We’re standing outside the venue at Aldrei fór ég Suður, Iceland’s premier music festival. Inside the organizers are running through the program with the artists. This is the ninth year now and the rise of the festival has been meteoric, this free music festival in the west of the country brings around 3.000 people to the town of Ísafjörður every Easter. Due to it’s northern lay and the curiously unfixed date of the Christ’s death the festival has been held in March and even as late as May but for the most part its about people dressed up in their woollen best, standing outside in snowy conditions.
We have attended this festival for years now and seen it grow to live broadcast on the web, national radio and television, it also brings tourists from all over the world, eager to sample this unique musical ensemble.
We snooped around backstage to grab a seat next to Sykur, ready to bombard them
with some questions as they gobble up their Plokkfiskur (traditional fish stew).
Hey, can we just start by getting your names?
Kristján Eldjárn, Agnes Björt Andradóttir, and that one over there in line for some Plokkfiskur is Halldór Eldjárn.
Is this your first time here at Aldrei fór ég Suður?
Yes, as a band, but I think we’ve all been to Ísafjörður before.
You’ve been playing as a band for quite a while now?
Since 2008, me, (Kristján), Halldór and Stefán Finnbogason. We got together to play fun electronic music. Stefán isn’t with us here he’s in the States at the moment where he is going to adopt a kid. We will have to do our best to make it without him and try and make sure the stage isn’t empty looking without him. Agnes joined us late last year.
So he’s legitimately excused. Is that how you’d describe your music?
Yes, Electric shock party music. “Oooohh That’s a great play on words, you should laugh now!” Unnsteinn from the band Retro Stefson shouts out. Halldór: You could keep a running commentary on the interview?
Unnsteinn: Sorry I’m a terrible attention seeker. Wouldn’t you (he turns and asks us) rather like to interview Stórsveit lýðveldissins? Which is the band that we started together. Kristján: That was a great band, we rehearsed in the attic of Austurbæjarskóli (East side elementary school) in-between filing cabinets full of grades of past students from the past seventy years. Ex-prime minister, Davíð Oddsson, for one.
How did he manage in school?
He was pretty shit at swimming, well that’s not a surprise really as there is such resistance in his curly hair.
He could have swum backwards?
True, he could have been junior world champion in the 400m backstroke!
You just released your second album Mesopotamia and have amassed a bit of a following.
What is the allure of coming to a festival like this, where you aren’t being paid for your work?
It’s just the atmosphere that you wouldn´t find anywhere else in the world, there’s the road trip, being with your friends and meeting other people from the industry. Also it’s just a huge party from start to finish and you get to see new bands. Besides as artists, the travel and upkeep is provided for us, that and Plokkfiskur.
Halldór: For me it’s not just a chance to have a good time, I have this romantic notion that we can reawaken the countryside. You don’t have to go far back in time to find a time when the countryside was much more alive. Towns are stagnating as everything moves to Reykjavík, I find that it’s just great to be able to give something back and hopefully the tide will turn. Of course there are a lot of people that come up from Reykjavík but you really get to play for a completely new crowd and its makeup, its component parts being very different to our regular crowd.
You’ll hopefully get to see grandmas and children sitting on their parents’ shoulders.
But as you’re last on stage it might be more underage drinking?
Agnes: That’s our target audience!
That is great, have you actively been endorsing under age drinking in your music?
All our lyrics are just hidden calls to young people to drink, I mean if you playback Mesopotamia you’ll hear the instructions to making your own moonshine.
Being last on the roster and topping of the night must be an honor?
As the program finishes so early it should be real fun! A lot of the time when our set is at three or four in the morning, everyone is etiher comatose from too much drink or just gone home. So it’s a nice change to be able to close this early.
Then you get people on their fifth beer and well it’s pretty much downhill after that?
Kristján: Yeah, pretty much breezers and speed from then on!
At last, are you looking forward to seeing anyone special over the weekend?
Agnes: I’d have to say HAM as I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them live before. Halldór: For me it’s got to be Mugison, we saw him play in Oslo when we where over there playing and that was an amazing set. Kristján: Most of the musicians that we know I’ve seen before so many times before so I’m just looking forward to seeing something new and discovering new bands. Agnes: I’ve also heard that 701 is supposed to be really good.
We lead them out of the building to take a few pictures and are met by the coolest bartender I have ever encountered, he’s about ten and standing on the back of a pickup truck handing out ice-cold beers from from a fishing container. Ahh yes the weekend has arrived.
Interview: Guðni Rúnar Jónasson
Photographs: Elín Lóa