Keeping a finger on the pulse

Iceland’s progressive rock, go on!

in BLOG by

(This article was featured on “Tengivagninn” on Rás1 Icelandic National Public Radio on Tuesday, 2 July 2019.)

I took part the other day in a discussion about Icelandic music in which I heard that Björk wasn’t particularly popular in Iceland when her music career was starting to take off abroad. At home, her music wasn’t described as ‘mainstream’. That made me think about how one’s perspective on Icelandic musicians depends on one’s vantage point – from abroad or from Iceland. Outside the island, Icelandic musicians are seen as a phenomenon, and many people believe that living and creating in Iceland must be a wonderful experience. I observed this and came to the conclusion that one of the most beautiful aspects of following the local music scene is witnessing how projects in Iceland sprout, grow and blossom and get well-deserved attention abroad – sometimes more often than in Iceland itself.

To be able to speak about a ‘music scene’, there must first be a space where people can perform their music; by this, I mean REAL music venues. Unfortunately, such spaces are disappearing continually in Reykjavík. Last month, for example, a decision was made to change the operational agreement of Húrra at Tryggvagata. Ásgeir Guðmundsson, who is in charge of the Innipúkinn music festival, had to move the event out of the venue. As a music fan, I was saddened by this news, and I saw it as a nail in the coffin for local musicians.

Captain Syrup

It was at Húrra where I experienced my first show of the band Captain Syrup, who created an atmosphere similar to the alternative metal of Primus, with influences of funk, metal and rock. Captain Syrup is one of those very few bands whose concerts I would turn up for precisely on time – even if I had to run to get there (and I must admit that I’m no athlete!) – so I wouldn’t miss a single note of their performance. Those who have already seen the band on stage know how amazing bassist Björn Heimir Önundarsson is. The guy plays like there is no tomorrow! No surprise, then, that he was awarded Best Bass Player at the Músíktilraunir (Music Experiments) contest in 2014. The band’s sound is juicy, and the skills of all members – Kjartan Árni Kolbeinsson on guitar and Ríkharður Sigurjónsson on drums – indicate that they are on the fast track to become a musical virtuosi. Jazz, rock, funk, metal… they seamlessly mix different genres and welcome listeners into a fascinating sonic jungle where it is impossible to predict which direction those musical jokers will take next.

Captain Syrup has released two albums – “Promo Scratch” in late 2015 and “Þorskaklám” in 2017. Their aim for this summer is to finish a seven- or eight-song LP with new material that they premiered at the Secret Solstice festival. For those who want to start their adventure with Captain Syrup, I’d recommend the song, “Tales of Woodman”.

Flavor Fox

I would also like to mention a brand new band that could cause a stir on the Icelandic music scene. It’s a trio called Flavor Fox that plays progressive pop. The band consists of Stefán Laxdal of the stoner rock band Ottoman, Ævar Örn Sigurðsson of Zhrine (who are more popular outside of Iceland than in the country) and Höskuldur Eiríksson of, amongst others, sludge rock band Godchilla and reggae band Amabadama. All of them have been busy bees on the ground of the Icelandic music scene, and I recommend listening to the first song, “Pouring Rain”, that Flavor Fox released on 4 July. The dexterity of the band draws attention. What’s more, they draw inspiration from contemporary pop music. Maybe the genres that they have found their way into are not the most popular ones in Iceland, where everything is revolving around hip hop and pop now, but Flavor Fox represents a quality of international bands that I adored in my teenage years. I deeply hope that there will be many opportunities ahead to experience Flavor Fox live. Keep your eyes open; more new material will be coming from them soon!

Lucy In Blue

Personally, I believe that more bands can have a stroke of good fortune like what happened with the great, young, progressive psychedelic rock band Lucy In Blue, who landed a contract with Norwegian label Karisma Records at the end of 2018. Under their wing, the band released its sophomore album, “In Flight”, in April. Certainly, this achievement of an Icelandic band fills one’s heart with pride. After going to their gig, I can tell you, Lucy In Blue is one of those talents that have all the means to conquer the world. Let’s make this real in more cases. Let’s create a space for others to blossom or explode with happiness at their shows, like Lucy In Blue does – whose happiness is absolutely infectious.

In the end, I’d like to encourage you to support your local music scene. Go to concerts! Buy music and merchandise straight from the bands, as it increases the chances of Icelandic bands surviving and evolving. It reminds our musicians that pouring their hearts into their creative work is worth it!

Justyna Wilczyńska
a.k.a. Stína Satanía

Captain Syrup
Flavor Fox
Lucy In Blue

Stína has followed her passion to Icelandic music as a music journalist since 2010. She joined then a writing team of Muzyka Islandzka - a Polish website dedicated to Icelandic music. Spreading her wings, Stína started her adventure with Icelandic language and moved to Reykjavík where she studied the language at the university. She also takes an active part in life of the local music scene. Since 2014 Stína had run a music blog that was transformed in 2017 into a printed magazine on Icelandic music.

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