Grísalappalísa were the first band I saw at Iceland Airwaves 2013. I'd heard and fallen in love with their first record, the seven track 'Ali', and I knew that this was a rare sighting of some former members of the legendary Jakobínarína (seriously, look them up if you don't know them already). The live show, even at the first slot of the night in the large space of the Art Museum was incredible. I very clearly remember watching it and think that this may be the very best show I see all festival, and I think it probably was, and others agree. They also played a brilliant KEX session.
Their career highlight (I assume) followed in December when they achieved a very respectable fourth place in the iceblah record of the year public vote.
So it was pretty exciting when a new single (ABC, below) and album appeared last month (on my birthday, thank you!) and I decided an interview with the band was long overdue. Step forward guitarist (of Grísalappalísa and beyond), Rúnar...
Like all good Icelandic bands, Grísalappalísa contains members from many other bands. Can you quickly tell us who is in the band, and where else we may have spotted you all before please?
Rúnar Örn Marinósson (moi) and Bergur Thomas Anderson, guitarsnapperr and bassknuckle, are also current members of dreamy-haze-gaze pop group Oyama and former members of local treats Sudden Weather Change and Me, the Slumbering Napoleon. Gunnar Ragnarsson and Sigurður Möller Mótorinn Sívertsen, singer/partyboy and drumthumper are former members of Jakobínarína, teenage punkjunk band of FIFA 09 fame. Albert Finnbogason, guitarslinger and musical maestro is also a member of Youtube famous Sóley's live band, eerie droneboner band Heavy Experience, along with our sexy sax-man Tumi Árnason, and former member of the terrifyingly great grindmachine Swords of Chaos. Sax-man Tumi is also a member of ice-dub wonder Ojba Rasta and probably something else that I'm forgetting. Baldur Baldursson, our poet and original prankster, is also the brains behind the mysterious Veirumenn.
It seemed to me that, about a year ago, Grísalappalísa appeared from nowhere. How long had you been working together before those first releases?
I joined Grísalappalísa roughly a year ago. Before that the guys had been making Ali for about a year, not unlike the process of making our new album. We like to do things fast but meticulously.
Your live shows are pretty emotional and intense (and hugely enjoyable), the first show at Airwaves 2014 was very possibly my highlight of the whole festival. Is it fun? and do you know what is going to happen next or is it all spontaneous?
Thank you for the kind words about our show! Yes, it's tons of fun, the most fun I can have. Do you mean the performance itself? It's mostly spontaneous, the only thing that's not is the order of the songs we play and even that often changes during a show. No show is quite the same for us. We have songs that are written in a way that you can morph it into something new every time, it's unique at every show. Some bits and antics we repeat but it's never exactly the same.
Your new album comes quickly after your debut last year. How was the writing and recording process, are you drowning in ideas?
A lot of the new lyrics are leftovers from Ali's banquet but we wrote all the music together. We'd bring individual pieces, riffs, ideas and such to rehearsals and there we put it together like a puzzle. When we started recording we only had like 9 songs ready but we also had extra lyrics so some of the songs are just written on the spot. Now I feel a little dried up but that kind of a period usually doesn't last long. We'll be cooking up something fresh before you know it.
Is the album a logical next step? ( I hope I have that translation right! )
Your translational skills do not fail you. It certainly is a logical step. It's big, refined, rich and catchy. Grown up cheese.
Are you looking forward to playing these new songs live? Are there any plans to play shows outside of Iceland?
We've already played a lot of the songs live but it's always fun. It's fun to see the people who come to our shows shout the new lyrics out, like they want to be with us, not just looking at us. We don't have any global plans as of now but we're touring Iceland in a few weeks, bringing pop for the people!
I'm sure the people are looking forward to it very much. I thoroughly recommend that you all check out Grísalappalísa as soon as possible. You can get ALL OF THEIR MUSIC over here.
I love Prins Póló (or is it PrinsPóló? Read on to find out) so I'm pretty happy that they have just released a wonderful new record called 'Sorrí'. The herd, led by Svavar Eysteinsson, formerly of Rúnk and Skakkamanage, are in fine form as always.
The album includes asome songs that are a little familiar already, such as Tipp Topp (listen below) which has been around for a while plus a load of excellent new songs.
The new album release seemed like a good excuse to have another chat with Svavar...
Your new album is called "Sorrí". Are you sorry? What are you sorry for?
Yes, I think "Ég kem med kremid" is one of the best. But you must understand that these songs were written over more than two years period and many different things and ideas happens in one persons life meanwhile. So each song has a personal feeling and personal life experience grown into it. The main manifesto for this album was to make only A-song, but no B-songs. So I threw away all songs I did not love. Many hated songs were put in the trash can in the process of this album.
I can't wait to catch up with the Herd and go live this summer.
We will hopefully have the opportunity to go abroad and do some minimal touring in the coming winter. We are open for booking.
OK, important stuff. Is it Prins Póló or PrinsPóló?
It used to be Prinspóló - Now we are Prins Póló. Beware of the fakes.
And that's a Polish chocolate bar right? How many of those things do you eat?
My mother in law always brings me one or two when we meet.
Thank you! It was a pleasure!
Pollapönk's Eurovision adventure provided SO MUCH FUN a few weeks ago. They became a social media sensation all around Europe when they got into the final with the very last announcement and then just carried on really, really, really enjoying themselves. It all gave people I know a chance to tell me they had seen some Icelandic music and they liked it. Of course they did!
I'm excited that I got have an email conversation with main man, Heidar Kristjansson, which is below. If you haven't seen Pollapönk perform their (John Grant translated) song "No Prejudice" yet then click below and carry on reading. If you have seen and heard it before, see and hear it again!
