We met pop / electronica artist IIRIS at this year’s Reeperbahn Festival Hamburg. After the release of her debut album. The Magic Gift Box, which was released back in March, we held the opinion that this young woman from Estonia could be one of the next big things. But what about our assumption? We wanted to cheeck this out, so we met her and talked about her music, her influences, escaping to other worlds, the Estonian culture and a lot more things. One thing is for sure: if IIRIS won’t make it big, no one of today’s pop artists will. We are already now looking forward to meeting her again and hearing much more from her in the future!
Hello IIRIS, thanks for taking some time for the interview here at the Reeperbahn Festival. Since you are from Estonia, a country which is quite upcoming these days, can you tell us what is special about this country and it’s music scene?
Well, I don’t know – we are pretty connected to the world. We have lots of wi-fi everywhere. (laughs)
In Estonia and Finland you made it pretty big but by now there is still so few press about you over here in Germany – when will you start off here?
The album, The Magic Gift Box, came out in March on EMI Finland and we were focussing on this release first. Now we are concentrating on other countries, too.
Since you are pretty new to our readers, what can you tell us about IIRIS? Who is IIRIS?
Jesus Christ! I should have prepared – who is IIRIS? (laughs) Everything I do is IIRIS – also what I do with the band. And the producer who also co-wrote all the songs is a real unnoticed jewel of Estonia. We like to do music (laughs) and escape into different worlds that I like a lot. My music is a beast of pop music with a body of pop music, feathers of alternative and legs of electro. I don’t come from the rock or metal scene, but my producer does. I wouldn’t describe my music as standard pop usic, I just like to keep things interesting. I am very happy with the record because I find that – for my self at least – we have managed to make every song very special…and interesting.
The atmosphere of your music is very dark, but still very hopeful. Very dark music which turns out to be hopeful at the end.
Wow that’s cool and good to hear. There are not many people who notice such things. It kind of is that way. I like dark things even if I’m not that dark myself. I’m not into topics of death or something like that, but I’m really drawn to some kind of darkness. I’m really drawn to theater and melodrama and that special kind of darkness that appears when you turn off the lights on stage. When everything goes black there is this chaos in some ways, this black darkness that is so full of potential for everything. I like that.
And what are your lyrics about? What inspires you when you write the lyrics to your songs?
Actually for this album it was kind of translating of some things that were happening in my life. I translated them into the world that was more like the world I am living in. Just to make things more interesting for myself and not to tell everything really bluntly. I guess I was also kind of scared, because telling things really bluntly is a scary thing in music. In some ways I find that so many songs have been already doing that – like saying things that everyone feels at some points any time. There are so many songs like that right now, so tried to find something that would turn it into something that I would like to listen to. It’s not about to catch everyone at the first time.
That’s what I feel about “The Magic Gift Box“, too. Because everytime when listening to it there is something new that can be found on the record. It just never gets boring.
Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaah, (laughs) That was our goal.
You get pretty often compared to acts like BJÖRK or KATE BUSH.
Actually I wasn’t that famiar with KATE BUSH until people said that I remind them of her. And then I searched for her and thought “wow KATE BUSH is quite nice.” (laughs) But BJÖRK has always been someone who I like very much. I listen to her music sine I am fourteen or so.
I saw her at this year’s Flow Festival Helsinki.
How was she?
(Suddenly the interview turned and IIRIS was interviewing me about the BJÖRK show at Flow Festival Helsinki. After talking about her show and the things we both like about her: her happiness, her honesty and that we both think that BJÖRK always does only one thing: no matterwhat others think, she does just what she likes.)
I guess that’s the most inspiring about her, that she always does what she likes. She is special and so wise – she is like a 5 year old girl and like a 80 year old woman at the same time. I find that very inspiring. And yes, I found out that real great artists can’t be fake, because it doesn’t touch anyone if it is fake or if it is coming from the wrong motivation and for the wrong reasons. To be a better musician you have to be a better and wiser person. It’s always about authenticity.
Besides BJÖRK, who are other inspiring persons to you?
I have so much inspirations. I really like animes for example. One thing I really like about art is, as long it is really concentrated, is that you always can find something new in it. You can watch it like thousand times and you still find out “woooow she did this and I know now why she did this” (laughs) And I also like when it takes you to a different world. But still I think that different worlds are always translation of something that every person is feeling. But it makes things more exciting and interesting. Ah and yeah…lately I have been very much into BOB DYLAN, because my boyfriend is. (laughs) He has introduced me into his lyrics. To be honest I don’t really like the way he plays the guitar and I also don’t really like his music, but I really love his lyrics. And he is able to do a christmas album, an 80s album or a gossip album – he always does what he wants. I guess that’s the best when people just do what they want to do and are not stopped by any fear or somethinng like that.
As you said christmas which is a christian tradition, is Estonia a very christian country?
No, actually Estonia is one of the most pagan countries ever. (laughs) Like about 60% of the people don’t believe in god or something like that. That percentage might be even a bit bigger.
But where does this come from culturally?
I think that it has become like that through all the time, because Estonia has been violated for so many reasons from so many places. Geographically Estonia is in a really “bad” position, because we are quite between the borders. There has been the east, the west and the north which are all culturally quite different. Like the center point of Scandinavia, Russia and central Europa. And Estonia although is so small and you might think that a country like this with a territory like this might be so irrelevant internationally – in a bigger picture. But when you go back hundreds of years there have been the German interests, the Scandinavian, Danish, Swedish and Russian interests. All of these countries have kind of pushed their religion on Estonia.
Would you say that Estonia has culturally become a mix of all these influences?
Genetically I guess so. (laughs) Estonians have taken bits and pieces from different cultures, because when you think for example of Estonian design, music, culture or people in general, then we have certain elements from different positions. Like being concrete like Germans, but on the other hand there is some kind of Scandinavian lightness. Also our language is quite close to Finnish.
As you said you are geographically some kind of between different worlds. So if you had to decide, where would you go?
I have no prejudices against anyone. I like all people. (laughs)
What about your live shows? What makes them special?
I kind of try to bring a little bit of my own every time. We got like glowing balls for example. But not today unfortunately. The place is too small so we can’t play an electro set, so we do an acoustic set.
And how do you connect with the audience at your shows?
Ehm, I just really like good vibes. I really like sharing good vibes and good mood.
Ok last question. One we ask every artist we talk to: what do “hope” and “passion” mean to you?
Hope and passion is everything you can dwell on and live on. I don’t knkow what else there is to live on. If there is no hope and no passion then you are just – dead. For me everything I am and also what I do as IIRIS presents hope and passion.