Airwaves isn't just about the big well-known names from out of town. There's a place for the Beach Houses, Hot Chips, Skeptas, Hinds and Battles but throughout Reykjavík's busiest week you'll see a neat cross-section of the Icelandic music scene. Probably more than any other festival, Airwaves offers a conveniently well-packaged way to get under the skin of this country's musical DNA.

The festival's opening day (Wednesday) is a mostly Icelandic affair but homegrown artists play several shows at the festival - as well as the official line-up, there's also an off-venue schedule which kicks off two days earlier. To save you from doing it, we spent a sleepy Sunday listening to every single Icelandic artist on the Airwaves line-up and found ten we're crazy in love with...

Alex Flovent

Axel Flóvent

19-year old Axel Flóvent hails from the northern fishing village of Húsavík and his take on modern folk music was a highlight of last month's Ja Ja Ja event at London's Lexington. It might be amiss to call him the Icelandic Bon Iver but we're going to do that anyway. Sue us.

How did you start making music?

I started making music in my old bedroom in Húsavík when I got my first guitar around 9-10 years old, my uncle taught me few power chords and I started writing all kinds of nonsense, but I started writing something that made a bit more sense when I lived in Denmark around 11 years old. 

Describe your sound

Modern folk music. At its core its acoustic and low key but bears obvious influences from other forms of music such as indie rock, pop and electronic music. 

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

People who are excited for chilled out atmospherical folk music should come see us play because we have a bunch of that. 

Who else should we check out?

CeaseTone - which is my session guitarist’s main project. They are playing a lot at Iceland Airwaves too, they are really energetic and good!

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

They really should learn the word flatbaka, because it means Pizza.

Axel Flóvent plays at 8.50pm on 4 November at Harpa Silfurberg and 10.30pm on 8 November at Gaukurinn with five off venue shows throughout Airwaves.

East of My Youth

East of My Youth

Icelandic electro-band East Of My Youth formed in 2014 and were the last band we caught at Airwaves in the very same year, playing only their second show ever. Think melodic electro-pop in the vein of Twigs and Austra and you're half way there.

Introduce yourselves

Herdís, Thelma and Guðni.

Where in Iceland are you from?

We are all born in Reykjavík, the west side. 

When and how did you start making music?

We started making East Of My Youth's music on a cold and gloomy winter night in the midst of a personal existential crisis. 

Describe your sound

Melodic electronic pop music, heavy beats and bass, big soundscape!

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

Because we have created a crazy show with visuals, dancers and heavy beats. It will be like watching a concert, being in the cinema, a night club, and traveling to the future all at the same time. 

Who else should we go check out?

TRPTYCH

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

Afbragð - excellent! But only people 80 years and older might use that word. Say it after every Iceland Airwaves show you like and you will appear as a very sophisticated person.

East of my Youth play at Harpa Kaldalón on 6 November at 11.40pm and five off venue shows throughout Airwaves.

Gangly

GANGLY is actually a collaboration between three notable members of three of the most exciting Icelandic bands of the last three years - Samaris, Sing Fang and Oyama, respectively. With GANGLY there's a sense of dark fun at work: it's Icelandic trap RNB, basically. 

Introduce yourselves

Dreamboy, Sadgirl and Deadflower

Where in Iceland are you from?

Reykjavík

How did you start making music?

We’re a team of writers, producers and performers and we wanted to do some collaborating.

Describe your sound

Sadgirl writes emo rnb, Deadflower writes pop bangers, Dreamboy writes ballads.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

If they like that sorta stuff they should come check it out

Who else should we check out?

GKR

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

Sleikur means snog. It’s the noun of the word sleikja which means lick. Such a good word.

GANGLY play at Harpa Kaladon on 7 November at 1am, with an off-venue show early the same day at 2pm.

Brilliantinus

Brilliantinus

We spent a morning walking from Brixton to the South Bank in London and it timed nicely with the entire contents of Brilliantinus' SoundCloud. Some of the most chilled, slow beats we've heard in ages, from 100bpm broken ambience to lush 120bpm deep house.

Where in Iceland are you from?

I’m from the one and only Reykjavík

How did you start making music?

I am a very emotional human being but I mostly keep it to myself. When I was about 13 years old my mother's boyfriend, who is a musician, loaned me one of his turntables and gave me a few hip-hop records. I really liked them so I started buying some hip-hop singles from Lucky Records (one of Iceland's best record store) and slowly started listening to more electronic beats.

