Kaffibarinn, the legendary (but narrow) bar on Bergstaðastræti, has been the bastion of house music in Reykjavík for years. It’s where Lagaffe Tales label owners Jónbjörn Finnbogason and Viktor Birgisson worked together as bar-backs, while starting out as a deep house DJ duo.
“We originally got talking on an online forum for dance music,” says Viktor. “Jónbjörn was living in Ísafjörður, but he flew me in from Reykjavík to play there. When he moved south to go to university, we started working at Kaffibarinn.” They founded the label in 2012, which, five years later, is bringing Icelandic house music to international attention. Their fourth vinyl release is due out in early September, a six track offering from French producer Malouane.
“It was a fun collaboration, we really appreciate the ambition he poured into the record,” says Jónbjörn, who now resides in Berlin. “The record is a 6 track ‘mini-LP,’ showcasing the taste and influence of Malouane, from slow hip hop beats to deep house. We want the artists to have freedom to create something personal. It’s important, otherwise the magic which puts everything into motion can dissolve and what’s left can be the result of overthinking.”
Founded at the height of the deep house boom, Lagaffe Tales has mostly released music by Icelandic producers, such as David & Hjalti, Futuregrapher and Moff & Tarkin, alongside records from the label owners. “We reached out to the local scene, looking for fresh house,” says Viktor. “We got to know a lot of people at Kaffibarinn, so we didn’t have to look far. We feel we have a certain genre, which is difficult to put into words, but we’ve been narrowing it down and defining it with every release. At the same time we’ve become more receptive to unconventional sounds which could help us stand out in an ocean of labels.”
Since last year, the label has focused increasingly on vinyl releases, starting with last summer’s 12” ‘RVK Moods’ from David & Hjalti. “We felt vinyl was the next step for our label,” explains Viktor. “Physical releases are taken more seriously and we immediately felt a lot of support when the first one got out there. We had missed out on a few EPs, when the producers preferred a vinyl release to digital. Now we get more quality music and open ourselves up to a niche audience of vinyl enthusiasts and DJs.”
In order to share the music with a wider audience, the vinyl releases become available digitally a few months after the initial distribution. “We have a big fanbase in South Africa, for example, where it’s difficult to access vinyl releases from Europe,” Jónbjörn adds.
The TV club
To celebrate the label’s five year birthday, Jónbjörn and Viktor have organized a small Europe tour, in addition to events in Reykjavík. “We’ve gotten to know some great people abroad, some of whose music we’ve released,” finishes Jónbjörn. “This time around we’re going to Berlin, Munich and Vienna, starting off in Berlin at a small club called Farbfernseher. It means ‘colour TV,’ because it used to house a TV appliance store.” So in Berlin, as well as Reykjavík, people are getting the Lagaffe picture.