I met with Birgir, Palli and Eggert of Maus the day before they opened for Placebo.
Since winning a battle of Icelandic bands in 1994, Maus has been a staple of the music scene in this country. They have been so consistent for so long that they are the band that is invisible because they’re right in front of you. After 11 years of playing one of the world’s smallest countries, the band had some interesting observations.
ON FREE BEER
Grapevine: Are you discussing special riders. Need like special M&Ms for your show tomorrow?
Palli: Nobody asks Icelandic bands if they want anything… Maybe Nylon. They got separate dressing rooms for their June 17th show. But usually, Icelandic bands don’t get anything. We do put celebrities on our guest list though.
Eggert: This is Iceland, you never know.
Palli: Michael Douglas.
Eggert: The father. You know the father.
Palli: Yeah, Tony Danza. We always put him down first.
(Birgir finishes his phone call and sits down.)
Birgir: Once we asked for 5 cases of beer. And a few sandwiches. In Denmark.
Palli: Never in Iceland.
Birgir: You never get free beer here.
Palli: Not unless you have a foreign band.
Birgir: We’ll have to import small foreign bands from now on.
ON ICELANDIC CROWDS
Grapevine: You don’t seem to live a rock n’ roll lifestyle. You all look young and healthy.
Birgir: We used to be a party band.
Palli and Eggert: No. Not at all.
Birgir: Well, we like to party, we just do it the right way. We party in the right way the way we put an album out the right way.
GV: How is it, then, playing shows where everyone else is drunk? Last time I saw you play, at Grand Rokk, I was sure there was going to be a brawl.
Birgir: No. It’s fine. No, I don’t think we’ve ever been afraid of a crowd.
Palli: There was that one time.
Birgir: But we weren’t afraid. We made fun of him from the stage.
Palli: Yeah, but…
Birgir: Well, then we ran like hell. But we made fun of him.
Palli: We had to stop a gig once because we had security, but the guys up front were bigger and started beating up our security. Then our drummer jumped into the crowd and started hitting him. But I talked to the guy who got hit, and he said it was fine.
Birgir: That guy was pushing the mic constantly into my teeth.
GV: And your response?
Birgir: Nothing, I’m a pacifist.
ON BIG SHOWS
Grapevine: What are your next big shows?
Birgir: We have a big show in Seyðisfjörður coming up. Two shows there. And then we’re playing New York.
Grapevine: Where in New York?
Birgir: Central Park. At Summerstage in Central Park.
GV: Well, that’s important, right?
Birgir: (Shrugs.) Yeah, we got a phone call. This woman said she wanted us to play Central Park. She said she had been trying to get in contact with us for a month.
Palli: I mean we have a website.
(Band all joins in to say how easy it would have been to contact them.)
Eggert: We’re going to stay in New York for a week with our girlfriends, though.
Birgir: Ugh. Girlfriends.
ON PLAYING IN THE SAME BAND FOR 11 YEARS
GV: Why aren’t you more jaded after 11 years?
Birgir: We started young. We thought of this like a club. It’s still like that. Sometimes we talk for 40 minutes and play for 20.
Palli: We just get along.
Birgir: I haven’t slept with any of their girlfriends yet.
Palli: And we haven’t slept with any of his ex-girlfriends.
ON DEALING WITH THE FOREIGN PRESS
GV: This woman tracked you down for the Central Park show. Is it nice having foreign fans who are so interested?
Eggert: (Eyes wide open like a child in a Christmas card.) Doing this for eleven years, we don’t think we’re going to be huge if someone from a foreign country thinks we’re good. (He looks at me a few seconds.) Shit shit shit. (Launches into Icelandic, asking band mates to explain the same idea he just expressed well in English.)
Birgir: Normally, the foreign press isn’t interested in us. We’re an established band. People forget to mention us. It’s only if they hear us on a cd or something—then we end up with people writing about us who are fans. We’ve never had hype. We’ve never had a spotlight on us.
ON 11 YEARS AS A POPULAR ICELANDIC ROCK BAND
Birgir: We sell albums like a mainstream pop band, but we get airplay with the rock bands. We probably sell more than the pop bands.
Palli: It’s brilliant playing around the country.
Eggert: We get to play our own songs for one and a half hours and hear people singing along.
Palli: Some Icelandic bands want to go straight from Iceland to New York.
Birgir: But that’s impossible.
GV: How many shows have you played in Iceland, do you think?
Eggert: Exactly 270, I think.
Birgir: It helps that we’re self-sufficient.
GV: What does that mean?
Eggert: We don’t have an agent or anything.
GV: Isn’t that why it took the woman from New York City a whole month to track you down?
All of Maus: Yeah.
Birgir: Fuck. We’ve wasted 11 years.
Palli: Hey, sorry we didn’t have the drummer here.
Eggert: Yeah, he usually says the funny things.
Maus will headline a show at Grand Rokk on Friday, July 9, and they will perform two shows the next week in Seyðisfjörður. For more info, check their website.