The seminal hardcore band I Adapt have been at the forefront of the Icelandic hardcore scene for over five years. They are about to release their third album, and have recently returned from a tour of the UK supported by the Reykavík Air Bridge. The Reykjavík Grapevine caught up with Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson, the band’s vocalist, to discuss the upcoming album and the importance of the Reykjavík Air Bridge for the Icelandic music scene.
/// I Adapt has been working on a new album for a while. When is it due to come out?
– I don’t know, as sad as that sounds. It was supposed to be out by now. Nearly everything has been recorded, and the tracks are done, all that is left is for me to record the vocals. I had some problems with my voice. I lost it. This happened just before we went on tour to England. I had been sick, and didn’t take good enough care of myself and that triggered it. Now I can’t really use my voice with full force for an extended period. I work with kids, and that really strains the voice as well. I am just waiting for that to clear up so I can finish the vocals.
/// Is this album different in some respect than your earlier albums?
– All our albums reflect some period in my life. This one is a bit different, as it is a lot more personal, and less socio-political. It is a little difficult at times especially considering our reputation as a band that rallies around common causes. That spills into the music as well. When Ingi (guitarist and main song writer) was writing these soundtrack-to-the-revolution kind of riffs, I showed him the lyrics I was writing and told him that it would be very hard to sing this stuff over that kind of music, and he took that into account, so the songs sound a little darker and a little slower.
/// So, what is the album called and what is the story behind the name?
– We are calling the album Chainlike Burden. The name came to us when we were looking over the lyrics and most of them were really sad, describing more or less some inner turmoil, frustration, repentance, regret, the feeling of being alone in the crowd, not letting go of stuff, the feeling of not going anywhere, not being able to enjoy life, even if you are basically a merry person; that kind of stuff. These thoughts and feelings are like a burden that is chained to you, or the chain is the burden. But chains are made to be broken, although I didn’t manage to break them when we were writing the album. I still haven’t.
/// You mentioned that this album sounds darker and slower than earlier releases. Is the album a step away from the band’s hardcore roots then?
– Not at all. We never made a conscious decision to, you know, ‘hey, let’s do something completely different than we did the last time’. The only thing we decided was that we did not want to make the same album that we made the last time. As a band, we have always tried to disprove all the rules that some music gurus have tried to establish for what hardcore should sound like, not that Icelandic journalists have ever had a fucking idea as to what hardcore is, where it comes from or what the elements are. We want to take the key elements of hardcore and push the boundaries. I guess some of the kids who look to us as the band that started the hardcore scene, feel that we are moving away from our roots, but we don’t feel that ourselves. To the untrained ear, to people who don’t know us, we might sound very different.
/// Do you think you are losing some your fan base because of this?
– Yes sure, nobody has said it to our face, but we have been seeing it on Internet forums, and heard from friends that people find this a little too much. Some people still want us to be playing the same music we were playing five years ago. I mean, we could do that, in some form, but we have always been very outspoken and that is not what we want to do right now. It is not like we decided that we wanted to be rockers all of a sudden, but I wrote the lyrics feeling a sudden way, and that must translate into the music. Ingi is just happy as about that because he loves to write music and wants to try new stuff, so the album is a little heavy, not just to be heavy, or trying to reinvent I Adapt. That was never the idea. We are not the kind of people who can change gears like that. We just can’t decide to now become rockers and next we’ll be something else.
/// I Adapt has toured extensively in the past. You’ve recently returned from a two week tour of England and the band has been a part of the Reykjavík Air Bridge program. Tell us a bit about that.
– The Reykjavík Air Bridge has supported us four times. This makes it possible for us to tour in other countries, which is something we could not do otherwise. Some bands use the Air Bridge to play one showcase, or two gigs in the same city. We always do it to tour for weeks at a time and play everyday. It gives us an opportunity to introduce our albums. And they get something back as well. Many of the people we get to know on tour come here for a visit. There have been large groups of people who have come here through I Adapt and other punk bands. Also, some of the bands that we have played with abroad have come here to play with us as well. So, even if we are not really a hit with the newspapers or the tabloid magazines, and nobody talks about our tours or record contracts, then it is still beneficial for both parties. There are so many people who have come here to Iceland through bands like Fighting Shit and us.
/// Do you think the program has returned something to the Icelandic music scene?
– Definitely. Take these bands that have been able to play at the South By Southwest festival (Jakóbínarína, My Summer As a Salvation Army) for example, although they have different goals than we have, the Air Bridge makes it possible to for them to attend and introduce Icelandic music. This has definitely returned something to the music industry, big time. I think this is a win-win situation for all parties. I think we have also proved this to the program. Even if we are not a very popular band, not even here in Iceland, the tabloid press never reports on where we are hanging out on the weekends, so we are not very visible in the media. But when I started showing the people at Reykjavík Air Bridge some of the stuff that came out of our tours, I think they thought that was pretty impressive. It was just different.
/// Did you ever have any problems with getting support from the program, being a small, relatively unknown hardcore band?
– No, not really. When we first received the Air Bridge in 2001 or 2002, the program was very recently established. It was so new back then, they probably thought we were just as great as Jet Black Joe or something. We had drawn up a plan, city after city, this was a three-and-a-half week tour, so they probably thought we were all Sigurrós-ized. But they have shown us a lot of understanding, and we have always supplied them with reports when we get back, like the last time when we played 17 shows in 18 days. They know we are hard workers. When some of the bigger bands send a press release that they are playing two shows in London, and maybe three different news organizations interview them, and then they go and play two shows for three people and spend most of the time drinking beer and buying new jeans, that just makes us look good.