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Iceland Airwaves 2014: The Homegrown Talent You Need To Hear

04 November 2014, 18:00 | Written by The Line of Best Fit

Iceland Airwaves remains one of the world’s most superlatively unique musical experiences. The coming together of a peculiarly beautiful Nordic attitude to music and the state of wonder that visiting bands and fans find themselves sharing is something that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

A large part of what makes Airwaves so special is the space and respect given to local artists, something we feel it only fair to replicate with our ode to those undiscovered native gems.

Young Karin

On their debut EP n1, Logi Pedro Stefánsson and Karin Sveinsdóttir's Young Karin finds dreamy synth pop cut with a distinctly crisp air. Having started Young Karin just over a year ago, their romantic swells and nostalgic electronic glitches also resonate with a real warmth. We catch up with the young pair ahead of their performance at Gamla Bio on Friday.

Tell us about the beginnings of Young Karin?

Karin Sveinsdóttir: I was singing in a high school singing competition. I didn’t win but Logi was on the judging panel and called me some weeks after the competition. He had worked with my brother on some rap stuff. I guess it was kind of written in the stars that we should do something together. It all felt really natural. We started out with the name Highlands but then there was this US band with the same name and Young Karin described the lyrical theme nicely. People thought it was a joke when we changed the name and talked about it sounding like rap artists - which is kind of cool actually.­

Where did you both grow up?

We’re both raised in Reykjavík. Logi was born in Portugal, he’s half Angolan-half Icelandic and raised in 101 Reykjavík since he was 3 years old. Karin is from Breiðholt, which is a gritty, but kind of sexy, neighbourhood with mostly housing blocks and nice polish supermarkets. Both our parents were just low in-come people working hard in really colourful environments.

When did you first start falling for music's charms?

Logi Stefánsson: We don’t come from musical families, but we both have siblings that we work with in music. I was probably 5 or 6 years old when I was thrown out of music school here in Reykjavík. Really strange experiences there. My mom was running the house when I was small so we mainly listen to Cesária Évora and stuff like that. I also have some really strong memories of artists like Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, Aaliyah and all the The Neptunes stuff on TV – so I kind of grew up on that.

Talk us through your debut EP n1?

KS: We started writing the EP in 2013. It was written in Reykjavík, Stockholm and Lanzarote, and recorded in Logi’s bedroom and then our studio which we set up to finish the EP. Everything is tracked, produced and mixed by us. We wanted to try doing it completely in house. It has elements of Top 40 pop and southern beat music but also just honesty, emotions and at times some humour. We didn’t set out to sound like this or that. It was all about taking what influenced us and doing it our own way.

How do you feel about n1 as a representation of what Young Karin is?

LS: I think it was kind of like a declaration. Like a statement. We wanted to put something out that felt like being 17-20 year old and having your heart broken/being in love/wanting to be cool. Just all those feelings. And we feel like a lot of people get it, some definitely don’t. But to us it doesn’t sound like anything else.

There are strong threads of pop, R&B and electronic music that run through the EP - what music do you find yourselves drawn to for inspiration?

LS: Drake probably influenced this EP more than anyone. People always put on a funny face when we say that but Drake is just doing music that we really connected to. And to me also because he gets what it’s like growing up looking different. And then I listened to a lot of Ben Frost when doing the album. Kanye West. David Bowie’s “Neuköln.” Rihanna. Destiny’s Child. Stuff like that.

What can we expect from the next record, is that underway?

LS: We got enough material to make an album. The new stuff goes maybe into a bit darker and deeper place lyrically. It sounds big. You can hear some of the songs when we play live. We’ve had some nice guests coming to the studio also but we’re still recording. We’re more trying to stay in the moment with the feel of the new songs. It’s more about our lives right now. We really want to do an EP with those songs soon.

What's next for you?

LS: We just signed to The Windish Agency for bookings in America so hopefully we'll do some shows there. We also just want to find the right way to put out our next release. Ooh and we also have this insane video for “Sirens” coming out soon. Stay tuned for that.


M-Band offers an atmospheric and dark electronica. Describing his music and art as an 'experiment', Hörður Bjarnason's latest album will be released in the UK on 17th November 2014.

How did it all begin for you?