There was something about this music that made my emotions and body more stable, more calm. I could connect different kind of emotions to different kind of songs and the music gave me feelings I had never had before. And that was good because at that point I wanted to make other people feel that way and decided to try and make my own music that would affect people in a similar way.

Also by creating music I could express my feeling more and more through the music. So I started teaching myself to make music and ended up where I am today. But everything is still evolving.

Describe your sound

It’s simple really. I always want to make the outcome something that really gets to me and makes me bump my head a little but also makes me close my eyes and think about weird sad stuff, beautiful memories or what will happen in the future (very clichéd right?). I want other people to connect and take their time to feel the atmosphere take over them. The sound ends up in a very atmospheric, groovy and heavy beat with beautiful melodies and it really is something that calms you down.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

They should come if they want to face their inner thoughts and get a warm feeling inside but also want to bump their head a little while they are there. My live performance is also evolving so there is not much to see but there will be beautiful visuals that the Extreme Chill family has created when i play at the Vodafone Hall.

Who else should we check out?

Well, if I have to choose one I would probably say Hjaltalín.  There are many other bands that I really like so it’s hard to choose. But Hjaltalín is such a great band and I love to see them perform. When they perform they are fun, emotional and have great energy. 

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

They need to learn bjór, which is beer, because they need beer, right?

Brilliantinus plays at Vodafone Upstairs Extreme Chill on 8 November at 5.45pm and has two further off-venue shows earlier in the week

HIMBRIM video still

HIMBRIM

Though he’s produced for some of the biggest names in Icelandic hip hop, Audunn Luthersson’s own music eschews hip hop tropes like ego and posturing in favor of a lovelorn style of pop, electronica and R&B. Auðunn was recently accepted into the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy joining the alumni of Hudson Mohawke, Flying Lotus and Evian Christ.

Introduce yourselves

Auðunn Lúthersson and Þórdís Björk Þorfinnsdóttir.

Where in Iceland are you from?

Auðunn is from Hafnarfjörður but Þórdís is from Reykjavík, the capital.

How did you start making music?

I had been working with Dísa on some other projects like her rap group when I finally heard her sing. I immediately sent her some demos of what I had been doing and we clicked from there.

Describe your sound

Our set at this Airwaves is gonna be a lot of fun. Nice grooves dance-worthy and modern. Bring your dancing shoes.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

Because we are so much fun on stage. Off-stage we are both terribly uninteresting and mean.

Who else should we check out?

Auður! My solo-project will be debuting in Tjarnarbíó on Friday. That's a project I will be doing a few gigs in France with in November as well.

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

Djammið! Pronounced Jam-ith. It means partying and especially partying downtown. If you read this interview and see our show tell us and go to the djammið with us!

HIMBRIM plays at Harpa Norðurljós on 4 November at 7.50pm.

Æla

Their names translates as "puke" and post-punk band Æla have been around for almost ten years, releasing their debut Sýnið tillitssemi, ég er frávik back in 2006. The onstage acrobatics of frontman Halli Valli are a thing of legend, so we're told. Æla are veterans of Airwaves and their new album Vettlingatök dropped earlier this year.

Introduce yourselves

Hafþór Skúlason (Haffi), drums; Hallbjörn Valgeir Rúnarsson (Halli Valli), vocals, guitar; Sveinn Helgi Halldórsson, bass; Ævar Péturrson, guitar.

Where in Iceland are you from?

We all come from a Reykjanesbær (Keflavík) except Halli Valli. He comes from a small fishing town just outside Keflavík called Sandgerði.

How did you start making music?

The band kind of started by an accident, in 2001 or 2002. Halli Valli, being from a very small village, was asked to help find a "local" band to play few songs before the "main" band got on stage at a fishermans dance in his hometown. He told the organizers not to worry, he had a band. That was not true. But he knew these guys from college, Sveinn, Ævar and Oddur (first drummer) were all in a band called Rými, that was inactive at that time, so he called them up and presented the idea. 

The idea, in short, was to form a punk band with a disgusting, unattractive name, have one rehearsal, write short, meaningless songs, stand on and kick chairs and this one-time only performance.. This was, in some way, back then, I think, to show some kind of dislike of social gatherings like this one. A lot of people getting together to get totally wasted, throwing-up and fist-fighting. I think we just wanted to rebel-out a little bit, and have fun.

