After years of musical flirting, Canada and Iceland finally get into bed together. And that band is EMBASSYLIGHTS.
I am really excited about this feature. For a start, there has always been a strong Canadian contingent at Iceland Airwaves – the annual ‘Canadian Blast’ at Hresso became a pretty essential part of the festival. But as far as I know this will be the first time a band will be playing, and there’s an imminent album, by a band including established members of each scene. From Canada there is Mark Andrew Hamilton (who was amazing at Airwaves 2012 as Woodpigeon), Laura Leif, Samantha Savage Smith and Clinton St. John, and from Iceland there are the familiar faces of Benni Hemm Hemm and Svavar (Mr Prins Polo himself).
But it’s even better than that, not only can I guarantee that the album is fabulous, I can even go some way towards proving it to you. They’ve only gone and let dear old iceblah host an amazing exclusive track from the unreleased album! Mark very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about how all this happened and more...
Mark, you played at Iceland Airwaves back in 2012 as Woodpigeon. Are you excited to be coming back?
Absolutely. Airwaves was one of the fondest memories of this performing life that I’ve got. It’s such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to share it again. Experiences like this don’t come along every year, so when you’ve got the chance, it’s one you really have to jump at.
Have the other Canadian members of EMBASSYLIGHTS been to Iceland before? If not, what are you looking forward to showing them?
We wrote all of our songs and rehearsed them in Reykjavik, so yes they’ve already been. But it will be nice this time to not be “working” all of the time and be able to really just soak in Reykjavik life.
How did EMBASSYLIGHTS come about? Did you meet Svavar and Benni at Airwaves 2012?
I met Benni years ago in Edinburgh and we spoke about this idea for ages. We finally found suitable funding and it allowed us to get the entire thing rolling. It’s been about 5 years’ work altogether. I met Svavar at Airwaves while setting up his own Prins Polo show before the Dirty Projectors. He was amazing, and I’m so glad we’ve had this chance to work together.
What is it with Canada and Iceland anyway, there's always a great contingent from Canada at Airwaves. Is it an ice thing?
I think it’s a combination of ice and geographical isolation. Canadian cities are quite far from one another and there’s a slight inherent distrust of the cities to the south of us in the U.S.A. I think both places are very set on making an art scene that exists strongly by its own terms. I think we can relate that way. (There are also a number of Icelandic people living in Canada, centred around a small town in Manitoba called Gimli. A very interesting place).
I've got to ask - why the name EMBASSYLIGHTS and why all those crazy capital letters and no space?
The Canadian Ambassador in Reykjavik has been an incredible help to us in this project, and has welcomed us into the building in Reykjavik for an official dinner. This event seemed fitting to us... As for all-caps and no spaces, sometimes things just look nicer, bigger, or have more impact depending on how you play with them in that way.
As far as I can tell, you guys just have one track public at the moment (now there are two!). When can we expect the album to show up?
We’ll have the album up digitally shortly before the festival, I think. We’re releasing it in a non-traditional way as a book with pages you can play on your record player. The entire book is coil-bound and has a hole through the middle, so you actually put the entire book on the record player. It’s an interesting concept we’re really excited about. Part of the goal is to kind of make that object the main vessel for this music. There are only 250 of them, and once those are gone we’ll make it all available digitally, but for now that’s the focus.
Good luck with Iceland Airwaves. Will the band be doing any daytime and off-venue shows you can share with us?
There’s talk of a couple, including one at Mengi and another at the Canadian Embassy building, but we’ll have all that sorted soon.
I love this band. You have the following two opportunities to see EMBASSYLIGHTS during Iceland Airwaves...
Friday 7th, Iðnó @ 20:50
Sunday 9th, Mengi @ 17:00