I was pretty lucky and excited to get a promo copy of the brand new FM Belfast album recently, it arrived in one of those square parcels with Icelandic postage on it that I so love to receive. This is their third album – if you discount that oddly premature but excellent ‘best of’ that turned up last summer, “The Singles Club”.
It’s a nice problem to have, but FM Belfast’s problem is that they are such a good live band that their records can seem secondary. Sure, they sound good, but what we always really, really want to know is when can we next see them play live! The shows are wonderful, euphoric, insane affairs. I remember them closing Airwaves one year (2009?) in Nasa on the Saturday night, relatively early in their life – they played an incredible set covering Guns n Roses, Technotronic, Snap (and RATM of course) along the way and then ending with an almost naked (and about 20 minute long) version of their anthem, Underwear. Then, at Airwaves 2013 in Harpa they played the best show I’ve ever seen them do – a hall full of people left delighted, grinning, covered in streamers and confetti and wishing they could dance a bit better.
The new album is a very worthy successor to How To Make Friends (2008) and Don’t Want To Sleep (2011). Right now, it’s my favourite of the three. iTunes tells me I’ve heard it 8 times in the last 3 weeks. 3 tracks will already be familiar, DeLorean and We Are Faster Than you appeared in 2012 and 2013 respectively, and then Everything was released about a month ago – all excellent additions to the FM Belfast range. Slightly unexpectedly, my favourite moments of the rest come when they slow down a bit (this only serves as a contract from where they can speed up again of course) on the really wonderful “Ears” and the closer “The End”, which sadly, is not a cover of The Doors.
This is an album to love. You should totally buy it, and then you should seek out a live show.
Brighter Days is released into the wild on April 22nd, you can order a singed pre-order copy here.
In 1987/88 I fell in love with this band called The Sugarcubes, you probably know them. Therefore when my Dad asked 14 year old me where I would like to go on holiday, I said "Iceland please". We went to Iceland and I fell in love with Iceland. You know, the bubbling mud, the elves, the glacial landscapes are all pretty enticing.
It never occurred to me for some reason that maybe there could be other bands.
I got home to London, wrote to a newspaper and asked if they would put in an advert for penfriends for me (it was 1988 remember, stop sniggering). I got a lot of post from Iceland. I stopped writing to most of them, but kept writing to one of them and still do - you can meet her, she serves the best coffee in Reykjavík in IÐA Zimsen. Eventually she started sending cassettes (look it up kids) full of Icelandic music. They were OK.
I didn't go back until 2002 I think. I still wasn't really noticing any kind of widespread musical wonderfulness beyond Bjork and her former chums. Then, Hildur took me to Grand Rokk (bless it's soul, it was a great place) to see this band called Rúnk. It was thrilling, they were wonderful, the night was an insane party that you just don't get in south west suburban London. It sounded better than anything I had heard before (if you are paying attention, you'll have realised that I was by know "of drinking age").
You may not know of Rúnk, but between them the five members have gone onto bands including Múm, Slowblow, Stórsveit Nix Noltes, Skakkamanage, Borko, FM Belfast, Benni Hemm Hemm and Prinspóló. They only made one record, it was called Ghengi Dahls and it's wonderful.
I interviewed Svavar of the band (now of Prinspóló) a couple of years back and of course couldn't resist asking about Rúnk, He seemed to suggest that some kind of a reunion could happen if enough fanta lemon was on offer. It's an in joke, you have to be waaay cool to get it, the sort of cool that had penfriends in the 80s.
Rúnk, in one night, made me an Icelandic music addict. I wanted more of this, and I found more of it, and I haven't stopped finding it since. I haven't missed an Iceland Airwaves since, and the good times have kept coming. It is all their fault and I love them.
And I'd like to see them again, I'll be in touch...
I do love an end of year list. This is the third time we've done a vote here for the best Icelandic record of the year. There were 61 voters this time, so we've lost 3 people from 2013 somewhere along the way. Each voter was allowed to vote for up to 5 albums, each vote gets one point.
Only a handful of the votes came from inside Iceland. Despite that, the four albums at the top are the same (but in a different order) as in the Icelandic newspaper Fréttatíminn.
I've done the sums. 32 different records got some love along the way but up at the top it was a two horse race, with Flowers by Sin Fang and Komdu Til Mín Svarta Systir by Mammút both voted for by over half of all those who responded.
So, after Sóley's We Sink in 2011 and Ghostigital's Division Of Culture & Tourism in 2012 comes the very, very excellent Flowers by Sin Fang in 2013. Congratulations!
Thank you so much if you voted. Here's the top ten...
2. Mammút - Komdu Til Mín Svarta Systir
3. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
4. Grísalappalísa - Ali
6. Ólafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter
7. Snorri Helgason – Autumn Skies
8. Emiliana Torrini - Tookah
10. Bloodgroup - Tracing Echoes
Back in February, just before he played at Sónar Reykjavík, I spoke to Sindri about various things - but mainly about his new album, Flowers, it is worth a revisit...
Under names including Seabear, Sin Fan Bous, Sin Fan and Pojke - Sindri Már Sigfússon has been involved in a lot of very fine music over many years. His latest album as Sin Fang, Flowers, might just be the best of the lot. Always wonderful to watch live, Sin Fang are amongst a brilliant local line-up at Sónar festival in Reykjavík this weekend. I've been wanting to chat to Sindri for a very long time, this seemed like the perfect moment.
Are you excited that a well known global festival like Sónar is coming to Iceland and that you will be playing at it?
Yep! I hope this festival is here to stay in Iceland.
Sónar bills itself as 'cutting edge music' but seems to favour electronic and dance music and DJ sets. Will you be doing anything different with your Sónar set?
No I don't think so. We are playing all new material though.
