Author Archives: ragnaarbastiaan

About ragnaarbastiaan

I like music, I like Icelandic music. This is my blog about Icelandic musicians and the music they play...yup yup..

8 Tips for Iceland Airwaves

It’s that time again, time one of the longest running Icelandic music festivals, Iceland Airwaves.  This year they’ve brought back the original feel and are using more independent venues throughout the city.  It means more movement and walking, but also means you get to see a lot of bands in unique spots.  You can learn more about those venues at the Reykjavik Grapevine.

4 days of music spread all over the city can sound intimidating, but if you go in with a game plan and you’re prepared you’ll be amazed at how smooth things will go for you.

1.  I highly suggest you follow these three pages on Social Media. 

Iceland Airwaves page will give you the quickest updates and information on bands.  IMX is an awesome source for finding out the history of bands, and they also shoot out information on tours and new music to look for.  And the Reykjavik Grapevine is an English language newspaper, in an informal sometimes snarky manner they discuss the happenings around Iceland and you can gain more knowledge on things to do while you’re visiting.  They typically put out a special Iceland Airwaves edition, as well as run a blog during the festival dedicated to Airwaves.

Iceland Airwaves Iceland Music Reykjavik Grapevine
IA17 imxfacebook grapevinelogo

And with that, here are some pointers on prepping and enjoying the festival:

  • Follow the three social media sites above for quick access to changing info
  • Be relaxed, flexible, and social
  • Be prepared
  • Be a tourist, in and outside the city
  • Respect the land, yourself, the people, and your fellow festival folks
  • Support the artists, buy their music
  • Food, alcohol and favorite people & places
  • Have fun

2.  Be Relaxed, Be Social

Combining the normal tourist activity with over 7500 festival folks makes Reykjavik a busy busy city.  Relaxation is key to enjoying yourself.  You may have to wait a little longer for drinks/coffee/food/entrance into a venue, so just relax and breath in the fresh air.  Be social, if you’re stuck in a line chances are you’re stuck with people of like mind, so don’t be afraid to ask your queue cohorts why they are there, what bands they’ve seen, who they are going to see and why.  There are quite a few unannounced gigs that will be going on around the city, and being social is the only way you’re going to find out about them.

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dj. flugvél og geimskip surprising the audience by performing with Dr. Gunni at Airwaves 2015

There is a lot of music, a good deal you may have never heard of.  Listening to the Spotify link  and/or checking out the page I’ve created of Icelandic bands playing are both extremely easy ways to begin prepping for the festival, and most likely you’ll find bands you never knew you couldn’t live without hearing live.

The Airwaves crew have done an ace job of making it easy for you to plan ahead and navigate these different venues with an app which is available now.  Make sure you download it so you can start putting together a game plan.  You should always have a plan A and plan B, so if the venue you’re trying to see a gig at is full you can quickly move on to your second choice.  The app will save you a lot of time with maps, time schedules, alerts and reminders of upcoming gigs.  It really will keep you on schedule, or help you alter your schedule in seconds.

3.  Be Prepared!

The weather in Iceland can be really unpredictable.  It can be blue skies, rain, snow, hit you with hurricane force winds and go back to blue skies all in the time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee.  So prepare yourself with wet proof shoes, and layers.  Layers will be your friend as the venues get pretty hot and sticky but then you’ve got to be outside getting from venue to venue.  Also, if you plan on taking road trips or excursions outside the city, make sure you bring extra supplies in the even you get stuck in a storm for a while.

4.  Be a tourist, in and out of the city

touring

Nobody needs to tell you, but Iceland is gorgeous, so make sure you take some time to enjoy it. whether it’s just walking around Reykjavik looking at all the murals and art, or taking daytrips, get out and experience Iceland, there are plenty of options.  Here are a few of my favorites:

IHR

I Heart RVK

I heart Reykjavik is a fantastic walking tour company that will take you around Reykjavik discussing it’s history and unique attributes.

