Sindri Eldon is described on the Airwaves site as a "hellish elemental fireball taken human form".
He was already very high on my wish list for pre-Airwaves interviews this year, I've been enjoying his shows and the music on bandcamp increasingly over the last few years, but that sealed it!
I'm pretty sure that this is the longest interview ever posted on this site. I promise it is well worth reading right to the end (not least to get deatils of all of the shows Sindri Eldon & The Ways will be playing at Iceland Airwaves 2014).
This was a lot of fun to do. So read on to discover whether Sindri really exists or not, who The Ways are, how important and fun Iceland Airwaves is or isn't and so, so much more...
Hello Mr Sindri Eldon the legend. Where are you right now, and what are you doing?
Hi, I don't know where all this 'legend' stuff is coming from. If I'm a legend in the sense that sensible people don't believe I exist, I guess I can get behind that. Maybe I'm a myth? NO ONE KNOWS. Andrew W.K. spread that great rumour about how he maybe didn't really exist, but was just a character played by different actors on the bankroll of Island Records/ Dave Grohl/ illuminati lizard people, maybe you and I could do the same thing for me. The title of the interview could read: "DOES SINDRI ELDON REALLY EXIST?" Anyway, I'm sitting at home eating Reese's Cups and listening to GBV. Good times. I'll be hearing from a graphic designer later on today about making some last-minute alterations to my vinyl artwork, and then doing a photo-shoot so I can have some nice promo shots, but until then, I'm just dicking around. People don't realize that like 85% of being a musician is sitting around waiting for other people to become available.
Who are The Ways? And where did you find them?
The Ways are a couple of guys, Frikki and Ási, that have been playing together in bands since they were like fifteen, and I found them entirely by accident. My live band used to be just me and one other dude, Leibbi, who played drums. I was introduced to Frikki via a mutual friend, and we hit it off pretty well, so I asked him to join the band. We didn't really need a third man, strictly speaking, but I just thought he'd make a good addition to the band; the fact that he's a fantastic bass player was just a happy accident. A year or so after that, Leibbi and I came to the mutual understanding that his heart wasn't really in music, that he wanted to be a sculptor. He left the band on good terms, and Frikki brought in Ási, who is a professional live/session drummer and studio engineer. The Ways is sort of his passion project to keep him sane while he does the other stuff to keep the bucks rolling in; he doubled as co-producer on my record, helping me mix it as well as recording about half of it.
You've had some wonderfully strong and enjoyable views on Icelandic music over the years. How important is Iceland Airwaves to the local scene?
First of all, let me address that first part: I honestly don't think I'm saying anything that everybody else isn't already thinking; they're just scared to say it, is all. Iceland is a very small town, and gossip here has been scientifically observed to exceed the speed of light by order of magnitudes. As a result, people here are pretty tight-lipped about how they really feel about someone or other, and their music. You don't want to shit-talk so-and-so because his cousin does booking for a good venue, that kind of thing. I guess I've gone on record saying the things I've said because I've never been terribly interested in 'being part of the scene' and doing things the traditional way. For instance, I do not intend to have a record release show for my upcoming album, because I think that's just a bullshit tradition that people still observe mostly out of obligation to their label or whoever. I mean, I'm never going to reproduce the sound of the record on stage, so why even bother trying? I'd rather expend my time and energy playing a good live show that doesn't necessarily follow the track listing on the record, and celebrate the album coming out in my own way. As for your Airwaves question, I mean, Airwaves is important, and it also isn't. You can get lucky and play a great Airwaves show in front of very important people, and if you know how to use that to your advantage, you can get somewhere. I think it's far important to just put out a good record and get some overseas airplay; that's how every successful Icelandic musician got where they are. I've played Airwaves like five or six years in a row now, but I'm still pretty much an unknown... so I don't know how 'important to the local scene' Airwaves is, but I do get the feeling sometimes that it's actually hurting the scene, in a weird way: it sort of keeps the scene static by re-booking known bands over and over again every year, regardless of how relevant said bands are right now. I mean, Agent Fresco were hot shit like two years ago, maybe, but I feel like the average person has pretty much forgotten about them, no offense to them. Even so, they have two slots this year, including a headline slot on Friday night. I could say similar things about Hermigervill, Brain Police and Sometime. And getting Airwaves booking is no longer the momentous event for smaller bands, or maybe it never it was. I dunno. It seems weird to me, but then again, I don't know the first thing about booking a festival. I'm assuming that after all these years, these guys probably know what they're doing. And if those bands I mentioned are reading this, they should get better publicists or something. Or maybe they don't care, just like I do. I don't know.
And for you personally, is it fun? Are you hoping to catch the eye internationally?
Airwaves is not fun for me, no, except for maybe the last ten minutes or so of every show. I'm playing six shows this year, so that makes an aggregate hour of fun spread throughout five exhausting days of hauling equipment, sound-checking, worrying about my voice, having my dad restring my guitar, coordinating band member pickups/drop-offs (they're both playing in other bands over the festival as well), etc. etc. And personally, I couldn't care less whether or not I 'catch the eye internationally' or not. I've discovered that the only things I really like about being a musician is writing songs, recording them and mixing them, and I can do that as much as I want without having approval from anybody. I only really do Airwaves because when I don't, I feel lazy and irresponsible, like I'm not fulfilling my obligations as a musician. And for those last ten minutes of a good show, when you have the crowd in your hand, the band is tight, you can hear yourself well on the monitors and your voice is in that nice warm zone where you can sing forever without it breaking. And then you step off stage and you're nobody again.