What else on the line-up are you keen to see?
I would love to see James Blake and Squarepusher.
Am I right to assume that musicians welcome Sonar to Iceland? Do you think there is benefit for the local scene and for tourism?
Yes everyone is excited to have a new festival, also February is kind of a dead time in Iceland so it's great to get an event happening around that time.
Can I get one piece of advice from you for people reading this that may be about to come to Reykjavik for the first time? A favourite bar? A favourite place?
My favourite places to have lunch are the noodle station and the hamburger joint. My buddy has a great bar called Harlem.
Congratulations on your new album 'Flowers', I'm listening to it right now. How was the recording process different from other Sin Fang (Bous) records?
Thanks! It was pretty different for me. It was the first time working with a producer and the process was a bit longer than usual for me. I really enjoyed it and I'm very happy with the way it came out.
Where did the title 'Flowers' come from? You don't need to give people another excuse to decide that all Icelandic music is inspired by nature! Or is it?
The lyrical theme of the album is teenage life and growing up. When you are a teenager there are lots of ups and downs, mood swings etc. Flowers are used for both happy and sad occasions so I thought it was a good name for the theme. So I wouldn't say it's very nature inspired.
Do you have a personal favourite song on the album?
Right now it's the last song on the album, Weird Heart.
I love your version of 'The Only Living Boy In New York', I'm interested to know what is your favourite song to play that you didn't write and which other artist you would most love to hear play on of your songs?
I don't really play very many covers except for when I'm recording a version of my own. I did a cover for the tv show Fraggle Rock the other day that's not out yet. That is my favourite. I would love to hear R.Kelly do "What's wrong with your eyes".
Who wouldn't! Your most recent musical alias is Pojke. When can we expect to hear more from this project?
I don't know. I have a few almost finished songs in the computer but I don't know if I'll finish them.
One final question - I was just listening to Pojke, but those songs ran out so itunes has moved me along the alphabet (backwards) and now I'm hearing Poison. So what's your favourite eighties hair metal track?
I was never so into hair metal. Were The Scorpions hair metal? Can I say Winds Of Change?
It's a fine choice.
Sin Fang will play at Sónar on Saturday at 10pm. There will not be any cover versions, but you should definitely go anyway.
This is the third time I have run this particular piece of fun. Last year, 64 of you lovelies took the time to cast your votes and we managed to get a bit of press attention too.
The search for a worthy successor to Ghostigital (2012) and Sóley (2011) starts here.
The set-up is just as before, each person can vote for up to 5 Icelandic albums, EPs and each will receive one point. I will do some sums and announce a winner just before Christmas.
Votes are very welcome from anybody and from everywhere, all of you can have five votes. The vast majority of votes has always come from outside of Iceland, but don't be shy Icelanders - even if you're a musician voting for yourself!
Last year I listed everything I had acquired during the year with the idea of helping jog some memories, but someone gave me a gentle talking to about influencing voting, so I'm not doing that again (I will later on), but I will instead risk giving you this link to where the great Dr Gunni lists his own 2013 highlights.
So, please get thinking, spread the word and send your votes in to me at markollard at googlemail dot com.
I'm not even going to attempt to better that description which you can find on Grúska Babúska's very fancy website. It does sum the sound up pretty nicely, plus I really like the word wonky.They are a really very endearing group, great sound and a live show well worth seeking out across the next week.
Hello Grúska Babúska, where are you right now and what are you doing?
We are in Reykjavík, and getting back together after a short break this summer after the release of our debut usb-babuscka-doll-album and our London tour. Our singer just had her first baby girl and our flute player just moved back from Belgium, so we are finally reunited and with a new born possible fifth member joining our every rehearsal and gig now, which is very sweet!
For non Icelandic-speakers, what does your name mean please, why did you choose it?
The word Babúska is a term we use here in Iceland for the Russian Dolls that come apart and reveal something magical/fairytale-like inside them. Grúska then means to search and seek until you discover. We thought it was very describing for what we were doing, as we all come from different social and musical backgrounds and bring and reveal something new and magical and we all like to "grúska" in different music - mix and match and have fun whilst doing it. The name and the whole consept of Grúska Babúska and the music all fits, maybe entirely by accident, maybe not ;)
Your sound is pretty hard to describe, could you have a go?
hehe....that is a very tough question and maybe the most commonly asked one. But I think because we all come from different musical backgrounds (classical flute - jazz vocal studies - electronic folky synths and beats - theatrical musical studies) and because we have literally decided to have no rules in our music, but to let go and go with everything that flows, it makes the music so hard to describe and label. And maybe especially for others, as many people need to label things.... Not everybody gets the music and not everybody is willing to receive it, but it is what it is - it´s genuine and it´s what comes to us and it´s not trying to fit any genre or style or trend. It could be described as electronic folk pop classical indie rock, but I think I just mentioned almost all genres there! ;)... well, wonky it is at least for us, and we still laugh out loud of joy and quirkiness when we listen, rehearse and perform our music. So that´s what our music is perhaps...something that just came out from a group of 4 Icelandic very oddly different girls and we love it!....
You worked with Mike Lindsay on your debut record. How was that?
It was really fantastic. Mike got our music and concept almost immediately after he heard our songs, and even though he put up a bit of a odd face from time to time, i.e. when he heard our song Blabla (which will be released before Airwaves on a limited edition B-sides EP) or when he heard the playful childlike melodies of Miðaldarkirkja or the aggressive choir of Burg, he always appreciated and understood the genuinity and difference of our music. He never tried to make it less odd than it really was, or more, or over-produce it or take away the charm (well, he really wouldn´t even have succeeded trying to do that, having 4 Icelandic determined girls pulling his hair! :)). But he helped us with the very final recordings and we are very thankful for that, as we were no experts in studio recordings and pro tools, and he has one of the very most challenging and interesting sets of ears and mind in the music world today!, at least in our opinion.
