Iceland seems to be more fractious than usual. Hekla was grumbling last week, and last night, Grímsey in the north was shook by earthquakes.
According to Iceland Review, ‘An earthquake measuring 5.5 hit 14 kilometers east of Grímsey, North Iceland, around 1 am last night and another of 4.1 magnitude followed shortly afterwards. More than 60 aftershocks were measured in the area until 3 am.’
It reminded me of my time on Grímsey last summer, and this interview with the lovely Samaris.
I recently took a flight to Grímsey in the north of Iceland. Actually, I took several, and with stops, so it took a good few hours. Not that I minded; it gave me time to myself, and time to listen to music.
As I flew towards Iceland’s most northerly inhabited island, and the point where Iceland crosses the Arctic, it’s Samaris that I’m listening to. Samaris are a new band consisting of three students from Reykjavík; Jófríður Ákadóttir (vocals), Þórður Kári Steinþórsson (computer programmer), and Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir (clarinet player). Formed only last year, Samaris have already won awards, and are highly anticipated to be the next big thing in the Icelandic music scene.
Somehow, the sounds of Samaris through my headphones fit neatly with the slow moving cloud formation I can see through the window of the Twin Otter. The trip hop rhythms rise and fall against gentle electronic beats, before the unexpected sunlight of Áslaug’s clarinet breaks through.
I’m hooked. I decide to find out more from Jófríður.
How would you describe your music? When do you think is best to listen to it?
Our music is dark and sometimes very sad. It’s electronic and very melodic. We get inspiration from classical, indie, house and punk music. It’s best to listen to it when you don’t know what to listen to.
How did you all meet? Are you just good friends?
Áslaug (clarinet) and Doddi (computer) went to school together for many years. Áslaug and I have been friends for a long time since we both play the clarinet. We wanted to make new music so we talked to Doddi and the result is Samaris.
Where does the name Samaris come from?
It’s totally random. We had to find something to apply to músíktilraunir (a music competition in Iceland) and we thought Samaris was nice, and easy to remember.
How did Áslaug become involved with her clarinet? It seems an unconventional choice of instrument.
We both study classical clarinet so we know the instrument very well. There’s a lot more to it than most people seem to think.
Are you sick of Sigur Rós and Björk comparsions yet?
No, it’s completely fair since these are the biggest musicians from Iceland. I think both Björk and Sigur Rós invented the link between nature and music in Iceland and Samaris isn’t linked with it like that. We are in many ways linked to Icelandic literature and history because of our lyrics (which are old Icelandic poetry from the 19th century) but the music is just the result of our creativity and we all live in the city, get inspirations from a lot of different things, and nature is not the majority of it.
How did it feel to win awards for your music? What does it mean to be an ‘award winning’ band?
It is a great honor. We didn’t expect it at all. It feels good to have won but the main reason we signed up for the competition was to play our music on a stage, and see how it would turn out. We never focused on winning and we are sure that our music would have found its way through even if we hadn’t entered at all but it has been a great help and we are really glad that it happened.
How does it feel to be one of the hotly tipped bands at this years Airwaves festival?
It’s great! We can’t wait!
What’s next for Samaris?
We will hopefully release a new single in the summer and then a full-length album in 2013. We’ve all just been so busy!
On arriving in Grímsey, I set foot across the Arctic Circle. I don’t feel any different. Nothing changes. There are no fireworks, no trumpets. It feels somehow hollow. I reach for my headphones, and fill my ears with Samaris. Everything feels alright again. I’m looking forward to my return flights.