They book up quickly, so I would suggest trying to reserve a spot now.  It’s especially nice during Airwaves as there will be more music in the streets than usual while you walk around learning about old famous hangouts, and the history of the capital city.

otwiOn tour with Ívar is a new walking tour I’m really hoping to make it to this year.  Ívar Pétur is in the legendary party band FM Belfast, and this tour is his way of sharing a local’s perspective.  You’ll see the not well known side of Reykjavik, eat some food, drink some drinks, and hang out with Ívar and friends.  Reviews that I’ve read make it seem more like a day out with your very knowledgeable friends.

icelandicpunk

The Icelandic Punk Museum opened last year during Iceland Airwaves with Johnny Rotten in attendance.  Located in an abandoned Women’s public toilet in the center of downtown, the history of punk music is written on the wall in both Iceland and English.  Once entering, you can stroll through the toilet stalls reading a chronological account of the advancement of punk in Iceland.  Written by Dr. Gunni of legendary bands Bless, S.H. Draumer, Unun, and author of Iceland’s most comprehensive English music history book, Blue eyed pop.  Across from the historical toilets are instruments, clothing and other interactive exhibits.  It’s well worth a visit

Also check with your hotels, or the tourist office located in the city center.   there are plenty of day trips to take you to see waterfalls, geysers, and the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland outside of the city.

5.  Respect the island and it will respect you

Built on multiple volcanoes with lava in its veins, The island may try to kill you if you give it the chance.  Just be aware of your surroundings, footing, and the weather.  Common sense goes a long way, and Icelanders fully believe folks should use said common sense.  Have a good time not an out of control painful time. There’s a lot to do and even the half day you spend recovering from the night before will result in you missing a lot.

Pay attention to warnings about weather and areas not to tread in.  Unlike the East coast where we cancel school over the mere hint of snow, the Icelanders rarely give out warnings unless they need to.

Lucky

Lucky Records

6.  Support the artists, purchase their music while you’re there. 

There is a lot of music you won’t find off the island, or if you do it’ll cost crazy shipping.  So purchase it while you’re visiting.  Iceland has some amazing record shops, Lucky Records, 12 Tónar, and Reykjavik Record shop are the ones I’m most familiar with.  All ran by folks who love music, and love talking about music, you’ll also find a lot of off-venue gigs will be at these places.

7.  Food and favorite places. 

There are a lot of solid places for quick bites or sit down meals.  And there is the Bónus grocery store in the event you want to grab your own stockpile of munchies.  I tend to go for the lighter side of things such as the Noodle Station or Reykjavik Chips  Noodle Station is your quick simple three option noodle place, good for warming you up and filling yer gullet quickly and cheaply.  And Reykjavik Chips has hand cut fries, with a ton of sauces, and beer.

Mandi is one of my favorite late night places.  Though it gets packed so I tend to just go get my Shawarma /Falafel/kebab wraps and keep them in the fridge at my place for my late night cravings.

vegan There are great Vegetarian and vegan places to check out as well.   A really cool new place is Veganæs.  located in the venue/bar Gaukurinn.  Lead by Chef Linnea Hellström of Oumph! Vegan food and the formerly vegetarian outfit kaffi Vinyl, the place has burgers, fish-ish, gooey cheese balls, and amazing soup.  Every day the menu changes slightly, so check their FB page.

Gló is another great vegetarian spot with a large eating area and portions are quite large.

For quick bites in between venues, there is the famous Pylsurs (hot dog).   the “Clinton” stand down by the Reykjavik art museum, and other places around the city.  Cheap, easy to access, and good.

Bars are plentiful in the city, and the prices only slightly vary.  There will be bands or DJ’s playing in most of them.  During the week the bars close at 1 or 2am, but on the weekend the bars will be open until 4.   Find a bar with the atmosphere you dig and have at it.  Alcohol purchased at the liquor store is taxed pretty heavily.   I suggest picking up a bottle of wine or spirits at the duty free shop while you wait for your baggage, It will be considerably cheaper that way.

8.  And finally, the most important factor, have fun.

Don’t get too wrapped up in details, maps, or must sees.  You are going to experience one of the most unique festivals in the world, and you’re going to do it with northern lights above your head.  If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to comment below, or send me a Facebook message at Ragnaarbastiaan. You can follow me on Instagram, and/or Facebook for photos of the festival, as I’ll be up there snapping away.

Six Amazing New Icelandic Music Videos

The mighty island of Iceland has delivered 6 new Music videos from musicians I love and admire.   I’m so excited about it, I feel compared to share.   So, in no particular order, here they are:

Laura Secord – Crop Circles

As a huge kimono and World Narcosis fan, I’m really looking forward to this new album.  This song is Minimal, yet full of both energy and tension keeping you engaged throughout, ending in utter chaos.  I really love this track and can’t wait for their new album, “Ending Friendships”  Which you can pre-ordered here.  It will be released November 1st.

