Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Cat Gundry Beck GROA 2 02

GRÓA are the sound of the underground

09 April 2024, 09:00
Words by Steven Loftin
Original Photography by Cat Gundry-Beck

DIY, experimental and principled to the core, next-gen punks GRÓA might just be the most exciting live band in Iceland right now.

It's not just volcanic currents that flow beneath Reykjavik. The Iceland capital has its own underground scene – an organically sprouting rebellion – and three-piece GRÓA are budded from these verdant vines.

Sisters, drummer Hrafnhildur 'Hrabba' and lead vocalist and guitarist Karólina 'Karó' Einars Maríudóttir, along with childhood friend bassist Fríða Björg Pétursdóttir have a natural unruly, unleashed fervour to them that rattles throughout their post-punk sensibilities. Becoming a band was, in fact, as much of an organic process for the three of them: "We had been best friends and had been doing everything together, and this just became one of the other things that we did together," says Fríða. "Then that started to evolve to us, like, what did to make songs and experiment and find our sound or what we wanted to do with this." "It just opened up so many doors to have such a good friendship and then combine it with the music world. It made a lot of things so exciting for us," adds Karó.

With Fríða and Karó calling in together, and Hrabba separately, the trio begin piecing together their journey so far and just what it is that makes them tick. "We grew together in this curiosity like it was not one of us came and had this crazy idea that we should make a punk band or something," chuckles Hrabba. "It was more like us hearing what came out of how we felt that day and just like playing around and having fun. The first years we didn't have a destination or something – we would do that later."


Each member has years of classical piano training from their childhood, but pushing this away and instead embracing a more ramshackle form of creativity suited the trio. It was around the Einarsdóttir familial homestead they'd tinker and play, getting to grips with their instruments, with Fríða eventually joining in with a newly acquired bass. It was in 2018 they immersed themselves in the burgeoning post-dreifing scene around Reykjavik. An art collective formed by like-minded creatives, they'd put on shows anywhere they'd find space including bicycle repair shops, gardens, basement venues, and schools, eventually becoming an organically shifting and changing lineup with each night.

As they grew and developed, so did understanding the extent of their creativity – right down to building their own instruments, including a 'waterphone', which featured on 2021's What I like to do. Those years spent playing around with instruments in the Einarsdóttirs’ grandparents’ garage eventually led to a self-titled debut album. As the trio emerged with an arsenal of tracks, with a shambolic Chesire cat grin, they were driven by a rattle and hum with artistic thirst. Soon, taking part in Iceland's Airwaves fest, they found themselves breaking out of the scene and embarking on a steady, global export mission where they've become known for their communal-embodying live shows.


To celebrate their achievements so far, the four-piece are reissuing What I like to do alongside 2019's Í glimmerheimi via US label FOUND. This has given them a chance to take stock of how much they've changed. "After three or four years, it's always a little different to look at things, and see some things for the first time that you didn't notice before," explains Hrabba. "And maybe you're seeing some angle of things that you really like and something that you used to like that you don't really know about now. I think that's really precious, and inspiring. And then after some years, it's going to change again, and maybe I won't even care," she shrugs.

Going through this process involved them all listening together, which Hrabba notes, "We hadn't done that for some years. When I listened back to them, we've grown up so much and each song is us discovering something new. It was very interesting to feel that time through the songs. And remembering talks that we had before we made a certain song and why we made lyrics for that song."


There's an inherent rebellion to everything GRÓA does. As a unit, they're willingly dismantling the usual tropes in favour of doing things their way. It turns out, that rebellious spirit is something they bring out in each other. When I ask if this is the case, smirks break out amongst the group, until Hrabba mentions, "I think we've made a space together where we can explore our rebellion so at least it's really easy for us to get in the mood with that and be really supportive of each other." Karo adds: "I think we all of us think of rebellion as a powerful tool in our personal life as well."

