Neon Lights 2016

Neon Lights headliners Sigur Ros as a trio can still pull off live performances of their densely layered music

Sigur Ros may be down by one member, but their music will not sound any less majestic, promises bass player Georg Holm

Icelandic band Sigur Ros made their name through the epic, atmospheric soundscapes found in their frequently long songs that cross the 13-minute mark.

Their music is also densely layered with a wide range of instruments, which means live shows are often bolstered with additional musicians on stage.

So it was a little surprising to find out that, after multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson left the band in 2013, the remaining members decided to stay as a trio instead of finding a replacement.

It is this lean, three-piece line-up, sans any sessionists, that will perform as headliners on the second night of music and arts festival Neon Lights on Nov 27.

But make no mistake, having fewer musicians does not make their live sound any less majestic, says bass player Georg Holm, 40.

The other band members are singer/guitarist Jonsi Birgisson, 41, and drummer Orri Pall Dyrason, 39.

"Before we started the tour earlier this year, we wanted to do everything different. We completely redesigned everything," he says of their current live set-up. "It's definitely equally spectacular, if not better, now."

After Sveinsson left, he, Birgisson and Dyrason sat down to figure out how to re-create their music in a live setting.

"It was an interesting puzzle," he says.

"When we write the songs, it's just three of us, or four of us when Kjartan was in the band. And when we record, we add layers and layers.

"But we realise that if we just play the songs as they were written, they sound just as good, they're not really missing any elements."

He jokes that it made the band wonder why they ever had to hire so many extra musicians in the past when they could play everything themselves.

The band's Neon Lights set will be their second in Singapore. They played their maiden show here at the same venue, Fort Canning Park, back in 2012 .

"We didn't really know what to expect from the audience since we've never been there before, but it was such a nice surprise," he says of the sold-out crowd.

Their upcoming show will feature new songs that the band have written for their next album, which he reckons is due next year.

"I would say the new songs are quite different from what we've done before. We always like to reinvent, we don't like doing the same things over and over again."

Some of the new songs sound "quite scary" compared to their past works, he adds, alluding to the darker nature of their new songs.

Formed in Reykjavik in 1994, the band are named after Birgisson's sister. Their brand of experimental rock, which mixes elements of classical and minimalist music, have consistently been praised by critics.

Despite singing in Icelandic as well as a made-up language dubbed "Hopelandic", the band's seven album releases have earned them an avid global fanbase.

Iceland's spectacular landscape, marked by its sprawling glaciers and volcanoes, probably played a big part in how their music turned out, says Holm.

"No matter where you live, your surroundings must affect what you create as a musician. I think that if we were not from Iceland, we would probably not make music like we make it."

The moody and atmospheric nature of their music has been used to soundtrack many moving visuals, from Hollywood films such as Vanilla Sky (2001) to television series such as Heroes (2006).

For Holm, their most unforgettable soundtrack work was for the fourth season of popular television series Game Of Thrones aired in 2014. The band members are huge fans of the show, he says, so they were pleasantly surprised when they found out that the producers, cast and crew were also Sigur Ros fans.

Not only did the band perform a signature song of the series, The Rains Of Castamere, they also had cameos as the wedding band in a pivotal marriage scene between two main characters, the villainous King Joffrey and his betrothed Margaery Tyrell.

"The actor who plays Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), he's the biggest surprise. When you meet someone who plays such a horrible character, you expect him to be nasty in real life too, but he's such a nice guy, really friendly."

The band also have another brief, but memorable, cameo in another globally popular television show - long-running animated series The Simpsons.

The 2013 episode set in Iceland, featured not just their music, but also animated versions of the band members.

"The funny thing was when we were finished with Game Of Thrones, we thought "Wow that was great!" because we're all huge fans of the show. We were just joking around oh, the only thing that's left now was to be in The Simpsons or something."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2016, with the headline 'Heat is on for Icelandic trio'. Print Edition | Subscribe