There will probably be 5 or 6 other bands playing around town at the same time as you - tell me why people must choose to see your show?
Well, coming to our show will give people the only chance to get a copy of our limited edition B-sides EP, that we are releasing for Airwaves on the same day we perform. But honestly I don´t think people should rather see our show than the other shows - all the acts at Airwaves are interesting in their own way and will leave you with a party in your ears and mind for sure! I´d just recommend that people try to see as many Icelandic acts as possible. Airwaves is mostly an Icelandic festival and for some of the local artists a first-time-chance to be seen and heard by a foreign audience, and it is absolutely awesome to see and feel what the music world is all about - that it can be about more than the music that is fed to you through radio and other media. I would therefore recommend people to go out early and try to see a little bit of everything. It´s a true cultural event and one of the biggest ones in Iceland.
What else are you keen to see at Airwaves this year?
Björk viggósdóttir og dj. flugvél og geimskip are also performing on the Wednesday and other Icelandic acts are playing on Harlem venue throughout the festival and on Amsterdam (i.e. Caterpillarmen, Good Moon Dear), which are worth checking out. Well, then of course Kraftwerk, Wow!..... And Múm, Yo la Tengo and the Ólafur Arnalds show with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra is bound to be amazing!
Can you pass on some tips for first timers at Airwaves and in Iceland?
Just to be and enjoy.
Grúska Babúska's main show comes on the very first day of Iceland Airwaves 2013, at 20:50 in Harlem. It would be a nice to start to your festival to be there and enjoy them, Right now there will be four further chances to catch them during the week. Check the app!
The Anatomy Of Frank are, as far as I can tell, a bunch of fun and friendly Americans with a thing for Iceland. In other words, exactly the sort of international band you want to see at Iceland Airwaves. At the last count they had 10 off-venue shows lined up, I rather suspect they are after an invite to play on the main programme next year. I get the distinct feeling they'd like that. I came across them when I checked out all the acts who would be playing at my favourite bookstore/café in town, Iða Zimsen. I liked what I heard a lot, and then happened upon the NME enjoying their version of THAT Daft Punk tune. You can 'get lucky' (oh yes) and see them play in Iða Zimsen on Thursday afternoon at 14:20, or almost anywhere else, most of the time.
So you guys are playing a few shows around Reykjavík during and after the Airwaves festival, but not an official evening show. What's the story?
The story is that we didn't get into Iceland Airwaves. We're a young band, but we have a good fan base in Reykjavík and believe that our acoustic show will be unlike anything people have seen before. I'm excited about just playing off-venues; the festival is such an inclusive atmosphere and I think we'll be in the official lineup eventually. Until then, we're aiming to show people a good time.
You even have a song called "Postlude for Reykjavík" - It sounds like true dedication. So tell us, why should people come and see you play?
I don't want to claim that my love for Iceland should be a reason for Icelanders to come see The Anatomy of Frank. Iceland is a magical place, and it means a whole lot to a lot of people. What I would propose is that my band has been working hard for a long time to make our concert an unforgettable experience, and I would hope newcomers would push past the never-heard-of-'em barrier and come check it out.
You are doing 10 shows in 4 days - are you still looking for more?
We're aiming for 50.
Have any of you been to Iceland before? What are you expecting?
I have been to Iceland several times as a solo version of The Anatomy of Frank, and have performed with friends like Myrra Rós, Árstíðir, and Svavar Knútur. It's my favorite country and I miss it constantly; to see it in the heat of Airwaves will be amazing, and I'm excited beyond words to bring my band with me this time around.
Have you seen the Iceland Airwaves line-up? What are you excited to see?
I'm especially excited to see Ásgeir Trausti, Sóley, Kiriyama Family, Árstíðir, Yo La Tengo, Úlfur Úlfur, Amiina, Ghostigital, and Myrra Rós. Holy shit...I am going to get no sleep.
Reykjavik! have been one of the highlights of Iceland Airwaves for years and years. But even better than that has been their annual interview with a website called 'iceblah'. And the unbelievable, distressing, but ultimately true fact that Reykjavik! are not playing this year wasn't going to end that particular brand of fun...
Hey Mark Ollard!
This year, we are only playing SECRET SHOWS at SECRET VENUES that will not at all be publicized. It is like a meta publicity stunt. As a band of philosophy students (good news: two of us have graduated now, so soon we shall be a band of philosophers!), we thought we'd explore that old "tree falling in the woods/no one hearing it" cliché, by exchanging "tree" with "band" and "falling" with "playing" and "woods" with "music festival". This was necessary, as there aren't really any trees in Iceland, so we could not confidently conduct the thought experiment as it was meant to be conducted. There are no trees, but there certainly are a lot of bands and, actually by now, a bunch of music festivals.
Wait, Mark, this is maybe not true. Maybe we aren't playing any secret shows this year. Maybe we won't be playing at all? I can't say for sure.
What I can tell you for sure is this: we haven't been very active this year, aside from drinking together and writing some songs together and whatnot. This is mostly due to me (Haukur) mostly living abroad and others having other stuff to do (Valdi had a new kid, Geiri is pregnant, Bóas moved to Ísafjörður, Kristján runs a bookstore and a radio show, Gummi runs the city of Reykjavík, etc etc
It's weird, not being on the schedule though. I think we've played every Airwaves since 2004. Or 2005? And we've had a blast every time.
Maybe not playing this year will make playing next year extra special fun? Maybe it'll make us realize what we're missing, so we'll put like 400% energy in it next time? I don't know?