"It's a lot of purpose behind it. It's also a rebellion against the mainstream," explain Karó. "It's not the way we would want to go. And also, we were focusing a lot on playing free concerts, so it wouldn't be expensive to everybody could come and listen," she says of its inclusivity. "And also just creating also a nice space that is a safe space for everyone," adds Hrabba.

Their live show is where GRÓA bring a taste of that Icelandic underground to the world. A glorious cacophony of heart and intrigue, the aim is to "create a space where people can feel they are also a part of it," explains Hrabba. Having ventured to the US with support slots with the likes of U.S. heavy-hitters Wilco, as well as closer to home with fellow Icelandic post-punks Kælan Mikla, there's no fear in the trio when they're bringing their close-knit gang to new countries and stages. "The feeling is so strong between us that it kind of doesn't matter," Hrabba says. "Of course, the surrounding can we make it even better, but when it's not good vibes or everything is off, then we just have fun with it," they all giggle. "Then you can just find some other way to experiment with a crowd," adds Karó.

Experimentation is a pivotal part of the GRÓA experience. Every show aims to have a unique moment, more often than not spat out by one of the trio before showtime. "Something that we do sometimes to make us excited is to decide the thing before the set that we're going to do that we haven't practised," explains Hrabba. The GRÓA unspoken motto boils down to "try it out, and just do it and see how it goes," as she puts it.

Explaining a recent trend of trying to expand their communal experience, Karó mentions that they've included a compliment of additional instruments on stage, "In case the space would open up and everybody could grab instruments and join. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it just doesn't work out but there's always this way that it could go."

Cat Gundry Beck GROA 2 03

When they're out in the world, GRÓA are keen to find like-minded communities. It's a key part of the organic nature of what they do, and from the scene they sprouted from. "We've gotten to know people that have been doing same similar things as Post-dreifing in other countries, that really excites us to meet people that have similar spaces. On our tours that has been the focus on these kinds of places to play at." But, as with any budding enterprise, sometimes you need to find the offer rewards a bit larger: "It's also nice to play other shows that are maybe not like that, but are paid better."

The band were due to play some more shows in the US at SXSW last month but pulled out in protest at the festival's affiliation with the military after it emerged that the Army had signed on as a "super sponsor" for the Austin, Texas-based event, which was also giving a platform to defence contractor Raytheon. After indie singer/songwriter Squirrel Flower announced she would be withdrawing from playing the festival, the likes of Lambrini Girls, Kneecap and many more followed. "Raytheon profits from the genocide by supplying weapons to the IDF, the IDF has now killed at least 1 in every 75 inhabitants of Gaza, including 12,300 children," explained GROA in an statement posted to their Instagram page. "In support and solidarity with the Palestinian people we will not sing, play or perform our art among war profiteers and we encourage all artists and programmers to do the same. Use their platform and speak up."

A move like this can only come from a band confidently broiling with conviction, particularly having begun their tentative journey to a wider reach. "Art is a tool to create a better world and has no place alongside warmongers," adds

Cat Gundry Beck GROA 2 05 2

Throughout their journey so far they've gained experience and confidence – but GRÓA's untethered creativity relies upon a purposeful innocence. "There's some beauty in that naivity," reckons Hrabba. "That's what I enjoy reflecting back on some of the songs that's us not overthinking. That's something that is really important for us. And also the thing that Freda was talking about with doing maybe one unplanned thing that concert, whatever that is, like try out a song with everyone switching instruments or someone taking their shirt off or whatever it is, I think those original, easy ideas, that's something that really empowers us."

For the trio, there's just one thing that they see as a key aspect of their ambitions: "I hope that people can feel that we are doing this because we enjoy doing it." says Karó. "That reflects a lot on our music making as well because it's the same with just the songs in general, the songs need to evolve, so they can live longer if they need to," she continues. It's wanting to embrace the world in a rackety mess that isn't afraid to speak its truth, but, at the end of the day, even if the world stopped listening, as Karó puts it, it wouldn't matter anyway, these childhood friends are in it for one reason only: "We enjoy to make music together, and to see that music keep on evolving and changing that's just the thing I would want to keep on feeling."

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next