Laura Secord is Alison MacNeil from kimono, Ægir Bjarnason of World Narcossis and owner of the record label, Why Not? Plötur, Erik Deluca from the band Den, and Julius of Stormy Daniels and BSÍ

Sin Fang – Hollow

Sindri of Sin fang seems to never sleep with multiple projects including Gangly, Team Dreams (with Sóley & Örvar Smárason,)  and the reappearance of Seabear.   So it may be odd, or justified, that this song is about taking a sleeping pill.  His classic vocals flow through the music, which has exemplary lullaby qualities.  The video, with soft, out of focus imagery coupled with a grainy film feel is surprisngly soothing in an oddly dark way.  The Song is off his upcoming album, “Sad Party.”  You can pre-order here.

The video was directed by Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir.   She has done some of my favorite videos including artists such as Sóley and Sigur Rós.  Pay attention to the “lyrics” on the screen as they drift off into thoughts of the artist, not his words.

Cyber – Hold

I’ve blogged about Cyber and their videos before.  Absolutely one of my favorite Icelandic hip hop bands, and one of my favorite acts to see live.  Their beats, the energy, and their presence is always commanding on stage as well as in their videos.  Their new video, Hold, is from their EP “Bizness” The video is about the the time we spend waiting, waiting for xyz and such.  English lyrics are in the description, as the song is in Icelandic.

Mr. Silla – Butter on it

You never know what to expect with Mr. Silla, and I have to say that her singing with Páll Ivan frá Eiðum is a pleasant surprise on her new album.  unlike her normal floating vocals this track carries more of a funky folk feel.   The new album, “Hands on Hands” will be released later this year.

Pink Street Boys – Hvunndagshetjur

Still dirty and raw, Pink Street boys have a new song.  Lots of beer, a fish head or two, and a country cabin filled with punk rockers, emphasis on the rock.  I still listen to their previous albums frequently, it’s great road trip music.  I’ve no idea when they’ve got something new coming out, but hopefully soon.

And, as I was writing this blog post, a notification for this new video popped up:

JFDR – Taking a Part of Me

Jófríður Ákadóttir is one of the hardest working Icelandic musicians out there.  With multiple bands and projects such as Pascal Pinon, Gangly,  and Samaris she continues to innovate and craft insanely gorgeous music.   “Taking a part of me”  is a delightful surprise, and hopefully hints at new material coming soon.  You can stream it here.

 

 

 

 

Of Monsters and Men in Boston

Last night, Of Monsters and Men stopped by the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion here in Boston to put a show on for just a few of their friends.  Supporting their new album,

OMAM (12 of 13)

It’s been quite a while since they’ve been here, and they delivered a lively and energetic return to the stage.  They certainly did not skimp on music, delivering nearly 20 songs; 15 in the regular set, and returning for a 4 song encore.

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I wish the photo area had been better, because their stage lighting was pretty amazing, layers of rotating bars of lights configuring to different patterns and shapes perfectly accompanied the highly energetic music coming from the stage.

There are a few shows left, and I suggest you go if you can.  If you want to see more of the photos I took, click here, or the photos above.

Check out their new video, “Alligator” and you can stream their album on Spotify below.

 

 

My favorite 10 things to do in Reykjavik

I’ve put a top 10 list of places I frequent when in Iceland list together.   9 favorites, and 1 that I am eagerly waiting to try out.  The great thing is, you can do most of these things all year round.  These are places and things outside of the regularly mentioned attractions and off-venue gigs that you may have heard of.  It’s just my favorite spots to hit while I’m in town for Airwaves.

otwi

1. On tour with Ívar

On tour with Ívar is one of my favorite walking tours around the city.  You’ll go down partially hidden alleyways, drink local cocktails, eat local food and the tour ends with a beer.  As a member of FM Belfast, Ívar has been in the Icelandic music world for quite a long time and he has a lot of great stories of the old and new Reykjavik.  I would suggest booking sooner than later as he books up quickly, especially during Airwaves.  You can book at the link provided above.

