or if you want to build a band and make a lot of money from it. It’s like some kind of business. I don’t know if I’m too interested in that. I have to figure it out. Right now it’s something that’s fun, and we’re really enjoying it. It’s not much pressure at all. As soon as it’s very hectic and something that’s not enjoyable, we’re going to find something different. I don’t know if that’s a weird approach to it or if I should be more dedicated, but we’re really enjoying it. That’s a good thing.