What's the best Airwaves show you've ever seen?
I don't really see shows at Airwaves anymore, and I can't remember any that stand out. Sorry.
You have an album on the way, is it the greatest Icelandic record ever made? And if not, what is?
Well, it's difficult to say for several reasons. First, even the newest song on the record is over two years old, and the oldest song is like ten or eleven years old, which has the twofold effect of making it more a compilation of my first ten years of songwriting, and making even the most recent stuff on there outdated. I've written far better songs than the ones on this record in the last two years. Second, even though we never did manage to get it to sound exactly the way I wanted it to sound, the production on it is just nothing short of phenomenal, and in a lot of ways, I'm sort of more proud of the production on it than the songwriting. It's definitely something you'll want to listen to with good headphones while riding on the bus stoned. In fact, I think I should probably have that put on stickers on the front of the album. Thirdly, I think we all know that the 'greatest' anything is going to be subject to mood swings and the test of time. If you're in the mood for some super-overproduced shoegazy pop-rock, then I think my album will probably blow your mind harder than anything has ever blown any part of your body. As for me, I fluctuate from thinking it’s pretty damn good to thinking it’s a lethargic monstrosity, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I think next time around, we're going to keep things a lot simpler, production-wise, and let the performances speak for themselves without burying everything under thousands of guitar and vocal overdubs... I dunno. I guess I just wanted to prove I could make something like this, and I think I did. It is what it is.
In response to the rest of your question, the only Icelandic albums I really ever listen to are all the Botnleðja records except the first one, Doctuz's 'Friendship Of 1,' Egill Sæbjörnsson's 'Tonk Of The Lawn,' Ensimi's 'BMX,' GusGus's '24/7,' Númer Núll's 'Lykill Að Skírlífsbelti,' Stjörnukisi's 'Geislaveisla' and Nolo's 'Nology.' I also enjoy some Stilluppsteypa, 200.000 Naglbítar and Sálin Hans Jóns Míns from time to time. I hate always getting asked what Icelandic music I like, as if that matters more because I'm Icelandic. I mean, I'm humouring you because the theme of this blog is Icelandic, but just for once, I'd like to be asked what Swedish bands I like, what Scottish bands I like or what Texas bands I like.
Is it all new stuff, or does include any of the older demos on Bandcamp?
It's actually mostly old stuff. Of the thirteen songs on there, only two of them have never appeared on the Bandcamp demos. I picked the songs that I felt had not gotten the treatment they deserved on the demos, as well as two fresh songs we had when we went into the studio. Not that I like the stuff any less in lo-fi than I do in hi-fi, but I needed to rerecord my best songs at the time to make them more palatable to the masses, and so people would take me seriously.
In a way, Icelandic musicians don't really put out lo-fi records for the same reason black people in America generally don't wear used clothes: because people will think that's all they can do, whether due to lack of money or know-how. If I'd put out the demos as they were, people would have just shrugged and kept going, except for the people who've already heard the demos, who would probably prefer those versions anyway. The album is expressly intended for the people who haven't heard the demos; I'm basically just trying to increase my audience. There's nothing on the album for those who already listen to my music. It's sort of like when Kent put out two of their albums in English. I actually also made the album for myself, so I could listen to the songs without cringing at how shitty they sounded. There's also a fair chunk of really great songs on the demos that didn't make it to the record for the sole reason that I felt they'd already been recorded well enough for me to be happy with them. For example, I think '30 Seconds,' 'Soldier' and 'Andrea' all sound fantastic just the way they are, and consequently saw no need to re-record them.
Have you had a good look at the Airwaves schedule? What else are you really excited to see?
Nothing. I intend to go home and drink throat comfort tea when I'm done playing my shows, so as to be ready for the next day's show(s).
Finally, can you give some advice for people attending Iceland Airwaves and visiting Iceland for the first time? For example, how can we make sure we get the best possible Iceland Airwaves experience?
Come to my shows, buy me a drink, get out of the city if you can, don't go to Prikið, Laundromat, Hressó, Hamborgarafabrikkan, Kaffibarinn, Sólon, B5 and any other place where shitheads congregate, don't be surprised if the weather sucks, don't buy water at supermarkets (it’s tap water), and don't buy near-beer at supermarkets thinking it's beer (the state has a monopoly on alcohol and only sells it at special state-owned liquor stores - if anyone tells you otherwise, they're a liar or an idiot).
Thank you Sindri.
So, the debut album by Sindri Eldon will "probably" be out in time for Iceland Airwaves 2014, it is called 'Bitter And Resentful'.
You can catch them playing live at all of these opportunities:
Wednesday 5th, Húrra @ 21:40
Thursday 6th, Gamla Bíó @ 20:40
Friday 7th, Dillon @ 16:00
Saturday 8th, Smekkleysa @ 14:00 & Strumur Bio Paradis @ 16:00
Sunday 9th, Lucky Records @18:00