The first snowflakes have started falling in Reykjavík, which means winter proper is only a hair’s breadth away. For locals this means hygge, thick patterned jumpers, and (most importantly) Iceland Airwaves! The showcase festival has been going strong since 1999, bringing in top tier foreign acts all the while highlighting the best and most exciting Icelandic bands. With around 140 bands performing this year, it's easy to get overwhelmed when picking what to go see.

As always, a good portion of these artists are taking to this hallmark stage for the first time. While all of these virgins are invited to play at the festival for a reason, we’ve combed through their ranks and picked ten local acts that we believe you’d be remiss to miss.

Ásta

Ásta

This performer is an accomplished violist, having performed as a soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. While she’s classically trained, as a singer/songwriter she instead performs poetic folk tunes, employing a vocal range akin to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. Already critically acclaimed, she makes her Airwaves debut this year.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

Ásta: When I was born we lived in 101 Reykjavík, but then my parents moved a few times when I was growing up. My childhood years were spent in Grafarvogur, teenage years in 108 Reykjavík, but now I’m back “home” in 101.

When did you start making music?

I finished my BA in viola performance from The Royal Danish Academy of Music one and a half year ago, after having played the viola since I was three years old. On my last semester in RDAM I started writing poetry, just for fun. After graduation I moved back to Iceland to live in this tiny village in the West Fjords called Flateyri. I took my dad's guitar with me and it wasn’t until then that I realised that I could turn these poems I had written into lyrics and that I was actually able to sing and create melodies to them.

Describe your sound

Up until now, most of my music has been written in the really dark winter of the Icelandic Westfjords, surrounded by mountains and nature all around. It could be described as gentle, intimate, poetic and quite folkish with a melancholic undertone.

I absolutely love playing around with the Icelandic language and my lyrics are very dear to me. Sometimes I even like to look at myself as a storyteller, as well as a musician. Each song has a story behind it that I want to tell. I realise that not everyone speaks and understands my lyrics, because they are all in Icelandic. But even if you don’t understand the words that I am saying, I hope that you can still feel what I’m trying to say.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

There are not so many artists that sing entirely in Icelandic, so if you want to hear some raw and intimate music sung in this beautiful language, you should come to my show at Airwaves.

Who else should we check out?

Hjaltalín is amazing, and also Moses Hightower. Go see Hugar if you want something meditative and Sykur if you want to dance your ass off. Svavar Knútur always makes me smile. Also, I recently discovered Frid and I’m excited to see her live at Airwaves.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

Go to the swimming pool and get some fries at Reykjavík Chips. Then, if you’re up for it, go for a walk on Ægissíða - it’s very pretty.

Blóðmör

Blóðmör

This trio is the winner of this year’s annual Músíktilraunir, Iceland’s battle of the bands competition, joining the ranks of Of Monsters and Men, Mammút, Samaris, Hórmónar and Between Mountains. Historically, this proving ground has been a launching pad for Iceland’s greats, and we are confident that this fast punk band can give us fuel, fire, and that which we desire.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

Blóðmör: We are from Kópavogur and Hafnarfjörður.

When did you start making music?

We started playing as a band back in late 2016, but our current lineup has been active since early 2018.

Describe your sound

We are a punk based metal band with all sorts of inspiration from here and there, including a lot of Icelandic music.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

You should check us out because we have a unique sound and we go all in and spare no experience in our live performance.

Who else should we check out?

HATARI and Of Monsters And Men are two very strong acts which are going to attract a lot of people to the festival. Then if you are into metal you should definitely check out Une Misère and Auðn.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

Of course the best burger place in Reykjavík is, undeniably, Block Burger, located at Skólavörðustígur 8.

Elín Sif

Elín Sif

This young singer/songwriter shot to stardom in 2015 when she partook in the national prelims for the Eurovision Song Contest, landing in third place. At the time she was only 16-years-old, making her the youngest contestant to compete. She’s been active in the trio Náttsól since then, but her big claim to fame came last year in the form of a starring role in the harrowing and critically acclaimed drug-fuelled tragedy film Lof Mér að Falla. Now, riding high on success, she’s struck out on her own and is releasing her first solo album.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

Elín Sif: I grew up for the most part in central Reykjavík although I was born in Montreal and lived in both cities as a child. I’m much of a city girl.

When did you start making music?

I had a pretty musical upbringing due to the fact that my mother is a music teacher and made an effort in incorporating music into daily life activities. I remember making up melodies very young and driving my sisters crazy singing them all the time. When I was 15 years old I found a new way to approach the instruments around me and I remember sitting down and almost deciding to write a song. That’s when I fell in love with song-writing.

Describe your sound

I would describe it as almost minimalistic and acoustic indie-folk. I write most of my songs alone with my guitar and I want my sound reflect that. I have a passion for story-telling so my focus on lyrics is an important part of my music.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

When your heart is pounding after running around downtown Reykjavík in the November storm, trying to soak in all the experiences Airwaves has to offer… My performance could just be the calm and cozy moment you will be looking for. I am also extremely excited to be playing my songs with a band for the first time. I have gathered some pretty amazing players to join me but I promise to keep it intimate and take you on a ride.

