On Saturday, October 19th, KEXP presents the annual Reykjavik Calling event in the Gathering Space. The "sister city" showcase was born almost a decade ago as a way to spotlight and celebrate the cultural ties between our two cities, and this year, we couldn't be more excited to bring two of Iceland's most exciting acts to the stage. Learn more about synth-punk trio Kælan Mikla and Reykjavik rockers Sólstafir below, and click here for more information on this free, 21+ event.
In 2013, high school students Laufey Soffia, Sólveig Matthildur-Kristjánsdóttir and Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrysdóttir combined their musical and lyrical prowess to win first place in a poetry competition held by the city library. “Then some other people were interested in hearing more,” Sólveig reflected to The Reykjavík Grapevine. “They were asking if we were a band, asking if we had more music. And we were like, ‘Sure, let’s just make some more music. Why not? It’s fun.’ So we did.”
They'd adopted the moniker Kælan Mikla in advance of the poetry slam, the Icelandic translation for "The Lady of the Cold", a character from Tove Jansson's Moomin comic strips. It's a fitting title for the young trio whose sound has evolved from the emo performance art of their debut to their current coldwave sound. “The music we started making was never planned, it happened on its own,” insists Margrét. “It’s just what happened when we suddenly got a synthesiser.”
A relentless touring schedule and two full-length albums later, the band attracted the attention of noneother than Robert Smith of The Cure who booked them to play his curated Meltdown Festival in 2018 and then to play their 40th anniversary concert in Hyde Park, London.
Late last year, the trio released their third LP Nótt eftir nótt via Toronto-based Artoffact Records. In an interview with Revolver Magazine, Sólveig summarizes, "The album contains songs of regret, shadows, witches, and all the things that lure in the darkest hour of night mixed with Icelandic folklore, and reminiscent of the winter darkness that simultaneously frightens us and makes us feel at home."
We've had our eye on Sólstafir ever since they played our 2012 Iceland Airwaves broadcast from Kex Hostel. Formed in 1995, the band evolved their sound from black metal to an atmospheric post-rock over the decades. Their most recent release is 2017's Berdreyminn, an epic combination of classic rock, psych, prog, and even ambient. Frontman Aðalbjörn "Addi" Tryggvason has an expressive voice with an almost anguished tone to it. Even though he's singing in Icelandic, you feel like you understand exactly what he means.
Berdreyminn is a darker, more confessional album from the group, with Addi describing it to Vice Magazine as "sort of on the same family tree regarding all sorts of mental issues of disorders — sociopathic or narcissistic behavior, severe depression, addiction, alcoholism, surviving suicide attempts." Lest you think that sounds like a downer, Addi adds to Louder Magazine, "There’s a lot of hope on this album, even though you may be standing in the darkness, blinded by inner demons, obsessed with self-destruction and blind to your own bad deeds."
When Sólstafir plays for KEXP, the gods take notice. Two years ago, during KEXP's broadcast at Iceland Airwaves, hurricane-level gales swept across Reykjavik as the hard rocking band brewed up their own storm inside Kex Hostel. Last month, on their first tour of the West Coast, heavy winds follow...
It's not often you get to say you saw a three band gig where all three bands blew you away for completely different reasons. Luckily for those crammed in Neumos basement at the sold out Pallbearer, Sólstafir, and Mortals show Thursday night, that was 100% the case. Each with an entirely different...