Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
Cat Gundry Beck STBYN 05

On the Rise
Sucks to be you, Nigel

28 February 2024, 07:30

Straddling playfulness with gravitas, Reykjavík experimental punks Sucks to be you, Nigel are blending the best of American and Icelandic noise rock to make a sound that’s entirely their own.

Iceland is known for its awe-inspiring and merciless nature as much as its remarkable creative output. Despite a humbling population size, the country managed to produce some globally heavyweight artists – from Björk and Sigur Ros to Olafur Arnalds and Laufey.

With such musical paragons to marvel at, it’s no surprise that the capital city boasts a formidable music scene. Known to foster an “anything goes” environment, the Reykjavík scene is full of quirky and innovative discoveries, in part due to the absence of a rigid music industry.

Hanging around the primary school Hagaskóli in Reykjavík’s Vesturbær is Icelandic noise rock band Sucks to be you, Nigel, save for one member. Waiting on their drummer Ernir Ómarsson – who unfortunately has the keys to the school – the present members can forgive a little tardiness. Ernir happened to be moving countries on the day of the interview. “He’s probably taking a shower,” remarks singer Silja Rún Högnadóttir, seconds before the drummer appears.


Hailing from the capital’s underground scene, Sucks to be you, Nigel has quickly risen through the ranks as one of the more promising bands of the last few years. Their 2021 debut Tína Blóm (which translates as “Pick Flowers”) won the group a Best Newcomer nomination at the 2022 Icelandic Music Awards, and a Kraumur Award for album of the year. In November last year the four-piece released their sophomore album, Birdnoise, marking a sharp turn towards the abyss of feedback, nonsensical lyrics, and playful maturity

Sitting in the school’s staff cafeteria sipping on day-old coffee and carbonated water, the members – all in their early twenties – crack in-jokes with one another as they discuss their recent national television performance at Vikan með Gísla Marteini. “We were just fooling around,” says bassist Krummi Uggason explaining the band’s inception, originating from a lockdown collaboration with guitarist Vigfús Þór Eiríksson in 2020. “We’ve known each other since preschool. I got myself a hideous electric guitar. I knew you played bass, and I wanted to do something punky,” Vigfús replies.

Cat Gundry Beck STBYN 03

Sharing their love of classic Icelandic punk acts Þeyr, Grýlurnar, and Purrkur Pillnikk, the pair suddenly experienced a sense of newfound freedom. “I realised we could just make music,” Krummi remarks.

“It was Einar’s quote: ‘It doesn’t matter what you know, but what you do,’” cites Vigfús, referencing Icelandic punk icon Einar Örn Benediktsson (The Sugarcubes, Kukl, Purrkur Pillnikk) who was instrumental in bringing the British punk sound to Iceland in the 1980s. It’s a popular refrain, widely regarded as a maxim within the country’s independent circles.

“It’s a very basic statement,” continues Vigfús, “But starting out, it was like, ‘Holy shit!’ Nevertheless, I had gone through eight years of classical guitar studies,” he remarks. Realising the irony of his statement, the other members laugh. “So, I guess I knew how to play guitar. But I never learnt any chords or anything like that,” he adds in his defence.


With all members growing up in Reykjavík, the duo met Silja and Ernir while studying at Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð secondary school. They bounced around the few rehearsal spaces in town, eventually settling in Ernir’s garage in Vesturbær. According to the story, their standoffish band name derives from a nosy neighbour apparently unsettled with their creative discord.

Although Sucks to be you, Nigel have outgrown their debut record it certainly made an impression in Iceland, receiving the aforementioned recognition for their work. For a humble punk group, those moments left encouraging marks.

“We were just a tiny punk band,” Ernir says. “Somebody actually listened to the album and acknowledged that it’s music. That it’s good music,” Silja comments in disbelief. She switches tones, “You can always make music and be like, ‘Fuck you, we’re doing this for ourselves.’ But it was nice to receive that encouragement.”