But the main reason for all of this was the case of beer we were promised for the performance. But quite a few people actually like it, so we decided to do another show on a more appropriate venue. Since then we have had two drummers, but our current drummer, Hafþór has been with us ever since it got more serious and plays on both our studio albums. 

Describe your sound

We were once described as prankster-punkrock. I think that hits a spot. It is punk-rock, but its not fast. Its melodic, sarcastic and punchy post-punk. I also feel the sound is very Icelandic. In the beginning we were mostly influenced by the Icelandic punk-scene from the 80's and I think we sound like that. But I also feel now, especially on our new album, Vettlingatök, we have really made our own sound and feel where we are headed.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

The only way to experience our music is live and loud. It is made for live performance. It is recorded live. We love playing it live and we're putting a little extra in for our "on-venue" gig that you don't wanna miss. 

Who else should we check out?

DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

Other than Æla, the most beautiful word in the Icelandic vocabulary?  That means puke/vomit/barf/hurl/throw-up? I think it is most important of all to know how to say you’re sorry in any language. So learn this one and use it: fyrirgefðu.

ÆLA plays at Gamla bíó on 4 November at 11.20pm with an off-venue show on 7 November.

Reykjavíkurdætur

Reykjavíkurdætur

With a name that means "the daughters of Reykjavik", Reykjavíkurdætur is a 17-strong rap-collective that performs as solo artists, duos, trios and a group. They take on local politics, sexual violence and the rap scene in their fierce show which is sure to be a highlight of this year's festival.

Introduce yourselves

Salka Valsdóttir, Jóhanna Rakel Jónasdóttir, Solveig Pálsdóttir, Bergþóra Einarsdóttir, Þórdís Björk Þorfinnsdóttir, Ásthildur Sigurðardóttir, Sigurlaug Sara Gunnarsdóttir, Kolfinna Nikulásdóttir, Þuríður Blær Jóhannsdóttir, Vigdís Ósk Howser Harðardóttir, Guðbjörg Ríkey Thoroddsen, Valdís Steinarsdóttir, Steiney Skúladótttir, Salka Sól Eyfeld, Katrín Helga Andrésdóttir, Anna Tara Andrésdóttir, Tinna Sverrisdóttir

Where in Iceland are you from?

Well, from Reykjavík! with a few exceptions, but don’t tell anyone. For instance Vigdís is from Hafnafjörður so she had to go through a much tougher ritual to get accepted in the group. Most of us are from the 101, downtown Reykjavík.

How did you start making music together?

It started on 24 July 2013. Two of our band members, Kolfinna and Blær, had been rapping secretly for each other for some time when they had an idea to have a womens rap night in Bar 11 where they would invite a few friends to come and watch them perform with other female rappers. Earlier that year a girl named Nadia had released a rap song called ‘Passaðu þig’ which was an answer to the male-dominant hip hop scene in Iceland that was known for degrading women. She joined them for the performance and about 10 other girls signed up to perform at the womens rap night.

Just two days before the event many people started asking the girls if they could come and see the performance which resolved in them opening the event up for the public. In just these two days around 300 people attended the event on facebook and the place was stuffed during the performance. This is how everything started.

We held another rap night in October where more girls joined. On December 27th we, the girls that had been performing on the women's rap nights, released a promotional song for the third womens rap night. This song is called ‘Reykjavíkurdætur’ (the Daugthers of Reykjavík) which is now the name of our band. So it was all very fast and crazy and almost an accident.

Describe your sound

There is no one way to describe our sound. We are more of a clan then a band so we perform in solos, duos, trios and sometimes all together. Some of the girls are making reggae rap, some of them punk, some house, trap, pop, soul and so on. You name it we probably got it! For somebody that had never heard music before he could easily hear a hint of everything if he came to our concert.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

I think we have a show like no one else. There is some energy that sparkles when we play which has been ‘That something special’ that keeps us relevant. There is of course the fact that we are many and there for the performance is dynamic but also just the power that I feel we have. The music is diverse so there should be something for everyone, the performers are diverse and speak to different groups and we are rapping in Icelandic...what could go wrong?

Who else should we check out?

DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip. She is truly one of the funnest and coolest performers in Iceland and has a fun unique sound.