Lucky

2. Lucky Records

Lucky records is a massive music hub.  Typically there are bands playing during off-venue before, during, and after the festival.  The shop is pretty massive so you can shop and listen to live music all at once without feeling crowded or drowned in sound.   A lot of the Icelandic bands playing Airwaves will have music available at most the music stores and I suggest you get it while you can as a lot of it isn’t available off the island, And if it is you’ll pay more for shipping than your record.

fischer7inch

3. Fischer

Tucked neatly behind the city center in an old Icelandic house is Fischer.  Ran by a very musical family and their friends, the house/store has a cozy old Icelandic feel that’s quite warm and welcoming.   Throughout the shop there are displays of olden time “remedies” for common ailments all coming from an old book they also have on display.  They sell bespoke items such as sustainable tooth brushes, soaps, shampoos, and perfumes.  They also sell a 7′ that is handmade with the store soundtrack which was created by Sin Fang, Jonsi, Kjartan Holm, and Alex Somers.  If you want one I would suggest getting there at the beginning of your trip as they are handcrafted and with the influx of festival goers chances are they will be sold out sooner than later.  One of my favorite things about Fischer, is the mighty guard dog Atlas.

12tonar

4. 12 Tónar

Another of my favorite record stores in Reykjavik.  Go in, get a bit of coffee and browse both levels of the shop looking for new and used music.  As with Lucky’s, the owners and employees are very nice and really knowledgeable about the Icelandic music scene.  I have found absolute gems for great prices downstairs in their vinyl bins.  They also may have bands playing during the festival so watch out for schedules.

whynotplotur

5. Why not? Plötur

This is fairly new to Iceland.  A new underground record label that will most likely have basement concerts at RS6013 later in the festival.  True underground and off the mainstream Reykjavik experience.  It’s a DIY label and I highly suggest you check and follow their Facebook page for updates and notices of when bands will be playing.  They have a great catalog of music already and if you dig what you hear you need to pick it up then, as it’s rather difficult to get otherwise.

smekkleysa

6. Smekkleysa Plötubúð

Smekkleysa is an old staple around Reykjavik.  Smekkleysa records, (Bad Taste records) was the baby of Björk and Co, and the record store carries a lot of classics and current releases.  Kiddi, the man behind the counter has been part of the music world as long as anyone and is quick to answer any questions you may have about music current and old.

messinn

7. Messinn

I typically grocery shop and live off cucumber and tomato sandwiches all throughout the festival, money is better spent on vodka I say.  That being said,  I always try to hit up Messinn at least once during the festival.  A few years ago I surveyed a good deal of my Icelandic friends and asked which restaurant in Reykjavik has the most true to form and best tasting Plokkfiskur (fish stew) in town.  It was unanimous that Messinn was the place, and they were right.  Served right in the skillet the food here is really good, and the atmosphere cozy, it’s perfect for the November weather.  I would suggest getting a reservation a day or two before attempting to go there as they always tend to be busy.

braudco

8. Brauð & co

I’m not a big cinnamon bun fan, but this place made me one.  They also carry quite the assortment of bread that you can get by the slice or full loaf.  I typically grab my bread here for my breakfast and lunch during the festival.  It can get busy, but it’s worth the wait.  One of the better Icelandic secret spots you’ll find in the city.

mandi

9. Mandi

It may seem weird, middle eastern food in Iceland, but Mandi is the saving grace of almost every late night in Iceland.  They’ll be open after the bands stop playing, and out of all the late night food spots this is the best in the city.  It will busy with locals most nights but it is well worth the wait.  Typically, I grab food to eat then and food for breakfast in the morning.  It’s a very social place so it’s easy to meet new folks and learn about unannounced gigs and after-parties around the city.

vegan

10. Veganæs

And finally, but not least, Veganæs.  This is a new place located in Gaukurinn, A bar and possible Airwaves venue located in downtown Reykjavik.  Veganæs is a new outfit ran by Linnae and Krummi.  Linnae has been a staple for vegan food in Iceland for a long time, and her partner Krummi is in the Icelandic bands Mínus  and Legend.  I haven’t had a chance to eat here as they just opened, but it is one of the first places I plan on hitting once getting to the island.  Other great vegetarian/vegan places in Iceland are Kaffi Vinyl, and Gló

Icelandic Bands of Iceland Airwaves 2018

And here it is, the complete list of Icelandic musicians performing at the 20th anniversary of Iceland Airwaves 2018.  It’s under new management so there are probably a few more surprises coming our way, But here is the list of everything we know.  So get digging in and learn about all the new stuff you haven’t heard before.

