The Real Icelandic Music Scene: Interviews with Icelandic Musicians & MP3 Mixtape Downloads

An in-depth feature about the Icelandic music scene, with interviews with top Icelandic musicians, and three mixtapes with MP3 downloads and streams.

A Culture Of Collaboration

Cultural homogeneity is of incredible prevalence in Iceland. But as already alluded to, the homogeneity is found more in culture than in musical creations. Musical tastemakers in the country share a similar attitude towards the pursuit of music — one in which mutual support is the centerpiece.

“I think it’s all about inspiration from one another,” says Albertsson. “There is a very bonded music community in Iceland, and I think that it’s obvious that these bands start to inspire each other.”

The scene is small, but its vibrancy offers immense potential for collaboration. The verity of this is echoed time and time again, by musicians of all kinds — from the indie rock stalwarts, as one might expect, to the garage rock nobodies who have barely seen their music exported outside of the country. Show bills on any given night might feature bands of three or four varying genres of music, the only connection being that they are simply friends who want to play a show together.

“Everyone goes to the same places, plays the same clubs, and get wasted at the same after-parties…” says indie singer-songwriter Pétur Ben. He explains that the community rewards those with good attitudes and sincere spirits. “First, you need to look at what you can do to help, and the community responds accordingly.”

“I’ve got a lot of friends here who are involved in music, and they’re always more than happy to help out and give out tips and pointers, although they’re making entirely different music from me,” explains Geir Helgi Birgisson. He explores a hardware-heavy variety of electronic music called Skweee and creates under the moniker, Rabbi Bananas. “People here tend to be adventurous; there’s a lot of different styles going on, so the community has a large variety of directions.”

“There is competition and there are cliques, like in every scene, but everyone helps everyone out…” says Collings. “It’s such a small place that if you go around acting like an arrogant rockstar, then everyone will despise you, and no one will respect or help you or what you are doing.”

Ukulele-wielding songbird, Ólöf Arnalds, seconds this fact, saying, “Everyone knows everyone here. If you meet someone new, it usually takes less than a minute to find a link to that person.”

But according to Bragi Marinósson and Emil Svavarsson of the electropop band Yoda Remote, a small music community can be a blessing and a curse. “It’s easy to get noticed,” says Svavarsson, while Marinósson adds, “but because of the small size, it’s hard to get attention if the music is not very different from the music that’s already there.”

“You don’t get away with doing something that’s not original,” Svavarsson concurs.

“Everyone feels they have to contribute something unique, compared to some places in the world where… [if there is] a band that’s unique, it’s okay in that town [to] have two thousand of exactly the same band singing about… exactly the same stuff,” muses solo artist Mugison. “Over here, that’s nearly impossible… Even though we’re definitely all copying from all sort of places, there’s kind of a mix, which turns unique.

“Say, somebody is copying me… and they release a song,” he continues. “I think the chances are that, within one week of them releasing the song, they’ll run into me in Reykjavik, or at some place, some venue, some street… and they’ll feel awkward, because they know everybody, who’s saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got that same sound as him; you’re just copying him…’ And that’s kind of nice, because then you’re forced to at least try to make your own voice.”

Icelandic Mixtapes

SAMPLE TRACKS
DOWNLOAD / STREAM COMPLETE MIXTAPE

Rökkurró – Augun Opnast (12 Tónar)

Seabear – “Lion Face Boy” (Morr Music)

Daníel Bjarnason – “Bow To String I. – Sorrow Conquers Happiness” (Bedroom Community)

Icelandic Mixtapes

SAMPLE TRACKS
DOWNLOAD / STREAM COMPLETE MIXTAPE

Ólöf Arnalds – “Innundir Skinni”

Pétur Ben – “Something Radical” (12 Tónar)

Lay Low – “Why Do I Worry”

“Very, very few musicians can live off their work, and there is not a lot of money involved in the business.”
— Baldvin Esra, label manager at Kimi Records

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Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/she) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

In 2017, Vee released the narrative short film, Searching Skies — which touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States — and co-organized The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. 2022 sees the release of their next short film, Reckless Spirits, which is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature film.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Peter
Peter
11 years ago

awesome article vivian!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Brennan Novak
Brennan Novak
11 years ago

Wow. What an in depth article Viv! Nicely done. Seriously. This is like real deal journalism stuff right here 🙂

ky
ky
11 years ago

one of the better non-icelandic articles about the scene i’ve read.

GOYO
GOYO
11 years ago

check it

al
al
9 years ago

who is the author?

sOopahvi
sOopahvi
9 years ago
Reply to  al

vivian hua

Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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