With the release of their debut album on April 1st, Starwalker are on top of the world. The multi-talented duo, consisting of France’s Jean-Benoit Dunckel (Air / Tomorrow’s World) and Icelandic composer Bardi Johannsson (Bang Gang, Lady & Bird) talk about the challenges of writing an album while apart, and the importance of working together. Read the full interview below and pick up your copy of Starwalker’s self-titled full length now!
Interview by Dom Vigil
You just celebrated the release of your self-titled debut album on April 1st – how does it feel to finally have it out for people to hear?
Bardi Johannsson: It is always a pleasure to share months of work with people. I have to quote James Brown on that, “I feel good.”
JB Dunckel: It’s a pleasure to know that we ‘re in the headphones of someone, somewhere. I like it.
What was the writing and recording process like for the album?
Bardi Johannsson: Since we live in two different countries, we scheduled working sessions. Sometimes a few months passed in between and sometimes a few weeks. It gave us a wide time range to re-evaluate the songs. Some songs came quite readily and others needed more work. We thought it was important to write the songs together in the same room. It makes a collaboration more complete to be together during the writing. We had some coffee and legume sauté also during the recordings.
JB Dunckel: Yes we did some really intense sessions. It was fun and we struggled finishing it because a part of us wanted to go on recording. I also liked recording with Sarah Jones, an incredible drummer.
How did recording together impact the album, rather than recording separately while both of you were living apart?
Bardi Johannsson: We are two humans, and something different happens when you have two humans in a room as opposed to two humans in different countries speaking through computers. JB is also not only an incredible talent but fun to hang out with.
JB Dunckel: I think it’s nice to feel unbalanced during the recording when the other one pushes you in a unexpected situation. Good music is about inspiration. It’s when you really have something to say, and it’s better when someone helps you to do that because he can see how to make it more powerful.
What were you hoping to accomplish with this album? Were there any sounds that you wanted to experiment with or messages that you wanted to get across?
Bardi Johannsson: Discovering and triggering new aspects of creativity. You never get the same outcome when you mix different people in a creative blender. We experimented with a lot of aspects. Some that were re-invented some that were not. We worked a lot with melodies and songs on this album. Also ambience. The next Starwalker album might be a new aspect of us.
JB Dunckel: We wanted to experiment more with beats and melodies. Bardi’s voice is really moving and we worked a lot the vocal melodies. Also we could do chords with our voices with different timbers and it matched well together.
What do you hope listeners will take away from the music?
Bardi Johannsson: Pure joy and emotional connection.
JB Dunckel: They will fly mentally. Life will seem sexier to them, and they will love themselves more.
Both of you have prior experience and projects before Starwalker – do you feel that they have bled over into this project? How do you feel your past experience has affected the way you wrote or how the album sounds?
Bardi Johannsson: I have been doing music only for 18 years now, so I hope I have gained some production and mixing experience, maybe gained more technical experience, I still feel 20 years old when it comes to writing songs, I get the same excitement of writing a new song still. For me writing music is emotional so the experience of songwriting doesn’t change much.
JB Dunckel: Of course all the bands I worked with are in this project. All the musicians I played with are with me forever. I got inside their mind and their thinking. Also I rejected their negativity.
How do you feel you’ve grown with the album? Have you learned anything new about yourselves?
Bardi Johannsson: I have learned how to use new equipment and to find a special and good sound from the beginning rather than “fixing it in the mix”.
JB Dunckel: I discovered a good part of my pop side. Also Bardi taught me to focus more on the melodies more than I used to do before.
Now that the album is out, do you have any big plans for the rest of 2016? Can we expect to see you on the road soon?
Bardi Johannsson: We are already having ideas about the next album. Concerts will come if there is a strong enough demand from the public.
JB Dunckel: Yes we have new ideas. I always think that the second album can be very powerful because this is the one that lets you play live shows. It creates the real repertoire of the band.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Bardi Johannsson: Make love.
JB Dunckel: There’s always a good reason to make love.