Hörður Bjarnason: I grew up in the south of Iceland, in a small village called Flúðir. It´s a great place when you are a kid. We swam in the river in the summertime and went skiing and sledge riding in the hills in the winter time. I started learning classical music by the age of seven. Few years later my father gave me the first synthesizer and from there I began to experiment with recording, first on an old tape recorder and then later on ProTools. I moved to the capital when I was 16 for college and at same time started playing with various garage bands, usually on bass guitar or keyboard. I started experimenting with electronic music after I saw live set with Hermigervill, which really blew my mind actually, how a one man can produce music like a full band with all those weird devices. The idea about M-Band has existed for long time and it wasn´t until I was 22 that I really got the courage to just sit down, let go and write the music that I always wanted. The outcome was not exactly what I had expected but it was definitely the starting point so I have kept on experimenting ever since.

Do you feel part of any scene in Iceland?

HB: The music scene in Iceland is really small and friendly and the electronic music scene even smaller, so people in that scene are quick to notice once you start doing something. Extreme Chill and Möller Records are the scenes were I feel at home (The Extreme Chill festival in Berlin and their showcase in Airwaves 2012) and Möller's Heiladans (Braindance) evenings. I´m not so sure if my music sounds like my contemporaries in the scene but I really do not think about it at all, I just write what I write and I guess that we all do that. I find although that both Good Moon Deer and Tonik deliver the same atmosphere or energy that I´m trying to grasp in my writings.

What would you say are your inspirations?

HB: a. Cinematic and dramatic music of all genres has inspired me since I was a kid, but especially ethnic world music. I touches some nerves in you that I can´t really explain but I often wonder that this was what the cavemen felt when they discovered music. I find I like music more that transcends you to some dystopian world or atmosphere rather then telling a story really. Another thing the has inspired me in music making, especially this project is the universe in greater context, the mankind and what we are and what we do, how everything has a beginning and an end, elements and frequencies. I was listening to lot of stuff during the making of the album, all from Gorillaz to Jon Hopkins to Zu to Arvo Pärt. I think eventually all those artists influenced me in someway during the process.

How do you approach playing live, being a primarly electronic act?

HB: It has been really hard work to convert the music into a performance. You really don´t want to just push play and at the same time you only have two hands. There are endless possibilities how perform with today´s technology so i try to take and implant the things that get me most inspired during the show. Doing this all alone also grants you the advantage to experiment and play with the composition on the fly without the need to consult with your band mates.

HB: What is happening now is I´m presenting my latest release 'Haust' (check out extract All is Love here) and what follows are new videos, improved live set (that story never ends) and do some artwork around the album. But what I think is most important with all creative projects, be it this project or something else, is not to be afraid to experiment and try new things. That is what music and art making is mostly to me: an experiment. It´s good to know that you don´t have to publish everything you make since 90% or something that comes out of it is not so good.

Finally, who do you recommend we go and check out during Airwaves?

HB: I would definitely recommend Good Moon Deer with their captivating audio/visual performance, and of course my hero, Hermigervill and see what I´m talking about! I´m also very excited to see Pink Street Boys, Asonat and Oyama all presenting their new material. Go see them!

My Bubba

There’s no getting round it, ‘My Bubba’ is about as cutesy as names get, but there’s a welcome darkness that lurks not so far beneath the surface of Swedish My and her Icelandic counterpart Bubba’s contemporary folk.

For anyone who thinks countrywoman Emiliana Torrini may have gotten a bit bloody loud recently, this duo’s music could be just the antidote; a subtle yet not uncomplicated blend of contemporary and classic folk influences, their latest record Goes Abroader was recorded with Noah Georgeson (Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom), and though luscious from start to finish displays an admiration of the likes of Coco Rosie that suggests peril around every corner.

We asked the band how they’d prime a relative newcomer for their first My Bubba gig, and got this enticingly enigmatic, third person response:

“My Bubba live is kinda like a soothing, smoothing velvet that you didn't know you needed. The genre could be New Nordic Amish Erotica Folk, with songs made from often quirky and sometimes dirty lyrics, guitar, double bass and percussion, around the melodious harmonies of My and Bubba's voices. They tell stories from their lives and send you to places you didn't know exist. Prepare to be charmed.”