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

You should learn the word Trúnó. This word is only used when you have had too many beers and are in that extra sensitive, almost crying mode. Then you can ask someone: “Hey, come with me on a Trúnó” which basically translates to a personal conversation while drunk. This word will come in handy during the festival.

Reykjavíkurdætur play at NASA on 4 November at 10.10pm and Reykjavík Art Museum on 6 November at 8pm, with five off-venue shows throughout Airwaves.

₩€$€₦

Duo Júlía Hermannsdóttir and Loji Höskuldsson started working together in 2004. After taking a few years off to work on other projects such as Sudden Weather Change & Oyama, they reunited under the ₩€$€₦ name to play catchy experimental electronic pop.

Where in Iceland are you from?

We both grew up in the same neighborhood, 104 Reykjavík. We both currently live in 101 Reykjavík. I (Júlía) am half westfjords and half eastfjords though, and sometimes claim Patreksfjörður and Neskaupstaður as places I'm from, too.

When and how did you start making music?

I had some piano lessons and choir practice as a kid, and a lot of half assed cassette tape recordings of cheesy songs I made up. Loji figured the way to become the popular kid at school was to play cover songs at parties, so his parents gave him an acoustic guitar when he was 14, for those purposes. He learnt no cover songs and made up his own stuff instead. We ended up working together in the summer of 2004 as interior wall painters. Loji started sharing his songs with me because, according to him, I was "the only person awake and on AIM in the middle of the night." I had suggestions for improvements and somehow our first band (We Painted the Walls) was born from there. Fast forward a million years, a lot of stuff has happened in the meantime, but here we are, still killing it.

Describe your sound

Ok, imagine two people who've been playing in various types of rock bands for years and they're kind of lazy and tired of lugging around amps but also wanna try something new so they try to teach themselves to make electronic music. We're stepping out of our comfort zone and experimenting but, whatever we lack in experience in this particular field, we make up for with other experience, and by being excellent songwriters. We're sampling stuff we're comfortable with like guitars and drums, then adding whatever synths sound the most fun and trying to figure out how to make pop music.

We're both good vocalists, for what it's worth, and we put a lot of energy into the vocals. Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson from FM Belfast produced the material on our (upcoming) debut album and that helped A LOT in making everything click. We also got a little help from Doddi of Samaris along the way. We're blessed. We sound blessed.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

1) We are pretty cute
2) Our charm is above-average
3) My co-worker once tweeted that Wesen is Reykjavík's best kept secret and at least 3 random strangers have told me I'm amazing after our live shows.
4) The last time we played Airwaves together (as a totally different band) was in 2005, so this is kind of like our 10 year anniversary. Witness our special moment or regret it forever.

Who else should we check out?

Oyama, because I (Júlía) am also in Oyama and I want attention.

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

A foreigner should learn to say Drykk? in a friendly, questioning tone. "Drykk?" means "Drink?" (the y sounds like the i in drink), and this way you can offer to buy a Famous Icelandic Musician (FIM), of your choice, a drink (because you will definitely get that opportunity at least once). There are few negative and many positive possible outcomes to uttering this word. For example:

Scenario 1: The famous Icelandic musician doesn't understand your accent so you're forced to repeat yourself. FIM still doesn't understand, thinks you're crazy but comes closer to try to hear you. You will then be able to report on what FIM smells like.

Scenario 2: FIM understands you but doesn't want a drink. They'll still feel flattered, and think you were hitting on them. This will boost their confidence and improve their musical performance.

Scenario 3: FIM accepts your offer and you buy them a drink, and by doing so you contribute your precious foreign money to our puny economy. The economy strengthens and this ultimately leads to more Icelandic children getting music lessons = more amazing bands for you to see at future-Airwaves.

Scenario 4: FIM accepts the drink, thinks you're hot, you are single and the two of you have sex. You now have a child with a famous Icelandic musician. Your child is amazingly talented and takes care of you in your old age.

₩€$€₦ play at NASA on 4 November at 7.40pm and Húrra on 7 November at 8.50pm, with five further off-venue shows throughout Airwaves.

Teitur Magnússon

The debut solo album from Ojba Rasta's Teitur Magnússon dropped at the end of last year and is the epitomy of chilled indie with flourishes of psych. With one of the greatest beards you'll see during Airwaves (and there will be many beards), Magnússon's set will be a highlight of the festival. 

