We finally meet the Icelandic electro quartet in the old cinema in Hafnarfjörður, a part of the town hall, where the opening concert of a town festival is going to take place. But before we can chat with Hallur and vocalist Janus, we have to wait for the sound check to end and the band to get drinks from a nearby off-license. We then settle at the ash-covered tables in front of the café for our first interview with Icelandic musicians.
Marcel: I find this place here really nice – is that something you do normally, play places where you haven’t been before? Are there regular concerts here?
Hallur: It’s a town-festival that’s going on right now, here in this town.
Kai: There’s a festival going on? Now?
Kai: We were here for hours and we met 10 people or so.
Hallur: I don’t know, maybe the programme is starting tomorrow or something. This concert is just part of the festival. We played a lot, new and different places around the island this year, smaller places than this one.
Marcel: Are there promoters for this kind of event?
Hallur: There is a promoter behind it, but I’ve never worked with him before, they just ask us to play and how much it would cost, and we said how much and here we are. It’s the only way for us as musicians to make a living, to play shows like this. When we are touring we tend towards loosing money more than gaining…we played a lot of high-school dances and stuff this winter, just to balance it out, you know…
Marcel: Do you have an agency that books you? For outside of Iceland?
Hallur: We have one in Berlin, but have not done much with them yet. Only two shows, I think. That’s it – the rest we book ourselves. Mostly we get contacted via MySpace or Facebook and stuff.
When we are touring we tend towards loosing money more than gaining…we played a lot of high-school dances and stuff this winter, just to balance it out, you know…
Bloodgroup have been going since 2006, and come from a small village near Seyðisfjörður, where the band was formed. At the time of writing, the band consisted of Hallur, Sunna, Raggi (who are all siblings) and Janus. They play catchy electronic dance pop, but with a very alternative twist. Lady Gaga is nowhere to be seen when you hear them play. They have released two self-produced albums, “Sticky Situations” (2007) and “Dry Land” (2009) in Iceland, and the latest one contains my favourite tune, “My Arms”. But other people like their sound as well.
Marcel: Is there any commercial aspect for you, making music in Iceland? Do you follow a plan, like releasing a CD, go on tour to promote it etc.?
Hallur: No, only bands that are exporting do it this way, the big names like Sigur Ros and Bjork. The other ones go differently about it. It’s not that organised, I think.
Kai: But I think your music would work everywhere. You could export it.
Hallur: We are trying – we’ve been looking for a label to release the album (“Dry Land”) worldwide. But it’s hard. At the moment we are really focused on Germany, more than any other place.
Kai: It’s a big market.
Janus: But also a fun market.
Hallur: We fit nicely there, people in Germany are always very supportive and we always get good feedback.That’s were we want to go and were our focus is.
We are disturbed by Halldór from Sykur, who asks what this interview is about and gets reminded by Kai that we were in contact via mail already. His only statement is “what happens here is what only remembers.” before he leaves. Does not make sense but sounds good. Talking about emails brings us to the strange ways of Icelandic communication.
Kai: I think in these days you can do tons of stuff, promotion-wise, via the internet. But Icelanders don’t like communicating via email, right?
Hallur: That’s just what we plan to do. But I really hate going through my Facebook-inbox though – tons of garbage. But I’ll need to go through it.
Janus: May do some good.
Kai: Some major deals may be waiting for you in there (laughs). But it’s funny – that’s what we hear most from bands in Iceland when we want to make an appointment: “Call me when you are there!”.
Marcel: We are Germans. We like to make plans, so we thought we are here for three weeks so we could make a plan at least for the first week, when to meet which band etc.. But all bands said “Call me when you’re there!”.
Hallur: That’s how we make plans here. I was actually explaining to a German journalist at the Aldrei fór ég suður-Festival what makes us different, and I think maybe this is it. How we think and how the music is different, our culture and our planning especially is like this. We don’t plan things. Makes it difficult though sometimes.
As we wrap up the interview, we are joined by the singer of Útidúr and Sykur, Rakel, who is also the very pretty girlfriend of Janus.
Rakel: Why are you sitting in the ash?
Kai: Because someone told us it would be extremely cool to come to Iceland and sit in the ash.
Rakel: (Pointing to the recorder) What is this for?
Marcel: We are two…bloggers, or something like this, and we are doing a portrait about the Icelandic music scene.
Kai: I actually wrote you a mail about it… we are called Sonic Iceland.
Rakel: Ah, I was looking at it just today.