Being a full-time touring band is much harder work than Mùm ever could have imagined. The Icelandic foursome--
Örvar Póreyjarson Smàrason, Gunnar Örn Tynes, and twin sisters Gyda and Kristín Anna Valtysdóttir--embarked on their first U.S. trip in support of their sophomore full-length, Finally We Are No One, just a week ago. When I call for an interview at my appointed time, the tour manager is both apologetic and protective. "I don't think now's the best time," he says. "The kids are all asleep, passed out in the back." It is 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon.
Twenty-four hours later, the same tour manager is attempting to coax one of the members of Mùm to the phone. "Gunni. Oh, Gunni bunny" he coos, in the sort of melodic singsong one might use on a very small child. After a surreal interlude of giggles and nonsensical noises, a sleepy-sounding
Gunnar answers the phone. When I ask where they are, he mumbles, "I am driving near Rocky Mount, North Carolina and Richmond and Williamsburg and Norfolk and... " He pauses. "I don't know where we are."
Particularly after listening to Finally, it is difficult to imagine a band like Mùm dealing with the rigors of life on the road. Finally is a delicate album, awash in little-girl vocals, downy cellos, violins, and soft electronics that flicker like blinking eyes. There is a childlike aura of wonder that surrounds everything. One gets the feeling that sending this band out on tour is a little like asking Sesame Street's Elmo to join the cast of Sex and the City: They're simply too wide-eyed innocent to take it all in.
"We are all just kids," Gunnar says. "It's maybe something connected to simplicity. We're simple people. We don't discuss how we want to sound or how we want to look. If it's something you sense [in the music], it's something that comes from us."
They may preach simplicity, but much of Mùm's music is written and recorded using the concepts of boundless imagination and unfettered creativity: Everything is possible, and everything is a good idea. Even the processes the band uses to record are unconventional--Finally was produced and finalized in a remote lighthouse off the coast of Iceland. The band's equipment had to be flown in via helicopter, and they followed in a tiny boat.
Mùm have also played several concerts that were broadcast into a swimming pool through an underwater speaker. Listeners were free to swim or float, but could only hear the music while submerged. In short, they had to be simultaneously isolated and engaged to fully participate in the experience. Two tracks on Finally, "Sleep/Swim" and "Faraway Swimming Pool," were even written to sound most complete in an underwater environment.
Mùm's outpouring of creativity begs the question of whether an unconventional tour--perhaps underwater--might be better suited to the band's sensibilities than the drudgery of nightclubs, promo spots, and long hauls in the early morning. "We've been trying to hook up some underwater speakers and do an underwater tour in swimming pools, but I don't think it's possible because of security rules," Gunnar replies. "We're thinking about doing it in the sea."