Love them or hate them, Sudden Weather Change have always been uncompromising in doing whatever they please and letting the rest follow suit. This don’t-give-a-shit attitude has gotten them a loyal fanbase, a fancy Iceland Music Award and tons of sex. Nei, djók! Now working with Ben Frost on their sophomore album, we sat down with bassist Bergur Thomas Anderson, guitarist Loji Höskuldsson and co-producer Þorbjörn (Þobbi) G. Kolbrúnarson to get the skinny on their skinny-jeaned sounds.
So what are you guys up to these days?
L: We are finishing our second album, doing overdubs.
B: We’ve been working on it since July. We went in the studio then to do all the bass and drum tracks and now we’re in the midst of doing guitars and starting vocals.
You’ve been working with Ben Frost. How has that been and has he influenced your sound at all?
L: It’s been great. I think he is perfect for us.
B: He has given us some advice on the way we play on the songs we came to him with. He has mostly taught us about extra dynamics and how to sharpen a lot of the songs, because of course, when we arrived in the studio; they were just a week old.
L: I think his [pointing to Þobbi] role in the project is more important.
What’s been your role, Þobbi?
Þ: I’m producing them as well. I was working with them before helping them arrange the songs and making them do it properly, and now I’m working with them on all the overdubs and extra arrangements. We’re kind of two producers on this and both of us are bringing our own voice to the album.
Do you each hold a specific role within the band? What role does each of you play?
L: Yeah, I think so. Bergur is the bass player and I’m the funny guy. [Everyone laughs.] Þobbi is working with our drummer, Oddur, a lot on this album. I think Oddur is taking a huge step on this album. He’s doing some stuff that he wasn’t doing before and a lot of time went into trying to do something new with the drums and inspiring him.
How long have you guys all known each other? Did you guys always want to start a band together or did that develop over the course of your friendship?
B: Since menntaskóli [high school].
L: We knew Þobbi then too, he was at a different menntaskóli and then we all became good friends in university, at the Academy of Arts. Bergur was in an all-star band in Breiðholt.
B: Yeah, it was called Big Kahuna and it was me, Albert from Swords of Chaos and The Heavy Experience and Jón Valur from Who Knew. Stefnir from Lada Sport was in it for a while too. And then… we quit.
L: Dagur, Oddur and I were making music together but we were horrible. We sucked. We were really bad, but…
B: You were in another band and then we met at school and we started another band that had ten members or something? Then the remains of that group became this group.
So when I first saw you guys play a couple of years ago, you all had this same look and a sense of uniformity between the band. Is there a bit of a gang mentality?
[Everyone laughs for a long time.]
Þ: Well, we all have knives, so…
Okay, good to know. Don’t fuck with Sudden Weather Change.
L: That’s our motto.
Tell me about the two EPs you put out last summer, ‘The Whaler’ and ‘Varrior’. What was the process of making those and will some of the songs end up on this album?
L: Maybe one song, ‘Sharp’, which was on ‘Varrior’.
B: After our first LP, we started a project of expanding the group so we started working with various producers. We started by doing ‘The Whaler’ with Aron [Þór Arnarson, who has worked with Singapore Sling, Trabant, etc.] out in Hafnarfjörður, then we did a song with Nolo and we finished up by going to record at the Greenhouse with Ben Frost.
L: And there we also worked with Þobbi and Doddi [Þórður Hermansson]. They both graduated from the Iceland Academy of Fine Arts in music composition. So yeah, like Bergur said, we were trying to expand.
While you are speaking of expanding, it actually looks like the band has shrunk a little bit. Why did you and Benjamin Mark Stacey part ways?
B: We don’t have any grudges between us. I think there was a building tension just when it came to making music together. He wanted to focus on other things.
L: He’s doing lots of big projects himself. So we went our separate ways, and I think we’re better friends now. We had different ideas about how to make music and what kind of music.
B: We had different goals. We wanted to go one direction and he wanted to go the other.