Maybe we're not playing as a courtesy to the band Fucked Up, because we love them and don't want to upstage them (as we surely would)?
I don't know.
This is very serious. Can Iceland Airwaves cope without those legendary shows? What will you do instead?
I honestly don't know if Airwaves can cope for that matter. They are trying though. We have to give them that. They got a bunch of legends to play, to ease the pain. Like Fucked Up and Yo La Tengo and Kraftwerk and whatnot. I am sure this will help things along a bit.
Nei djók. The festival will be fine. It's never been about any one band anyway, it's about love and joy and shared experiences. It goes way beyond any one band or venue (you should also note that GusGus aren't playing this year either! What is this world coming to!?!)
As for us, during the festival: We'll go watch Fucked Up!
I wasn't planning to go either this year, but I'm seriously wavering as it gets closer. Are you SURE you're not going to play?
Wait a minute? This makes no sense?!? A Mark Ollard-less Airwaves? Who will I promise to buy a beer and then never buy that beer for them now?
Yeah of course we're wavering. But Airwaves is a giant festival at this point. By now they have all their schedules and everything written out in DOUBLE EXCEL and there's not room for change or last minute additions. The programme is set in stone. So even if we changed our mind, I don't think we could play.
Thank god the audience list isn't set in stone like that. You can still come, Mark! Do it!
OK, how about I will if you will?
This is tempting, really tempting. Does that mean I can not buy you that beer again this year, too? Because if it does, I might try to pull some strings.
[UPDATE: since this conversation, and only partly because of this conversation, I AM going to the ball, come say hi]
Pull them strings sir. So, what is new in the world of Reykjavik! recently?
Volcanoes and babies.
Both excellent things…
So much dancing.
There was a wedding. We made a video to commemorate it (as
we couldn't play, as there was vesen). You can watch it here:
We also wrote a couple of songs.
Yeah they were pretty good. One has harmonica and handclaps and everything. Truly pushing the boundaries. Hey! But, then, what's new in the world of Mark Ollard? You got a new job, right? How's that working out? You also got a new baby, as far as we can tell from places like Twitter and the like. How are you fitting into that new role? Is the responsibility almost breaking you, Ivan Drago-style? Did it break you? Any Philly trips on the horizon?
Well yes, there is a new baby Ollard and a new job, and also a new house (you missed that), and those three combined are trying to break me. I should probably treat myself to a trip to Iceland right?
I saw you described as a bunch of sexy Dads (just like me) is that fair? (actually that may have been a comment on the whole city but there was a ! at the end so I assumed it's you guys)
That's fair. Those of us who are dads are rather sexy. And those of us who are not dads are also quite sexy (me included - I've been working out and everything).
Hey, do you remember Airwaves 2007? This guy killed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVs532LkiAA
I remember some of Iceland Airwaves 2007 *enters reverie* Ah, Airwaves 2007… when Vicky were still called Vicky Pollard. When The Teenagers last released an album (COME ON GUYS), when Reykjavik! had dancing girls.
Oh yeah the dancing girls. Man that was fun. We got so much shit for that. People thought we were being rock star assholes, like Mötley Crüe or something. Hahahaha. If only they'd known. Those girls were a dance group that our (well me and Gummi's) niece Valgerður had going at the time. We thought it would be fun to invite them to partake, they hadn't performed a lot for audiences at that point - we also invited them to dance with us at that year's Gay Pride festival. Family fun.
So can we expect an energetic return to action and some smokin' hot or glacially cold ROCK music in 2014?
Of course you can!
Well that’s OK then. Miss you guys...
Miss you too, Mark. We all do.
I will have to not buy someone else a beer this festival if you don't show up. And then I will cry some very real, very sad tears in that non-beer.
OK, I’ll be there, that non-beer is just too tempting. See you there, it’ll be like a sexy Dads convention, what with that Paulo Sullivano turning up too. Lucky Iceland Airwaves.
What? Paul is coming too? That's amazing! It'll be a good bash, for sure.
Totally true. See you all there.
The website straum.is is exactly the sort of wonderful looking and clearly essential Icelandic website that makes me resolve again to try a little bit harder with that language. It is a great looking place with a load of news and features plus plenty of videos. And, it has just turned one year old (CONGRATULATIONS!!!).
Óli Dóri is one half of the duo that make it, and its fabulous sister radio show, happen. He's also (very obviously) a huge fan and ambassador for the local music scene and just an all round nice guy, and if that doesn't get me a drink next week I don't know what will.
Congratulations on your website straum.is being one year old. Why did you decide to start it?
Thank you Mark! Me and my friend Davíð who runs straum.is with me felt that Reykjavík needed a website to document the city active and growing music scene.
And it's not just a website, it's a radio show too! How do the two things work together?
It works really well together. Straumur the radio show has been on the air since January 2006 on 3 radio stations. Its once a week on X977 and you can stream the program and look at the playlist on straum.is about 1 hour after it's off the air. (the Airwaves show is right here) Straum.is is like a daily version of what i'm doing on the radio show.
You are clearly a big supporter of the local scene, so I assume you are pretty excited about Iceland Airwaves?
Yes! I have been to every Iceland Airwaves since the 2nd festival back in 2000 and seen it developing into this really great thing. The festival is really important for the music scene in Iceland and is a big reason in the fact that we have so many great bands here!
What about Sonar too? How many festivals is too many?
Sonar and All Tomorrow's Parties Iceland are both great addition to the scene. To have Sonar in February, ATP in June and Iceland Airwaves in November is fantastic!
What impact do you think the closures of great venues like Nasa, Faktory and Sirkus (and more) will have on the scene?
It makes it harder for people to put on a medium size shows! It's really bad for smaller band that are starting out! The independent music scene in Reykjavík needs places like Nasa and Faktory to flourish!
