New Year’s with ÍRIS


ÍRiS has had a hell of a year, she’d tell you. 2013 passed in a whirlwind for her. Not least, she released her debut album, Penumbra, following a successful spell on new Icelandic crowd-funding website Karolina Fund.

Penumbra found an appreciative audience, with its piano driven tunes providing suitable foil for ÍRiS’ goosebump-enducing, yet elegant voice. Concerts in Berlin, London and Reykjavík, including the obligatory Airwaves shows were welcomed by her growing audience with open arms.

But what I really wanted to know is what happens in Iceland over the New Year, and what plans ÍRiS has for 2014.

New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Iceland. It’s kind of the big party after the more family orientated Christmas. Why do you think this is?

It can be quite over the top actually; fireworks for millions and millions of Icelandic króna blown up from backyards as far as the eye can see. It still makes me smile like a kid every year by the way; there is nothing like it. And even after the big economic fall down in 2008, people still fired up their money as usual. Perhaps a mindset drawn from people’s new gained positivism for the year to come and a wanting to forget yourself in the moment. Call it a theory. The firework display is a good indicator of the night’s upcoming mayhem. I am quite sure that there is a Guinness World Record in place when it comes to the amount of money spent on flash powder per capita for this one night of the year.

A lot of the sale revenue does however go to the search and rescue squads of Iceland (Björgunarsveitir). The ones you really want to have the means to come a save you, if you find yourself taking the wrong turn in the highlands without a compass, or stranded at the top of our beloved Esja (Reykjavík’s landmark mountain). So this excessive money spending for what becomes smoke at midnight can be rationalized somewhat, because it is all for a good cause.

What do you have planned for your New Year’s Eve?

I learned in my studies that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Although I do agree in many cases, I have decided to take my chances and not organize anything, until last minute. Aiming for the unknown perhaps, but in my experience the best evenings are when everything is open and most importantly, the expectations are not over the roof. Free flowing into 2014 sounds pretty good to me.

What would your recommendations be for visitors to Iceland over Christmas and the New Year?

For Christmas, I’d say enjoy the lights in the dark, wine and dine, preferably some local dishes such as hangikjöt (smoked lamb). The midnight firework mayhem at New Year’s Eve is one event that should not be missed. Actually you really can’t miss it, unless you find yourself a safe haven in an underground shelter. But fear not, it may look crazy but that is the fun part, I assure you. A good place to be is at Hallgrímskirkja church for the extravaganza. Or even better at a roof top or simply as high as you can get. If you can find a panoramic view you are good to go. Then perhaps try to land in a good celebration and “paint the town red” (as we say in Icelandic, with the best of intentions).

How was 2013 for you?

Definitely one of the busiest years so far, but also the one of the most memorable. While multitasking at full speed, releasing my debut album Penumbra, finding a new home, making a living and studying again, I have found myself in a rather amusing turmoil. I cannot wait to see what 2014 has in store. Whatever I get myself into, I will likely go all in, like usual.


Your album has been called one of the best Icelandic albums of 2013, not just by me. How do you feel about this?

Overjoyed, really. It is a very pleasant feeling to see a project you’ve invested so much of you time and energy in, finally gaining this positive attention. The process of releasing this album turned out to be way more mind boggling and multilayered that I originally thought when I was setting my sights on the studio. But I’m definitely pleased to have been persistent enough to release it, especially when the welcome committee is so motivating!

What are your plans for 2014?

Well, for one: continue the follow up of Penumbra, since the album was released only late this year. Also, I will be recording new material, and hopefully I’ll find new delightful dilemmas to keep me occupied until I take part in the next firework frenzy.

Originally published on Iceland Review Online.
Photo © Nanna Dís
For more details on ÍRIS please go to her website.