So since he’s left the band, have you indeed gone in the direction you intended to?
L: I think we are doing what we really want to do. I don’t know what that is. You’ll hear it when the album comes out!
KEEP SWC WEIRD
Have you gotten weirder? You guys have always had a bit of a weird sound.
B: It is strange at times. But I think when we started the group it was all about being in a “rock” group and practicing in a garage. I was thinking about this just before and the thing is that before, practicing and writing songs was always a matter of competition, like who has the loudest guitar, who can yell the loudest, or how we could do the craziest stuff in the shortest time. I think now that the band is more of a unit where we interchange between being passive and active and we don’t really think of our personal input in every song as much but more about the whole. Just focusing on the soundscape.
L: Yeah, I totally agree. It’s more about soundscape now than it is about a really good chorus or whatever. It’s about the whole thing.
How would you define your sound now, or do you try not to?
[They all think for a very long time.]
L: Well, we’ve been listening to a lot of ambient music like Tim Hecker and Fennesz. Guys like that. And girls, also! I would describe our music as more ambient now.
Þ: It’s kind of changed from being like a car into being a river, if you know what I mean?
B: I wouldn’t call it ambient music. I would say it’s more atmospherically driven music rather than a group of guys making noise. Or at least if we’re making noise it can be sophisticated noise, it’s not going to be some outburst of teenage expression or something.
You all went to art school together too. Do you think that’s had an impact on you guys as a band?
B: Yes, I would think so. Actually, a lot, now that I think about it. I don’t know how I can describe how fine arts goes into the music we’re making, except to say that being an artist is probably the most introverted career you can have so you really look into yourself. I would say it helps you focus on what you really want when it comes down to seeing the big picture.
L: I think we’re always moving more into that direction. We’re making this film and we’re doing all kinds of band pictures, so we’re going more in that direction.
SUDDEN ON FILM
Tell me about this movie of yours. How did that come about?
L: It’s just a poetic movie about one year in our lives. We won the Brightest Hope Award at the Icelandic Music Awards. So this movie is about the year after that. We have been going through all these changes and taken a lot of steps, like making ‘The Whaler’ and ‘Varrior’ and we met Þobbi. We have been developing a lot.
L: Yeah, maturing. We won this award and we didn’t want to lost focus then like “Oh yeah, we are so good!” We wanted to work.
B: Actually, we did sort of go into hiding after winning this award.
L: Yeah, because we wanted to find our sound and figure out what we wanted to do. We wanted to do better, or do more.
Do you feel like after winning that award you were faced with a new kind of pressure? Did you want to push away the attention?
B: No! No, it was great to win this award. It just would have been so easy to stick with the old stuff and keep going in that direction, doing this crazy stuff. Instead we said, “Okay, cool, now we’re part of something that we weren’t a part of before, now let’s go focus on our own stuff.”
So I want to change subjects. How did your drummer, Oddur, break his arm?
[Þobbi doubles over laughing.]
L: He broke it while playing this Icelandic game called Einakróna, where one person guards a street pole, everyone else hides and tries to touch the pole and the guard has to try to find and tag them out. So if the last person hiding touches the light before the guard, then the game starts all over again. And Þobbi was the guard! Oddur was the last guy hiding and of course, he always has to be the hero. So there are about fifteen people watching and Oddur decides to run, but he slipped and there was a crazy battle. Finally he jumped for it and when he hit the pole, he broke his arm.
Þ: He sorta ran into the thing with his arm and he broke it. He jumped right into it!
L: But the funny part is that Þobbi was first to touch the pole.
Þ: It’s… it’s controversial!
L: So he was not the hero and he broke his arm.
Þ: And yes, this is a game for children.
THE CAR AND THE RIVER
But he recovered in time for Airwaves! What are you guys up to for the festival?
B: We are playing a show on Saturday at 1:10 in the morning at Iðnó.