I’ll be doing a few blog posts with tips, recommendations etc… And this year I’ve started a series on the first time Icelandic musicians, you can see the first post here.

You can see my past Airwaves photos here, and my tips for a pleasant Airwaves as well.

Once again I’ve created a loosely sorted, by genre, cheat sheet for the Icelandic bands.  Out of the 225 bands set to perform, 139 are Icelandic.  This year the Airwaves team massively improved their line up page, you can search and sort by genre and country, but the genre sections is rather precise, so I’ve kept the categories rather broad here.  To See the official Airwaves line-up page, click here.

With Icelandic bands it can always be hard to categorize their music styles as one of the greatest things about them is their ability to snag and grab their favorite things from all over the musical spectrum and make it work for them. So these lists are just general nods in the direction you may be looking for, for example, the Dance table, they sit right on the edge of electronic and dance pop/rock and beats. But I tried to focus on the prominence of a lead singer and the beats of the bulk of their songs in deciding which side to place them.

At the bottom you will also find the Spotify playlist for the entire festival.

Categorizing some bands can be extremely difficult as they run borders are freely through genres, so if you feel a band needs to be moved into a different category let me know and I’ll change it.

Singer/Songwriter / Folk / Indie Folk
Árni Vil Árný Árstíðir Ateria
Axel Flóvent Árstíðir Ateria BeeBee & the Bluebirds
Birgir Hildur Vala Ingibjörg Turchi Júníus Meyvant
Lára Rúnars Ljósfari Matthildur Moonbear
Snorri Helgason Sóley Special-K Teitur Magnússon
Ylja
Rock / Pop Rock / Indie / Dance / Dance rock
Agent Fresco Amabadama Ari Árelíus Ásgeir
Auður Berndsen Between Mountains Bláskjár
BRÍET Ceasetone Daði Freyr Einarindra
Elín Harpa Febrúar GDRN Grúska Babúska
Helgi Hildur Himbrimi Hinemoa
Högni JFDR Karitas Kayak
Kiryama Family KRÍA Máni Orrason Mighty Bear
Milkywhale Mórókóar Moses Hightower Mr. Silla
Munster Shakes SiGRÚN Svala
Sycamore Tree Sykur Tara Mobee Una Stef
Valdimar Var Vasi Vicky
Vio Vök Warmland Young Karin
Punk / Metal / Hardcore / Garage Rock / Prog Rock
Austurvígstöðvarnar Future Figment Glerakur Godchilla
GRÓA Hatari Hórmónar Horrible Youth
Julian Civilian Korter í flog Kul Mammút
Pink Street Boys Ring of Gyges Rock Paper Sisters Rythmatik
SÓLSTAFIR Stafrænn Hákon Tófa Une Misère
Electronic / DJ / Atmospheric / Experimental / composers
Andartak ÁRNI² ASDFHG aYia
B1B2 Bára Gísladóttir Berghain Bervit
Bistro Boy dj. flugvél og geimskip DJ Snorri Ástráðs Eydís Evensen
Futuregrapher Gunnar Jónsson Collider Helgi Sæmundur Hugar
kjartan Holm LaFontaine Madonna + Child Magnús Jóhann
Ólafur Arnalds TRPTYCH
Hip-Hop / Trap / R&B / Rap
AFK Arrnar Úlfur Birnir Cell7
Countess Malaise Cyber Dadykewl Elli Grill
Emmsjé Gauti Floni Geisha Cartel GKR
Joey Christ JóiPé x Króli Jökull Logi Kef Lavik
Kött Grá Pje Logi Pedro Lord Pusswhip Ragga Holm
Reykjavíkurdætur Sprite Zero Klan Sturla Atlas Sura
Two Toucans Úlfur Úlfur Unnsteinn Yung Nigo Drippin

Icelandic newbies at Iceland Airwaves 2018

The final acts for Iceland Airwaves 2018 have been announced and there are a lot of Icelandic newbies on the roster.  I’ve decided to blog about some of them and have included a brief history of each.  Also, the bands have been kind enough to answer a few “getting to know you” questions.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do a few of these posts between now and Airwaves.

Ateria

Ateria is a family trio, sisters Ása and Eir and their cousin Fönn. Ateria formed in 2017, and won Iceland’s famous new music contest, Músíktilraunir in March of 2018.  The trio have studied classical music for years, and their music incorporates what they’ve learned creating a darker folkrock-ish feeling.  Funfact, the name “Ateria” is derived from the latin name for the eider duck, Somateria mollissima.

