One of the prime Icelandic exports of the past couple of years, Vök, initially came into existence by way of a happy accident, when vocalist Margrét Rán Magnúsdóttir and saxopho-synth man, Andri Enoksson, decided to enter into a talent competition after messing around with some musical bleeps and bloops on the computer.

Winning the contest, the twosome proceeded to release a terrific English/Icelandic EP, Tension, play various festivals and gigs across Europe and add guitarist and bassist, Ólafur Alexander, to their line-up, with a view to creating more and more new music.

And new music they now proudly deliver, in the form of their Biggi Veira-produced second EP, Circles, which comes out this month. Its lead taster, 'If I Was', is a good example of the pulsating throb of Vök's sonic niche and recalls the quirks of Kate Boy and even Fever Ray. The 405 sat down with the trio for a quick spjall (that's what they call it back home!) and here is a transcriber's impression of how it went.


One minute you're considering entering Iceland's Músíktilraunir contest and next thing you know, you're a proper band, eh?

Margrét: Yes [laughs], we were just doing some improvising one day and I was, like, "Andri! Do you want to enter into this competition?" and he just [shrugging] went "alright, let's do it". And then one month later we participated in the competition and ended up winning it, so we had to accept that we were a band and we had to do something about it. This was in April 2013.

What did you have to do to enter?

Andri: We had to write two songs and for the final we had to do one extra. So we had to write and rehearse the new song in a week.

Margrét: Our first song was 'Before', which has now become sort of our hit song.

Andri: We actually wrote that together, the first song we wrote together, and during the week before the final we ended up writing the new song, discarding it and grabbing 'Before', instead, which then became the winning song.

Margrét: I didn't like it, at first, actually [laughs].

Considering the fact that your live set now has about 11 songs in it, you've clearly not been wasting any time since then.

Andri: Yes, it's true.

Was it easy finding the groove of who does what in the band?

Ólafur: Kind of, but it's a mixture of different things, you know. Like, somebody would bring a bass line or an electronic beat and we would build on it. One of us would add lyrics and someone else would add a different line. But I think most of the time our songs start with the bass and then it evolves. With us, nobody has a set duty "you do this and you do that".

Has one of you ever brought in a finished song to the rehearsal room?

Margrét: Not a song that was complete with all the lyrics, no...

Andri: A couple of weeks ago we came to the rehearsal with a finished song that we did in a day and a half but that was a collaboration that we did. So, everybody has an input.

Margrét: But we definitely love it when a song happens in a day, like magic -

Andri: Magic! "It's supposed to be like this! It's supposed to happen!" [laughs].

When and how did you pick the name Vök?

Margrét: It was a few weeks before the contest. We had been talking about the names and Vök just yelled itself at us. With other names we felt that they weren't right but with this one it was meant to be, I think.

Who came up with it?

Margrét: Andri. I didn't even know the word. I had not heard of it.

Does it mean anything?

Ólafur: It means a little hole in the ice.

Andri: It has a double-meaning, as well. If it is a really cloudy day and the sun bursts through a crack in the cloud it's a vök in the sky.

We were talking about you having quite a lot of songs already - certainly enough for an album - but for the moment you've chosen the EP format for releasing your music.

Margrét: We love EPs [laughs].

Ólafur: Yes, and the industry has become much more about EPs right now.

Andri: People tend to like the format a little better, I think. It's all about the length of it and there's less filler.

Ólafur: I think when you do EPs, all of the songs get more attention.

Andri: The ratio is better on an EP.

When The 405 caught your show at Eurosonic, one of our favourite bits was a new song you played called 'Way', about a person suffering from paralysis-

Margrét: That's still a working title, actually.

Andri: That song is about a living nightmare.

Ólafur: It's a horrible situation to be in, to be paralysed from the neck down without being able to speak or move. You're a prisoner within your own body.

Margrét: It's quite a heavy song. It makes us very emotional.

One of the other highlights in your live set is 'Waterfalls', the first track on the new EP. What can you tell us about that one?

Margrét: That's one of the songs that just happened -

Andri: Yes, that's one of those that just come to us, pretty much ready.

Ólafur: We'd been to stay at my grandparents' summer house for a week - it's a cabin in a totally isolated area -

Margrét: We had a lake all to ourselves.

Andri: We had two lakes, in fact: one next to the cabin and another big lake.

Ólafur: It's an amazing place called Hóp in northern Iceland. We'd planned the trip in advance so we could go and isolate ourselves and just write new music and have a good time.

Andri: A full week of just the three of us and all of our gear and music.

Ólafur: In that atmosphere that song just came. It came to us in just one day.

Andri: We had a lot of jam sessions and I recorded most of them and we kind of fell into this one jam and kept on jamming and twelve hours later we were still playing this one song [laughs].

What is it about?

Margrét: Yeah, what is it about? [Laughs]

Ólafur: There is a double meaning to that song.

Andri: I think you can interpret it in many ways.

Margrét: It's about when you are feeling like you are suffocating in life, like you are drowning in a waterfall.

Ólafur: It's about depression and how it affects you.

Andri [smiling cheekily]: You see, I thought it was just a story about a random guy in a waterfall...

Ólafur: Talking about the meaning of a song can take away the mystique of it.

Andri: Also, when you're writing a song, at the time you are not necessarily thinking of everything that you are putting into it and afterwards you can listen back and think 'how did I come up with that?' [laughs].

Finally, how do you guys view the music scene in Iceland?

Ólafur: It's a very friendly environment.

Margrét: Yeah, it is.

Andri: It's a really good place to grow and cultivate music.

Ólafur: Sooner or later, you meet everybody, every other band, and you get to play with a lot of them.

Andri: There's a lot of support in Iceland and a lot of opportunities for new bands both from Icelandic Music Exports and also the competition that we participated in.

Margrét: Of Monsters and Men also started in that competition!

Ólafur: Yes, it's a great opportunity.


The Circles EP is out on May 22nd.