What local bands should foreign visitors make sure they see at Airwaves?
There are so many great bands in Iceland. But if I would have to name a few local bands to check out I would tell people to go to see Grísalappalísa, Nolo, Sykur, Samaris, múm, Fm Belfast, Prins Póló and Sin Fang.
And lastly, what is your advice to Airwaves first-timers?
See as many show as you can and check out the off-venue program as well. It's great! Also have a hot dog and visit a swimming pool!
All very fine advice! Thanks so much for taking the time, maybe I'll see you there.
Thank you sir and I will see you at Iceland Airwaves!!
Úlfur Eldjárn is already well known as a member of the legendary (there I said it) Icelandic act Apparat Organ Quartet - a band high on the list of the "must-sees" for this and many previous Airwaves festivals. This year, Úlfur is also playing for the first time as a solo artist and is working on more than one fascinating project that you need to find out more about. His kids have gone to bed, my kids have gone to bed. It's time for some Dad to Dad music chat...
Hi, where are you right now, and what are you doing?
I'm at home. My kids have gone to bed and I've lit some candles and poured myself a glass of my favorite cola-nut beverage. I'm sitting in front of my laptop with earphones, listening to the master of my soundtrack for the film Ash, before I send it off to the CD-manufacturing plant. By plant I mean a factory. I don't have a plant in my home that produces CDs. It'll be released later in the month. I'm really excited about putting it out.
It sounds like you're going to be busy at Airwaves. How many performances will you be doing in various forms?
At least two official Airwaves shows. One with my band Apparat Organ Quartet, and the other a solo performance. We don't know yet if we'll do any off-venue shows.
You are performing as a solo artist for the first time at Airwaves, do you get nervous?
I'm starting to become really nervous about the fact that I'm not really nervous. I've played so many times with my band at this festival and I love everything about it, so I guess I'm more looking forward to it than worrying about it. Iceland Airwaves is such a joyful time for musicians in the Reykjavík scene. It's our Christmas. I try to look at it as a celebration and not focus to much on how bad or good I'm going to do on stage as a solo artist.
Your new record has been described as being inspired in part by the glory days of early synth music. Should we expect something like Jean-Michel Jarre?
It's still a work in progress so I'm not sure exactly how much Jean-Michel Jarre you're going to hear in there, but it's definitely influenced by his spirit and also the spirit of other pioneers such as Moroder, Vangelis, YMO, Kraftwerk... especially early Kraftwerk. I'm trying to marry the futuristic nostalgia I have for this kind of music with my love for classical music. But of course I'm not exactly trying to sound like the influences cited. My approach is more personal and perhaps minimalistic although it's also big minded. It's not really going to sound like Vangelis meets Wagner. That's just a part of what's going into the blender.
You have also recently launched a pledge campaign for an interactive string quartet project. Sounds very clever! Can you explain it to me?
Yes I'm trying to raise funds at the excellent crowdfunding site Karolinafund.com - I've written a string quartet that doesn't have a beginning or ending or any predefined structure, instead it's recorded in many little pieces that can be joined together in any manner that you like. For this I'm going to create an online platform where people play around with the pieces of the string quartet, join the together in any order they wish, or have them play many at a time. Compositionally there are infinite possibilities of reordering the material, hence the name, String Quartet no. 8 or The Infinite String Quartet.
The work is going to be free for anyone to enjoy online, but in order for it to work out I need to pay for programming work, some design and sound mixing work. The fundraiser should cover at least part of the costs.
It's a good cause to pledge to, because I'm letting people enjoy my creation for free. I'm experimenting with new ways of releasing and enjoying music. And anyone who pledges gets some goodies in turn for their pledge. I hope you have time to check it out.
You'll also be appearing with your band, the wonderful Apparat Organ Quartet. Your shows are always a massive highlight - is it as much fun on stage as it is down below?
I've never been to an Apparat Organ Quartet show myself so I don't really know. But it's on our to do list – we´ve often talked about doing this – to hire some professional keyboard players to rehearse our songs and play for us, trying to imitate our show – including every move we make on stage – the best they can, so we can stay in the audience and try to understand what it feels like. But I really think it's going to be lot of fun for us. We're probably going to try out some brand new material, some new jingles and maybe even some new dance moves. This is always fun for us and I hope the audience will like it.
If you have time, what else are you going to try to see at Iceland Airwaves 2013?
There are so many acts and so little time. Two of my favourite bands in the world will be there and I'll try not to miss them: Yo La Tengo and of course Kraftwerk. Also I'd like to see Múm, one of the best bands ever to come out of Iceland. I'm curious to see what Daniel Bjarnason is doing live, what I've heard of his new record sounds amazing. I would also try to catch Sykur, another festival favourite, featuring my brother and frequent collaborator Halldór. Definitely going to try and see Love & Fog too. Then there's a new feature of the festival which is called Airwords - a whole evening of writers reading from their work. I'm definitely trying to catch my friend Ryan Boudinot who's coming all the way from Seattle to be there. Apparat Organ Quartet did a collaboration with him a year a go when we visited Seattle. We had him on stage writing instant poetry "live" to our music. I'm reading his novel now, Blueprints of the Afterlife. Such an excellent and imaginative work. I think it's going to be a really cool addition to the festival.
You can see Úlfur Eldjárn's Airwaves show on Saturday (November 2nd) in the Gamla Bíó theatre. He is also doing an off-venue show at the 12 Tonar store inside Harpa on Wednesday (October 30th) at 5pm.
Hymnalaya have only been around a short time, yet their debut record is already available from excellent local label recordrecords. They are yet another Icelandic band who are not easy (at least for me) to categorise or easily describe (so I asked them to do it for me below), I also like a comment on their youtube page that the music, "goes nicely with my tea". Sometimes that is just what you need. I do know that I love the track, In My Early Years.