Who else should we check out?

There is so much talent to choose from. I am really excited to see the band Between Mountains play. Go see Matthildur if you want to hear some absolutely breathtaking vocals. Icelandic legend Pétur Ben is one I don’t want to miss out on seeing and the band Vök is a must if you are in the mood for dancing.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

For a unique experience I recommend taking a walk down to the coast and to the old lighthouse in Grótta. Nearby is a geothermal footbath called Kvika that is incredibly cozy and beautiful. If you are lucky you might catch some northern lights and then this is the perfect spot to be at. It’s also free of charge.

Hrím

Hrím

Hrím is a serene and atmospheric trio whose songs explore the interplay between intimacy and expanse. Their music is an eclectic mixture of genres, with folk mixed with electronic beats and samples, which come together to make sophisticated harmonies and other-worldy sounds.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

ÖSP ELDJÁRN KRISTJÁNSDÓTTIR: I'm from Svarfaðardalur valley, North East of Iceland. Cherif is originally from Japan with some Egyptian roots and Anil is part German and part Sri Lankan/Malaysian - they both mainly live in the UK.

When did you start making music?

We started making music together in 2014. Anil’s the founder of London Contemporary Voices choir which is where we met - through singing. After a rehearsal, we had a little jam session then later when Cherif joined us there was no turning back - we landed in this sound world that we fell in love with.

Describe your sound

Our sound is somewhat a mixture of melancholic nordic melodies, inspired from my background as a folk singer, raga-tinged orchestral and vocal arrangements from Anil and electronics and beats from Cherif.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

Because we're like the hidden people or elves in the mountains - we very rarely come out to play - haha - this will be our first ever gig in Iceland and we have a new EP coming out soon!

Who else should we check out?

Oh.. there are so many amazing artists this year. But to name a few I'd say Kælan Mikla, Hildur, Sykur, Alexandra Stréliski and Between mountains.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

That's a no brainer. Vesturbæjarlaug swimming pool.

Konfekt

Konfekt

This down-to-earth trio has only been playing for a year, having competed in Músíktilraunir and landed in second place. Konfekt (“Confections”) plays the sort of soulful and groovy tunes just perfect for all the cool cats out on the prowl during Airwaves.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

KONFEKT: We are all from Seltjarnarnes, a small town that is Reykjavík’s neighbour.

When did you start making music?

We’ve all been playing music for a long time and known each other since kindergarten, but didn’t start making music together until a little under a year ago.

Describe your sound

Groovy feel good music!

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

We haven’t released a lot of music yet so this is your chance to hear us before the whole world. And we promise you’ll have a good time!

Who else should we check out?

Oh wow, there’s so much we’re excited for! But to name a few, you should check out OMAM, Vök, GDRN, Gabriel Ólafs and our friends from this years Músiktilraunir Ásta, Blóðmör and Flammeus!

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

Find the nearest swimming pool to you and soak in there for a while. Then eat something good and you should be ready to go!

Krassasig

Krassasig

Reykjavík-born multimedia artist Krassasig has been active as one half of art-pop duo Munster, but now he’s striking out on his own. Having already released emotionally-charged single “Brjóta heilann”, Krassa is set for stepping onto the big stage to show his own fresh take on R’n’B.

BEST FIT: When did you start making music?

KRASSASIG: A long time ago, before the first iPhone was released, way before my high school graduation, but little after Britney Spears released “Toxic”.

Describe your sound

I think it originates in the Indie genre, I listened to a lot of indie-rock/pop music as a teenager. But in recent years, I've taken wider influences from electronic dance music, R’n’B and also classical music. I think I mix all of those different elements together, mainly focusing on simple catchy melodies.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

You should come if you like the music, If you wanna dance, have a good time, if you wanna take a spin through my a bit odd universe.

Who else should we check out?

Auður, Bríet, Hjaltalín, Vök, Aron Can, Hatari, Gabríel Ólafs.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

One of my favorite places in Reykjavík for food is the Coocoo's Nest at Grandi, then afterwards definitely go to the swimming pool, swim a few rounds, breathe in the sauna and chill out in the hot tub.

Morpholith

Morpholith

Quintet Morpholith has been active for the past three years, playing at fringe shows for the small but loyal metal fans of Iceland, as well as appearing at DIY punk festival Norðanpaunk and mainstream metal fest Eistnaflug. Since their formation, Morpholith has been slowly building steam, winning the local Wacken Metal Battle competition this year and making their debut at Airwaves.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

MORPHOLITH: The band members all live in the capital area but we rehearse at the edge of civilization, or Hafnarfjörður as some call it.

When did you start making music?

We began playing gigs in late 2016, after a few months of experimenting with our sound.