L: I think it’s going to be interesting because it’s the first time we’re playing this label night. We’re on the Fat Cat Label night, so maybe there will be an important man from Fat Cat who will see us and remember our name and that will be our ticket to the outside world.
Who else are you playing with?
L: They are all such cool bands. We’re playing with Miri and Stafrænn Hákon. Miri are great. They are from Iceland!
B: They are our best-friend band. And I think we’re playing with The Twilight Sad, but I’ve never heard them.
Really? They are kind of a big deal.
L: But I think we’ve never played Airwaves after 11:00. It’s always been at 9:00 or 10:00.
B: Yeah. It’s gonna be really fun. I think it’s going to be a really good show.
L: Also, we’ve never played Iðnó, have we?
B: Once. Our last show there was like, a decade ago or something. A very long time.
L: We are old men now.
Yeah, I was about to say… [Þobbi laughs]
L: I think Iðnó is a really good place for us to play because now it’s not so intense, like “Waaaaahhhh!!!” Now it’s better for people to just listen and not say anything.
B: I think it’s going to be more like… [strikes a contemplative thinker pose.]
Þ: It’s like I was saying about the car and the river. A car is very aggressive on the outside and that’s how they were before. The river is actually calm, but if you go down it, it’s much more intense. More powerful. When you come down it becomes more intense. I think that’s what happened.
[The door opens and guitarist Dagur comes in with a friend who begins talking to Loji and making kissy sounds.]
L: He was just asking me if I could be a frog and a lion and what Smurf I am.
Okay then! So have you guys had a chance to check out the rest of the line up? What do you think of the festival this year? L: I really don’t know!
B: I haven’t been checking it out too much.
L: We’re just going to play.
Þ: I really want to see Beach House.
L: Oh yeah! Beach House. I want to see them.
B: I really wanted to see Liturgy, but when I was going through the schedule I saw that they are playing right before us in another venue.
L: And I wanted to see Iceage but they’re also playing right before us in another place.
B: At Amsterdam [on Saturday] there’s going to be this mega-night with Swords Of Chaos, Liturgy and some other stuff.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
Do you think the festival has changed since new management took over?
L: I think the festival is going to be fun, but I’m not crazy about the new management. I also want to talk about Hraðpeningar [lending company that gives small loans on SMS demand to be repaid at huge interest rates] who were one of the sponsors. It’s silly. It’s fucking stupid. They were thinking about having a Hraðpeningar night when a couple of years ago the government was trying to ban this company. It was illegal or something. Airwaves gets funding from the government and now, once of the sponsors was supposed to be Hraðpeningar!
Þ: They sort of promote themselves to young people who don’t have any money and don’t know anything about it.
B: Fast cash.
L: Now they were advertising that if you needed help to buy your ticket to Airwaves, talk to them. It’s fucking… stupid.
B: Oh wow, that’s terrible.
Þ: It would have given the whole festival a bad image.
L: This festival is not about this kind of company. It’s about music, especially Icelandic music…
Þ: It should be!
It doesn’t sound like you’re too happy about it.
L: No! Not at all. The other thing with the change in management is that some of the bands are managed by that company and they end up getting all the good spots. It’s good for them, but…
B: This is one problem with the Icelandic music scene in general is that it is too close. Everybody is working in everything, sort of. If you’re not part of this clique, or this gang, you know. Well, we are in the other gang! Not the big gang. If we were, then we would be playing all the best times. Not because we were the best band but because we had better contacts that anyone else.
L: I am glad that we are just playing once, so that a small band from Breiðholt or Grafavogur can take our second spot. I mean, Of Monsters And Men are playing three on-venue shows, so that’s two spots that could have been for other Icelandic bands. Like this band called Bob, who are a very important band to us. They don’t even have a spot.
B: They’ve only played the festival once, maybe five years ago. This is the worst part about the festival, the constant plugging and competition between bands and shit. But of course, we’re very happy with our slot!