I had a chat with guitarist Gísli...
Hello Hymnalaya, where are you right now and what are you doing?
Hello Mark, I am in my school called Listaháskóli Íslands translates Art Academy of Iceland I am suppose to be doing something super-creative but instead I'm answering your questions.
You have only been together a short time. Who is in the band and what do you all do?
I am in the band and I play guitar, and then it's Einar on lead vocals and guitar and his girlfriend Þórdís on violin and our amazing drummer Kristofer. We started Hymnalaya but we've been trying to form a band for last couple of weeks with some amazing people such as Gylfi (stand up bass), Alfreð (guitar), Óli (piano), Egill (tuba), Kristín (clarinet), Eiríkur (trumpet), Einar (Bassoon).
Sounds like a party! How would you describe your music?
I would say Hymnalaya's sound is rooted in old hymns that we've combined with indie, ethnic and ambient textures.
There will probably be 5 or 6 other bands playing around town at the same time as you - sell us your show, why should people choose to see your show?
Because we live on a small island and it would amazing to see some new faces so please come to our show and let’s be friends!
Are you happy to be playing at Iðnó? It seems like a nice place for your sound.
Super happy about playing Iðnó is one of the most magical houses in Reykjavík which used be a theatre but is now a cultural house and I always like concert in this house it's old and got some soul.
[The show has since been moved to Gamla Bíó. I hope they are as happy about that. It's also a beautiful setting]
What else are you keen to see at Airwaves this year?
I wanna see Anna von Hausswolff, Yo La Tengo, Hjaltalín, Emilíana Torrini, Múm, Bob Justman, Sin Fang and Moses Hightower.
Can you pass on some tips for first timers at Airwaves and in Iceland?
Don't make to many plans just enjoy!
Yes. Did you hear that? Just enjoy yourself! One good way of doing that might be to go and see Hymnalaya and say hi to them, they're very friendly. You can do exactly that at the show at Gamla Bíó on Friday night, November 1st, at 20:50. They are also planning to play 4 off venue shows during the day. Go find them!
Hi Vök, where are you right now and what are you doing?
We are relaxing on a Monday afternoon returning phone calls and emails, scheduling the upcoming Airwaves!
What does your name mean? and who is in the band?
Our name is a unique Icelandic word which has no equivalent in english, Vök describes an opening on Ice or in the clouds. We have Margrét Rán as a lead vocalist and guitar/keyboard, Andri Már on Saxaphone and launchpad and Ólafur Aleksander as lead guitarist and bassist.
Congratulations on winning the Músíktilraunir (new bands) competition, how does it feel to follow bands like Maus, Mínus, Mammút, Jakobínarína and those Of Monsters & Men (look how young they looked!) people?
Thank you very much! It’s such a surprise and a big challenge which we love facing every day.
What are you planning for Airwaves? There will be a bunch of other bands playing at the same time as you - so why should people choose your show?
We haven't gotten that far yet! We're still planning our timetable for the shows, but if you get tired of all the rock and roll Racket, come check us out!
What other bands are you excited to see?
This upcoming Airwaves has many of our favorite Icelandic bands playing: Emiliana Torrini, Hjaltalín, Sin Fang, Bloodgroup and the list goes on. As for Foreign bands there are for example Aluna George and Golden Panda.
And finally, how about a few local tips for the festival first-timers?
Patience! Number one two and three! And don't be afraid to check out the off venue places as well!
So, appetite whetted, you can find Vök on the Wednesday of Airwaves at 8pm in Harpa Norðurljós and on the Saturday night at 10:30 in (deep breath) Þjóðleikhúskjallarinn. They also have 4 off venue shows, so no excuses not to catch them somewhere!
I've only seen AMFJ (Aðalsteinn Jörundsson,) play once, and I'll definitely be trying to see him again this year. It's noisy, it's distorted, it's electonic and it's very, very real. It's kind of irresistable. I'm delighted to have had a chance to catch up with Aðalsteinn and ask a few questions ahead of Airwaves and a pretty special sounding European Tour...
Hi Mr AMFJ, where are you right now and what are you doing?
Hi Iceblah, I’m hanging out at my house, doing some promo for the upcoming tour around Europe and the fund raiser show for it on Gaukurinn this Thursday.
So, erm, should I ask what the MF between your initials stands for?
I think you actually might know that and there’s no need to speak so crudely in such a distinguished blog.
Your bio on the Airwaves website says that your shows "leave no one untouched" - should we be afraid?
Nah, no need for alarm. I do try to move people in my performances, with either the music alone or my stage presence. I think for a good show, for any band, there needs to be an element danger for the music to be fully appreciated on a full emotional level. So I try to bring that in some form to all my shows.
There will probably be 5 or 6 other bands playing around the same time as you - tell me why people must choose to see your show? What should we expect?
These are all good bands. If I wouldn’t be playing in that slot I’d go see Grúska Babúska. They play a nice electronic folk and they’re very hard working and I respect that. But AMFJ is very different band to all them so I’d say that if you’d like to see something purely electronic and possibly loud, AMFJ would be your best option.
I believe you have plans for a crowd-funded European tour. What's the plan?
The label I release all my music on, FALK is putting out 4 releases by AuxPan Oberdad von Brutal, Krakkkbot and myself. Two of us, me and Krakkkbot, are touring Europe to promote these releases, and ourselves, of course. The crowdfunding project is on karolinafund and is to finance train rides and accommodation on the tour. This happens from 10th to 20th October and we have already booked 6 shows out of 8 possible dates so that’s going really well, including 2 Berlin shows on the 13th and 14th (facebook page here). So, we’re pretty excited about the whole thing, it’s our first tour on foreign soil.