Where in Iceland are you from?

I'm from Reykjavík 104 that is around Laugardalur Park, born and bread.

How did you start making music?

I started making my own music in my teens, forming bands and writing songs about my dreams and reality.

Describe your sound

My solo project has a very natural sound to it. That is to say my songs come from a flippant but true place in my heart which my 10 band members add there unique talent to, so we create a world to together to live in for the duration of a concert. It's a collective vision, a bit naive but at the same time very grounded. Icelandic indie psych folk pop layered with colourful instrumentation if I´m to define it in normcore language.

Why should we see you at Airwaves?

If peeeps wanna join into a open family gathering which celebrates the true core of Icelandic pop music as a tradition they're welcome!

Who else should we check out?

Hjaltalín

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

One Icelandic word to learn... skál which means "cheers" and then everyone will assume they know your name.

Teitur Magnússon plays at Iðnó on 4 November at 11.30pm with four further off-venue shows throughout Airwaves.

Úlfur Úlfur

They dropped probably our favourite video of the recent years ("Brennum Allt" - which pretty much nails the humour and pomposity that Icelandic hip hop does so well) and they've been proclaimed by our favourite publication in Iceland as "the greatest thing in Icelandic hip hop right now")

Introduce yourselves

Arnar Freyr and Helgi Sæmundur

Where in Iceland are you from?

We are both from a small town in northern Iceland called Sauðárkrókur where 2500 people live in peace and harmony. 

How did you start making music?

We’ve been making music together for the past 13 years or so, but Úlfur Úlfur was established in 2010. How did we start? We basically just opened our mouths and rap started pouring out. It was crazy.  

Describe your sound

We just sound like two guys having a good time. A dynamic duo that explodes the boundries of rap music with outragious rhythm and melodies so catchy your mom is gonna be like “I hate rap but these guys are so cool“ and you have to face the fact that even though it’s your mom and everything she likes is super lame, this time she’s totally right and then you party with her and you become closer then you’ve ever been before. Like, make-your-mom-become-your-friend-kinda sound. 

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

Because we are good at what we do. If you wanna see somebody do what we do really well, you should see us. Nobody does it better. 

Who else should we check out?

We got to mention our whole family. Agent Fresco and Emmsjé Gauti are like bunch of fathers and mothers to us. GKR is our son and Milkywhale our sister. See them. 

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

Rass. It means ass and has an R at the start. It’s easy and at Airwaves it’s all about the movement of the rass.

Úlfur Úlfur play at Harpa Kaldalón on 5 November at 11.30pm, Reykjavík Art Museum on 6 November at 10.50pm, Vodafone Hall on 8 November at 8.40pm and have four further off-venue shows throughout Airwaves.

GKR

GKR

The new kid on the block, Gaukur Grétuson played his debut show in Poland last December and also shot the video for "Hello" there. He cites Kid Cudi as giving him the confidence to perform and looks set to be one of the artists who'll gain the most from this year's Airwaves.

Where in Iceland are you from?

Vesturbær, 101 Reykjavík

When did you start making music?

In the summer of 2012 - the first time I recorded a track, I got to do it free of charge at my friends studio.

Describe your sound

It’s hip hop but I might suddenly switch up and do a future pop record or something indie rock inspired. I’m not stuck in the one genre only area, I am very open to different ideas and sounds. BUT right now I would describe my sound as energetic, catchy, melodic and creative hip hop.

Why should we come see you at Airwaves?

Because I give my all into the performance, all my feelings are poured into these shows and I do believe that people feel that when I perform. To me, one of the best feelings in the world is to connect to someones energy or connect on a musical level. I have a lot of emotions in me that won’t come to light until I create music or perform my music, so it’s rare, I’m in my most vulnerable and my most confident state, when on stage. I want to take people away from the negatives and inspire anyone who watches.

Who else should we check out?

Lord Pusswhip

What's the most useful Icelandic word for a foreigner to know?

, it means Yes. Just nod your head and say Já when someone speaks to you in icelandic because then they think you understand what they are saying and everything is cool.

GKR plays Bío Paradís on 5 November at 6pm, has two shows at Húrra (4 November at 8.40pm and 9 November at 9.40pm) with three further shows throughout Airwaves. 

Iceland Airwaves kicks off on Wednesday with off-venue shows throughout the week. Tickets are sold out!