Iceland surely must have the greatest 'talent to population ratio' of any country. Indeed, despite its tiny population (roughly the same as Northumberland) the country has spawned numerous renowned bands and artists - the phrase 'something in the water' surely ought be applicable, especially considering the amount of ocean that surrounds Iceland. As is often the way, Iceland has become typified with experimental post-rock, thanks in part to the prominence of Sigur Rós and Múm. However, Seabear aim to prove that there's more to iceland than ambient experimentalism. If their brand of delicate indie-folk is anything to go by, then the world need brace itself for a new Icelandic revolution. Seabear's violinist Guggý, explains the constraints of the Icelandic music scene and the band's development.
Firstly, could you introduce yourself to our readers and briefly explain how the band started? We are the band Seabear. It started out as a solo project of Sindri but after he had asked his friends Örn (guitar) and me, Guggý (violin, vocals), to join him for a concert in Berlin it became a trio. Soon after that we added drum and bass section of the Icelandic band Kimono; Kjartan (drums) and Dóri (bass). Inga, Sindri´s girlfriend joined as well, doing backing vocals, outoharp and ukulele. Sóley (accordion, keyboards, and vocals) then joined the band soon after the 1st album came out.
Icelandic music tends to be typified by a specific sound (Sigur Ros/Mum). To what extent does living in Iceland influence your music? I think living in such a small country (only 300.000 people) it is inevitable to be influenced by each other especially while so many bands are going on and a lot of people play with more than one band, so it kind of becomes one big family. But at the same time I think Icelandic bands are also always searching for something new and fresh because the scene is just too small to be copying something someone else has done (it is kind of frowned upon). Other than that I think most bands are influenced by so many different things and different sorts of music from all over the world.
Do you ever feel that your connection to Icelandic music can affect how people perceive your music? I am certain it does, in a good or a bad way. I’m sure if we were from some other place you would find similarities with bands from that same place and try to connect us one way or the other. People always see what they want to see and find what they want to find.
How would you describe the music scene in Iceland currently, and are there any Icelandic bands we should look out for? I think there are a lot of good things going on. FM-Belfast, Retró Stefson, Pascal Pignon and Hjaltalín are some of the young popular bands in Iceland at the moment. Then of course we have a lot of other stuff that has been going on for some time; Múm, Stórsveit Nix Noltes, Ólöf Arnalds, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Skúli Sverrisson, Amiina, Mugison, Emiliana Torrini....... I need not mention Sigur Rós and Björk.
Campfire_circleBEST Baring in mind that you choose to sing in English rather than in your native tongue, how is your music received in Iceland, and was there a conscious effort made to appeal to English speaking audiences? I think the fact that we sing in English doesn’t affect so much our Icelandic audience since Icelanders speak and understand English quite well. But since we don’t play there so often (we don´t all live there so it is complicated) we are less known than other bands that play every other week or so. Conscious effort or not I think it isn’t such a bad idea to imagine an audience outside of our little town called Reykjavík.
It’s been over 3 years since the last Seabear Album came out, what have you been up to since then? We have been working on the new LP and EP of course but also done some touring around Europe for the past couple of years. Now preparing for Germany tour and our first USA/CAN tour in march 2010.
I understand that your forthcoming album contains a greater collaborative element amongst Seabear, was this a conscious decision or did it simply happen this way? Well the other album (TGTCUA) was already semi collaborative although Sindri wrote all the lyrics and the chord progressions. Everyone made their own parts around that so the outcome and arrangement was a mix of everyone’s ideas with Sindri´s genius of putting them together. But the new album is even more collaborative. It’s just part of growing as a band I think.
Was there a premeditated decision to change Seabear’s sound, or was a more of a logical step forward? It is inevitable for bands to evolve and also a very important step. Without growing and changing I think any art form is meaningless and boring. Development is what keeps it interesting and worth while.
Where do you see yourselves in 5 years? Wow, to be honest I have no idea. It is impossible to predict what will be in 5 years. I think none of us really expects anything, just enjoying the ride while it lasts.
Seabear are set to release their second full length album 'We Built a Fire' on the 22nd of March on Morr Music, accompanied by tours all over Europe, the US and Canada - expect great things! Header Image by Natsuki Otani