What acts would you say hold kinship with your music?  Ateria:  “One always perceives one’s own music differently than other people’s, so we find it very difficult to determine what acts are similar to ours.”

What other Icelandic bands are you looking forward to seeing?  Ateria:  “We are looking forward to seeing Between Mountains, Vök, Mammút, Ólafur Arnalds, Hórmónar, Mókrókar, Sóley and Agent Fresco.”

Do you have any albums, or merch for sale.  Where do folks go to get it?  Ateria:  “We don’t have any albums or merch for sale.”

If you could be any animal covering any song, what would you be, and what would you cover?  Ateria:  “We would be eider ducks covering ‘Weird Fishes / Arpeggi’ by Radiohead.”

Kjartan Holm

While this isn’t Kjartan Holm’s first time at Airwaves, previously performing with his other bands such as For a minor reflection and Tófa, this will be his first solo performance.  His broad knowledge of musical genres have allowed him to collaborate, produce, and work with a great number of Icelandic musicians and has taken him all over the globe.  Focused more on composition, his solo material carries an almost dark atmospheric sound combining a diverse pallet of instruments, sounds, and beats.  Kjartan, along with Jónsi, Sin Fang, and Alex Somers, also created the background soundtrack to the store Fischer located in downtown Reykjavik.

What acts would you say hold kinship with your music?  “I guess stuff like Tim Hecker, Stephen O’Malley, Ben Frost, Fennesz and things like that come to mind. When I write this kind of music I’m just following the mood I’m in at that particular moment. Mixing together processed sounds with recordings on top of that for endless amount of time until I’ve created something I think sounds interesting. The structure kind of comes automatically in that process.”

What other Icelandic bands are you looking forward to seeing?  “Bára Gísladóttir is definitely one of the most interesting acts around in my opinion, Gunnar Jónsson is really good, Ingibjörg Turchi, SiGRÚN and Tófa.”

Do you have any albums, or merch for sale.  Where do folks go to get it?   “My debut album as a solo artist is being mastered as we speak. It won’t be out until early 2019 though. I have older stuff, everything from barely-touched demos to finished orchestral pieces on my Soundcloud (www.soundcloud.com/kjartanholm) but that’s about it for now. When the record is out I’ll start promoting in properly. For those interested they can check out my website for more sounds: www.kjartanholm.com”

If you could be any animal covering any song, what would you be, and what would you cover?  “That’s easy. I’d be a Raccoon covering Belinda Carlisle’s ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’.”

Shakes

Shakes consist of Logi Marr and Frank Raven.  You may have heard of Logi’s former band, Lily of the Vine but Shakes is as about as far from that sound as you can get.   Formed in 2016 Shakes are on a mission to bring back real drums and good melodies.  Their first E.P. is all about sex, drugs, and casualties.

What acts would you say hold kinship with your music?   Shakes:  “We don’t really feel like anything influences us really, our album Red Motel was basically about murdering your girlfriend in a motel room..never heard that before..but I guess Bobby Vinton is cool.”

What other Icelandic bands are you looking forward to seeing?  Shakes:  “No idea who’s playing besides us.”

Do you have any albums, or merch for sale.  Where do folks go to get it?  Shakes:  “We have a 7″ double single vinyl for sale in the UK only. We will be bringing it for airwaves and people can buy it at the show. We will also maybe collaborate with a icelandic designer and bring some cool stuff for sale, you don’t wanna miss that.”

If you could be any animal covering any song, what would you be, and what would you cover? Shakes:  “Shakes ARE fucking Cheetahs and I guess if we were covering we would do something badass, I wanna be adored with Stone Roses. Maybe we should on Airwaves..see you then.”

Sycamore Tree

less than a year old, Sycamore tree has already gained quite the following.  The duo consists of Ágústa Eva Erlendsdóttir, of Silvía Night fame, and the fashion designer Gunnar Hilmarsson.  soothing instrumentals topped with an eloquent chanteuse.  Another fun fact, Gunnar Hilmarsson once designed the uniforms for Wow Air.