What else are you keen to see at Airwaves this year?
Of course I want to see everyone who I share the bill with on the night I am playing, the Yatra Arts night. It’s also a release show for a both a compilation CD that features all of us on the bill that night and a split cassette with myself and AuxPan, that Yatra-Arts is releasing that same day. Outside of that I’d like to check out John Grant and Zola Jesus and Ophidian I, possibly Kraftwerk or Bárujárn. I like wandering around the festival and drop into something that I don’t know and learn about something new.
Can you pass on some tips for first timers at Airwaves and in Iceland?
Yes. Check out the off venues during the day. The often have a very good schedule in nice venues such as bus stops and such. I feel they capture the essence of the festival. I am playing at some of them and will offer a lot harsher and more intense set there then on the actual “on-venue”. For those who’re into that sort of madness.
You can, and you should, see AMFJ on the Wednesday night of Iceland Airwaves 2013 at 20:50 in Harpa Kaldalón. Look out also for those calmer (yeah, right) off venue shows during the daytimes. And, once again, you can contribute to the crowd-sourced Euro tour at the link above.
I heard a song around lunchtime yesterday. It was performed live at Harpa a few days ago by the classic Icelandic band Nýdönsk, it was their song Flugvélar. I was vaguely familiar with the song, it was on an album I had from I guess about 10 or 12 years ago. I hadn't heard it for a long time.
But there's something else too. For this performance it was sung by musical genius and the basically Icelandic John Grant. It is outrageously beautiful.
I love John's voice, I love his passion for Iceland, I love that he cares enough to spend the time translating the lyrics, rehearsing it and giving this incredible performance with a band that, let's face it, he probably didn't grow up listening to.
I've heard this version 10 times in the last 30 hours, and it's time to do it again.
The English language Icelandic newspaper, The Reykjavík Grapevine is 10 years old this week. This is not going to be an unbiased article, I totally love that paper.
Over the last ten years I have (yes, you know this) been a regular visitor to Iceland. When I think of Iceland I pretty quickly think of Grapevine. Whenever anyone asks for a bunch of recommendations for their trip to Iceland, usually the first thing I say is to pick up the latest copy of Grapevine. It immediately gives you a real and honest feel for Reykjavík, it tells you what's on, it tells you where is good and where is bad (and sometimes even where is a karaoke bar), it tells you what the issues are, what's topical - whale meat, smelter construction, strip club controversies, and it regularly makes you laugh.
It's run on a shoestring, it has interns, part-time writers and contributors and the occasional article by unpaid enthusiasts who receive nothing me than a little plug for their cute little Icelandic music blog ;-)
I love their music reviews, they are witty and honest and I liked it when quality was measured in terms of how many beers you should be willing to not drink in order to afford the record.
I loved it when they let me do the cover feature (page 20 if you're very keen!) interview with Sprengjuhöllin during Iceland Airwaves in 2008. I loved every Iceland Airwaves issue ever, it was always a joy to sping (kind of) out of bed and skip (kind of) to the nearest coffee place to grab an espresso and read what people honestly thought of what had gone on the night before. Those guys work through the night for this.
I loved it when Haukur got angry, really angry, when someone did a wee where they really shouldn't be doing a wee.
I loved the list of their most viewed articles. Björk, volcanos, elves, horses.
I loved it when I subscribed (you can too) to the newspaper and it would arrive in all its glory through my letterbox and I'd feel really special (in a good way) reading The Reykjavík Grapevine on the London Underground. In your face Metro. And now I love it when I get the alert that a new pdf edition is ready for me to have an online browse through on some fancy device or other.
Good work guys :-)
The record took a long time to record, and I believe you used various locations - are you a perfectionist?
You could say that I am a little bit of a perfectionist, if that even exists but the most enjoyable location was at a 15th century castle in Denmark, called Engelsholm Slot. That is an amazing place. The record took this long to record because I wanted it to be so much better than the other ones. I look at it like this. The two first albums were like my own personal schools of songwriting and when the third one came out, it was like my graduation piece. But I'll still be learning for the rest of my life, hopefully.
You must have been delighted with the reaction to the lead track 'No Need To Hesitate' last year, do you have a favourite song on the record?
Pascal Pinon played at 8:45, which feels like a very Pascal Pinon time of the evening. When I first saw them two years ago they seemed very young and very, very shy. Last night they were a much more assured, charming and funny presence on stage. The music has moved on too. Their latest record has a much fuller sound than the debut.
That did come across in their set last night, with added effects and the vocals a little lower in the mix than I remember from Airwaves 2011. They went down really well in the room, which was full and pleasingly quiet during the songs. I enjoyed that fact that they felt the need to explain to us what the song in Swedish was about, but not the ones in Icelandic. My Icelandic vocabulary about as good as my Swedish!
I worte on twitter before the show that if there has been a better record this year than Sin Fang's "Flowers" then I hadn't heard it. It's an exceptional set of crafted songs and it's fair to say that I was ecited to see Sindri and his band play their debut London show.
They played a superb set lasting just over an hour which included most of the new album plus some very welcome old favourites - 'Two Boys' and especially 'Clangour' form the old Sin Fang Bous days were great to hear again. As well as those two tracks I think my highlights were 'Young Boys' and 'See Ribs'. Last night's version of 'What's Wrong With Your Eyes' was struck by some pretty bad technical issues, aborted twice befgore being played brilliantly without monitors egged on by an audience very keen to hear this album highlight.
There was a three song encore with Sindri on keyboards swigging red wine (I think) from a bottle, probably to get over the stress of the earlier technical issues. It was a great London debut, and nobody shouted "Too depressing mate" (you had to be there), please come back soon...