Baldur Björnsson is a one man electronic doom band from Iceland who incorporates searing noise, hip-hop influenced beats and DIY electronics in to a soup that any right minded restaurant goer would send back immediately. Though not for the faint of heart, the right set of ears will likely find it mesmerising.

Like all good horror, it displays a wicked sense of humour, with songs like “Children of Today – Dying Tomorrow” and “Vi-Vi Section Vi” raising chuckles merely from their titles, and a whole album of the stuff – BLACK MUSK, naturally – being the kind of music so many Wolf Eyes fans wish they’d never abandoned in favour of macho metal posturing. Fans of Pharmakon and Aaron Dilloway might want to press play and turn out all the lights.

What should a newcomer expect from a Krakkkbot set?

“My set is always improvised over planned structures, with sounds and tracks mutating and morphing into each other with beats spilling out at the seams. It will be a droning, growling trip, changing beats into voices and doom into joy. In this case I will feature material from my two albums - Amateur of the Year - Crammed with Cock and BLAK MUSK - released this year on Lady Boy Records and FALK respectively.”

What are your general impressions of Iceland Airwaves festival?

“Iceland Airwaves has done a lot to raise the profile of artists and music from here as well as introducing all sorts of crazy foreign stuff into our bloodstream. I'm all for it!”

Who else should we be checking out at the festival?

Here are some local artists that I know and like in this year’s lineup, in no particular order:

Boogie Trouble - Fun disco fun from some (former) surfpunk kids.

Kælan Mikla - Teen angst poetry punk girls

T.V. Thoranna Björnsdóttir & Valtýr Björn Thors - Haven't heard this particular collaboration but I am a huge fan of Þóranna and her electronics.

Muck - Super duper nice band & super duper nice dudes, I played with some of them, they are good fun.

I also really really like the bands that I'm sharing a bill with: AMFJ, MASS, DÖPUR, BNNT and the legendary AUXPAN, but that of course goes without saying.

Pétur Ben

The list of those who feature on Pétur Ben’s latest album God’s Lonely Man reads like Icelandic royalty, with Amiina, Sin Fang, Lay Low, Sigtryggur Baldursson of The Sugarcubes and Kippi Kanínus each turning up to lend a talented hand. But Ben’s music - which will delight anyone who’s ever enjoyed the more lush work of Beck, Pavement and Ryan Adams - has made a name all for itself, with said record receiving a nomination for the Icelandic Music Awards’ album of the year, and being a prize winner on the Kraumur Shortlist.

A sought after soundtrack artist and frequent collaborator, his records under his own name display the talent of a man whose gaze goes far wider than indie rock, alongside the infectious joy of listening to a man thriving in his comfort zone.

I’ve yet to have the pleasure of seeing you perform – what should I be expecting?

This year I'll be performing some new songs I'm working on, some stuff from God's Lonely Man and maybe even a cover song. I've been experimenting with some acoustic songs with my friend Óttar who is a wizard on the double bass. He can make that thing sound like a whale having an orgasm. I might try out some visuals too. I'm playing with three other bands; Kippi Kaninus, Oyama and Dada. It will be the first time I perform with Oyama and I really look forward to it. Oyama's first full length LP, Coolboy, is out now in Iceland and Japan.

Other than yourself, who should we make the time to go see at Airwaves?

Since I'm playing so many shows, on and off venue, during the festival I doubt I'll be able to see everything I want to see. But my wish list for Airwaves 2014 of stuff I haven't seen or haven't seen in a while is like this:

Girl Band, Zebra Katz, Son Lux, The Knife, Svartidauði (is), Prins Póló (is), Anna Calvi, Ghostigital (is), Júníus Meyvant (is). Lily the Kid (is), Mr Silla (is), Döpur (is), AMFJ (is), Óbó (is), The Flaming Lips, Jóhann Jóhannsson and the ISO (is)

Stuff you need to see if you haven't already: Lára, Grísalappalísa, Snorri Helgason, Kælan mikla, Lay Low, Vök, Strigaskór nr 42, Mugison, Fufano, Börn, Sóley, Ásgeir, Sin Fang, Hymnalaia and Kimono.

Iceland Airwaves runs from today until Sunday.

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