Describe your sound

An avalanche of riffs, fuzzier than the Icelandic sheep during winter, projected by the finest tube amplifiers found in the Icelandic heartland.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

Because we are the only band with more amplifiers than band members.

Who else should we check out?

Our buddies in Auðn and Une Misére of course. They played the same Wacken Metal battle thing we did some years back and both are now among Iceland’s top metal exports.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

You might want to get Telegram on your phone and find some of the local dealers, then find a nice sofa of your choice and light a fat bowl of the finest Icelandic skunk available.

Ragnar Zolberg

Ragnar Zolberg

Despite not being a geezer, Ragnar has been active in the Icelandic music scene for decades, first gaining notoriety as the frontman of alt rock band Sign at the turn of the century. Since then he’s been active in all manner of projects, including as the guitarist for Swedish prog rock band Pain of Salvation for six years. As a solo artist he’s already released four LPs, meaning he’ll have a big catalogue of songs to choose from for his debut at Airwaves.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

Ragnar Zolberg: I would have to say Isafjörður, it’s a lovely little town in the remote Westfjords, surrounded by mountains and the ocean.

When did you start making music?

I built my first drumkit with pots and pans at the age of two and I haven’t looked back since. Nine years later I released my first album, then only eleven-years-old playing guitar and singing, like I do now.

Describe your sound

Maybe a crippled bastard child of The Cure, Judas Priest, Sepultura and John Lennon?

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

You should only come see me play if you want to.

Who else should we check out?

Sólstafir and Kælan Mikla, two great local bands who both sing in Icelandic.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

I recommend going to the fleamarket “Kolaportið” and get yourself a box of cured shark, that’s great for rebooting the system. I grew up on this stuff so I absolutely love it!

ROKKY

ROKKY

For those coming to Airwaves hoping to dance the night away, we present ROKKY. This artist has all of her ducks in a row, with thumping house beats, techno vibes and enticing tunes, proving even the coldest winter can be full of warmth. Don’t forget your dance shoes and well put-together outfits.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

ROKKY: My parents are from Iceland, but I was born and raised in England and I moved to Iceland when I was twelve. I lived in Hafnarfjörður to begin with, where a lot of my family lives, and then we moved to downtown Reykjavík.

When did you start making music?

I’ve always been making tunes in some way or another and played around with different genres and bands. But I started really finding my ROKKY sound about three years ago and was proud to finally show people my music.

Describe your sound

Fat synth-electro-dance-pop. When I make music, I want to be able to dance to it. I love French electronic music and I listen to a lot of tech house and ‘80s music, so I like to think it’s a mix of all of those things.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

I promise a lot of dancing. And if you appreciate a good bassline and you like to bob your head or even side-step a bit, hole-in-one. I’m playing a slightly more poppy set on the Thursday off-venue at Studentakjallarinn, Saturday at 8pm at Dillon and then the main show at KEX Hostel on Saturday at 10pm, which will be even more electro dance vibes.

Who else should we check out?

It’s really hard to narrow the list down, there are so many great acts this year. But I’m definitely going to see Detalji. She has a really cool live show, very powerful and the visuals are fantastic. I’m also really intrigued by Pattesutter and what his live show will be like. Other acts I want to see include Akkan, Booka Shade, aYia, Georgia, Ivan Dorn, Otha, Snapped Ankles and Sykur

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

My mind goes straight to a hot tub. Either at a local swimming pool, or just ask people who have them in their garden. And I recommend snacking on harðfiskur (dried fish) it’s delicious and rich in protein and you can buy it in any supermarket.

Una Schram

Una Schram

Una is sometimes called the Ariana Grande of Iceland, which while flattering, doesn’t quite do her justice. Her wistful R’n’B flows smoothly from topics like romantic entanglements to enforcing boundaries with toxic people. Expect to hear plenty of her easy-going EP energy at her Airwaves show.

BEST FIT: Where in Iceland are you from?

Una Schram: I’m from the downtown 101 area of Reykjavík

When did you start making music?

I’ve been writing lyrics and making up melodies since around the age of nine, but it was about two years ago that I began experimenting with producers and some of my lyrics came to life.

Describe your sound

I find my sound really hard to describe but I just like to call it contemporary R’n’B.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

I’m taking my Airwaves set very seriously and I want it to be my best gig yet, with more production value and presence. Just come see me for a banging show.

Who else should we check out?

Go see some other talented women, like Anna of the North, GDRN, Matthildur, Madame Ghandi, JFDR to name a few.

Where should we go during the day to nurse our Airwaves hangover?

For nutriment you obviously have to go to Prikið. There’s good food, cheap coffee and it doesn’t matter how late you sleep in, they serve breakfast all day. I also recommend going to Vesturbæjarlaug, a great outdoor pool with hot tubs to relax in and a steam bath to sweat out all the toxins.

Iceland Airwaves from from 6-9 November. Find out more at icelandairwaves.is