Icelandic quartet Vök are on of the most hotly tipped acts to come from the island in the last few years.

Formed by lead singer Margrét Rán and saxophonist Andri Már in early 2013, the group have made a name for themselves with a series of EPs blending the quiet intimacy of The XX, with the downtempo electronica of acts like Samaris and The Knife. Ahead of the release of the band's debut album, Figure, we caught up with the band's newest member, percussionist Einar Stef, to discuss the recording of the album and how he came to be a part of it.

Stef originally met Vök when the band was still a duo. Rán and Már had only formed the band a few months before and were competing in the annual Icelandic talent competition, Músíktilraunir. "You had to submit demos to take part," Stef tells me. "I heard their song 'Before' and thought it was really catchy." He told Rán as much when he met her at the competition, but as a member of a competing act, it went no further than a mutual appreciation of one another's music.

It wasn't until after Ólafur Alexander joined the band as guitarist that Stef began to become a part of Vök. Originally signing on as their live engineer after what Stef describes as "some bad sounding gigs" abroad. A few months into taking on the job, Stef was asked to step in on percussion after the band's current session drummer was unable to make it to a series of festival slots the band had been booked to.

"They asked if I was up for moving over to the drum kit temporarily, which became indefinitely," Stef says.

Despite being the Vök's newest member, Stef's had a notable impact on the band's debut record. People who have followed the band's progression over the last few years will probably notice the difference straight away. Figure, the band's first full-length far more percussive than the earlier EPs, something that's directly the result of the band having a live drummer as part of the line-up. "We spent a lot of time creating our own soundscapes, samples and percussion hits, which would normally be done on a computer," Stef says. "We wanted to take the music out of the computer."

A large part of the album was also recorded in Stef's home studio, a space he built about four years ago to further his career as a recording engineer and producer prior to joining Vök. For the band it freed them from the financial strain of having to rent studio space, affording them time to properly develop and refine the tracks that would make up Figure.

Vök started the recording process with around twenty tracks written as demos - many of which were written at Rán's studio in Reykjavík. "Some of the were more formed than others," Stef recalls. "Some were just ideas for a verse or chorus and nothing else." To decide on the final track listing and to focus their efforts, the band (along with producer Brett Cox) made a ranked list of the songs in order of personal preference. "We then just started working on the ones we liked the best and worked our way down. Some songs we started working on them only to realise we weren't feeling the flow, so went on to something else. It was an organic workflow."

Recording was split into around four sessions starting with lead single 'Show Me' in July 2016. That track was finished in early September and quickly followed by three-week session later that month, and then another three-week session in October. Compared to writing the album - some of the song ideas date back a couple of years - the recording process was one of concentrated bursts of activity.

One of the goals the band had going into recording, was to try and convey a sense of the Vök live experience. People who have seen the band live, particularly in the last couple of years as the lineup has expanded, will notice that they often sound a lot louder and more energetic than they do on record. "I think we've grown a lot as a live band in the past year or so," Stef says. "The live shows are a completely different experience than listening to the EPs. And that's what we were trying to do, to take the sounds from the studio and bring them into a bigger environment."

A few of the older tracks they recorded for Figure were already a staple of the band's live shows, so when it came to recording they had a strong sense of not only how they wanted it to sound, but feel as well. "We've done the trial and error," Stef explains. "We know what moments work. I think that's the bonus of taking songs that we've been playing live into the studio."

According to Stef the band's favourite track on the new album, is the title track 'Figure'. It's one of the newer tracks on the album, and one that the band decided to record at the last minute after Rán shared a demo with the group. It's also one of the few tracks that harken back to the sound of the group's earlier EPs. "There's always [an element of] mystery around how something you've been working on for so long and so intensely [will be received]," Stef admits when asked about the move towards the sound of the new album. "It becomes so close to you that you lose the grasp of being able to judge it unbiased. But so far the feedback's been positive and we were really happy to hear back from our label manager in Iceland - who runs Record Records - who felt the EPs were no match for this album."

From talking to Stef it's clear that the band are excited to finally be putting out a full-length record, especially one they're proud of. They plan to just "go with the flow" over the next few months, sharing their music on the road and building on the support that's grown up around the band over the last few years. "The shows are getting bigger and more and more people are coming along," Stef says. "And we feel like we're getting a lot of support. We're getting a lot of fan mail, which is really nice."

Vök's new album, Figure, is out now via Nettwerk.

The Mix

Einar Stef also crafted this beautiful mix for our Plastic Platform series: "these are just some of my favourite 'pop' tunes from late 2016 to early 2017. There's a bunch of Icelandic artists in the mix that I hope people listening will enjoy and some big well-known international ones too." Check it out below.


1. Little Dragon - 'Sweet'
2. Prins Póló - 'Læda Slæda'
3. Dream Wife - 'Somebody'
4. Fufanu - 'Just Me'
5. Warpaint - 'New Song'
6. Gangly - 'Holy Grounds'
7. aYia - 'Ruins'
8. ANOHNI - 'Drone Bomb Me'
9. Sampha - 'Blood on Me'
10. Alex Cameron - 'Happy Ending'