What acts would you say hold kinship with your music? Sycamore Tree:  “Sometimes it´s hard to tell for an artist to be the best judge on that. We create really without thinking about what other people do and we follow our heart. The names we hear popping up when people talk about the Sycamore Tree “Sound “ are everything from Leonard Cohen, Lee Hazlewood, Beth Gibbons to Mazzy Star. Basically we don´t know or really care to be honest.”

What other Icelandic bands are you looking forward to seeing?  Sycamore Tree: “There are so many great ones. Warmland, Agent Fresco and Between Mountains I don´t want to miss. But I could mention so many more.”

Do you have any albums, or merch for sale.  Where do folks go to get it?  Sycamore Tree:  “People will be able to buy our album in all music stores and most cafés in Reykjavik.”

If you could be any animal covering any song, what would you be, and what would you cover?  Sycamore Tree:  A Lion Covering Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) by David Bowie ( This is Gunni answering this question )

For the full line-up head over to here.  And of course, to listen to the full line-up check out their Spotify playlist:

 

 

 

 

 

FM Belfast – Island Broadcast review

FM belfast is by far my favorite dance band to see live.  I’ve jumped up and down and picked confetti out of my hair for over 8 years watching this super-group of musicians and they’ve never let down.  Their 4th album, “Island Broadcast,” delivers that party feel and has quickly become my second favorite album of theirs, only slightly behind “How to make friends.”

The beats on the album are much more energized and dance-able than “Brighter days,” but there is a strong undertow of reality with the lyrics, creating a unique contrast that solidifies the album.  Each song on the album is it’s own story of growing old but not growing up, holding your head above water and encouraging others to do the same, and spending what little time we have on this rock enjoying where you are and what you have.

While I could go through and describe what I felt track by track, I’d rather just highlight a few of my favorites and post videos so you can make up your own mind.  The only official video I could find for songs on the album is the album opener “All My Power.”  A back and forth of two folks, one who feels guilty, the other the reason why:

My favorite track on the album by far is “The Game”

“You’re so pretty” began as a short story written by Lóa about aging restlessness.

And “Fearless Youth” was written by  Örvar Smárason and is a tribute to youth and friends of the past.

I asked Lóa a few questions and she was nice enough to answer, here they be:

  1. As a whole, the music on the album is a lot more lively than on Brighter Days, and yet  the lyrics are some of the most pensive and serious out of your albums.  Was this contrast intentional?

The contrast was not intentional no, unless Árni meant it to be so and forgot to tell me. I don’t know why the album is more lively. Maybe because we finally realize that we have nothing to lose. The track Strobe for instance is just a rave mantra to dance to. It’s not necessarily a logical track to be on the album but I don’t care about things like that anymore. Trying to do what you think people want you to do is futile.

  1. Throughout the album, there is a “them” that you seem to rally against.  Is there a single entity that is “them”, or are they different song for song?

“Them and they” usually means some force or people who are more powerful than you and control something in your life or want to control you. It’s not about anyone in particular, it’s more about trying to stay sane in our strange world.

  1. The voices in my head really appreciated “Agent” as they feel it is their rallying cry for working together to make me resemble somewhat of a normal human being? But for normal folks, who’s being encouraged in the song?

You and me are being encouraged. Because we feel like we are so powerless when in fact there are so many of us who feel the same way. I like to believe that most people are nice, if they weren’t the world wouldn’t function.  I’d also like to send my greetings to the voices in your head.

  1. How personal is this album to you?  There seems to be a lot of reflection of where the characters in the songs have been, where they are, and where they hope to be.

It’s personal on many levels. We write the lyrics together most of the time so it’s a bit of a puzzle and it means different things to us. For me I’m having a bit of a crisis of what I should do now. I don’t have a plan but for some reason I keep coming back to the idea of having chicken in a backyard and grow vegetables.

  1. In the Game, who are you taking the blame for, who has no shame?  And what is this bright light you speak of?

All of us take the blame for the people in power. The bright light is about hope and the weird need to believe in something or someone. For me it’s kind of a cry for a decent politician coming out of the woods to save us. I’m not a religious person and I’ve kind of lost hope in politics but there’s always a part of me that is hoping for some kind of female Che Guevara… ok this sound stupid but sincerity will do that to you.

Island Broadcast is available digitally, on vinyl, and on CD.  It’s available on Spotify, and if you want to purchase it any of your digital outlets should have it.  The vinyl and CD are available via their website.  Follow them on Facebook and and Instagram to be notified of touring dates and events.  You can also see the concert photos I’ve taken here:

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