Compared to their debut, Birdnoise is another reality. Instead of the short, intense bursts of impulsive energy featured on their first, their sophomore record reflects a sense of maturity, perhaps induced by the band’s life in and out of COVID. Birdnoise is an homage to feedback and curated noise, carefully straddling the line between playfulness and gravity.

Inspired by noise rock icons Sonic Youth and Slint, the album’s opening track title, “Susie takes a soundbath,” succinctly sums up what’s in store. You are Susie. The sound bath is being drawn. “We started deliberating more with everything we did. Putting more thought into it,” claims Silja who fronts the band with her anxious shouting and almost indiscernible spoken word on Birdnoise.

“It was born out of a Slint and Sonic Youth binge,” admits Vigfús about Birdnoise whose early drafts were written quickly after the release of Tína Blóm. “You can’t even begin to imagine how many people have asked us if we listen to Slint,” Ernir chimes, referencing an Instagram message they received the day before. “I don’t think it sounds that similar,” replies Krummi. “We’re definitely moving away from this sort of straight punk,” he continues. “It’s sort of less drive, energy, adrenaline. More vibe and mood,” Ernir adds.

Cat Gundry Beck STBYN 07

Although Birdnoise experiments with more complex, calculated and longer track pieces (the songs “Stulli & Rúnar” and “Kalt á tánum” both pass the 10-minute mark), the band is still very much grounded in the spirit of Icelandic punk. “Splitta G-inu” sounds like a Sonic Youth B-side, as Silja yells stream-of-consciousness lyrics, conjuring an air of paranoia reminiscent of Purrkur Pillnikk.

Silja says the album’s lyrics were written through a collaborative effort, although it’s obvious she takes the lead in that division. “It’s mostly nonsense,” she laughs. “Sometimes Silja goes up to the whiteboard and asks us for a word,” Ernir describes, explaining the process.

It’s an interesting mix of American and British noise rock, mixed with quintessential Icelandic nonchalance. One track features the sound of a microwave, firmly breaking the stupor Sucks to be you, Nigel’s music invokes.

Moving into Birdnoise, not everyone was on board with the new direction. “I sort of hated the new stuff,” confesses Ernir, although he admits it had more to do with the complicated beat patterns, a contrast to the band’s earlier arrangements. “And then you also feared that we’d lose all our fans,” Silja retorts. Helmed by producer and drummer extraordinaire Ægir Sindri Bjarnason, Ernir made short work of the album’s drum tracks.

Cat Gundry Beck STBYN 06

Sucks to be you, Nigel attributes their ability to hit the ground to the enthusiastic community surrounding the outfit. Hailing partly from the hype generated by the members’ peers at Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð , the band also had support from post-dreifing, the DIY art collective with a goal to build visibility and self-sufficiency for artists through collaboration.

“Our very first show was during a 20-person gathering ban at post-húsið,” reminisces Vigfús. “Which was actually the first ever concert hosted in post-húsið,” Silja clarifies. Post-húsið which has since been closed, was the centre of activity for post-dreifing. Stemming from an urban rejuvenation project initiated by the city of Reykjavík during the lockdown, post-húsið became post-dreifing’s headquarters between 2021-2022.

As frequent guests at the venue, it came as a shock to the band when it was ultimately closed due to noise complaints from nearby residents. For Sucks to be you, Nigel, it particularly affected their opportunities to perform live as Reykjavík’s live venues have become scarce for acts of a similar calibre “You feel the difference when we schedule a gig now. It’s a lot more hassle. When we had a show at post-húsið, it was so easy. It made everything easy,” Ernir laments “Everyone was available to help out,” agrees Silja. “There was also just a great atmosphere. It was always there for you,” sighs Krummi.

However, the absence of their old stomping ground has not diminished the band’s determination to perform live. Having concluded four European dates in 2023, the quartet sets its sights on playing more shows in their hometown. That is, until Krummi’s broken finger has healed. Regarding a new album, Vigfús thinks their next will be closer to Birdnoise. “I’d like to see more fun,” says Ernir. “Instead of a Slint record, we could do a Swans album,” Silja replies enthusiastically. Ernir moans, “Oh no, not Swans!”

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

Read next