Mainstay indie-rock outfit kimono released one of 2009’s most critically lauded albums—Easy Music For Difficult People—four years after they unleashed the equally critically lauded LP Arctic Death Ship. The interim saw them move to Berlin, lose a founding member and… settle down. Often cited as one of underground Reykjavík’s most consistently influential acts (finding a young scene band that doesn’t contain a kimono-worshipping guitar player is damn near impossible), not a lot is known about these part-Canadian tricksters. So we asked them some questions…
kimono needs no introduction to the casual music fan, but it is always interesting to hear how bands describe themselves. In this spirit: “What is kimono? Where did it come from? What is its narrative?”
Gylfi: kimono is about the struggle between the good and evil that mostly takes place inside our selves and sometimes between our selves. But this struggle is necessary to achieve the musical progress that essentially keeps us going. It’s also about adventure and escapism; sort of a direct line to our favourite albums and songs.
Alex: Narratives are so last year… here is a haiku instead:
Plinky and plonky
Not where you think the “1” is
From 3 heads come sound
You lost your bass player, founding member Halldór, and then were seemingly inactive for a few years. Did you ever pack it in, or did you keep on going, developing the sound that’s found on EM4DP? Was the loss troublesome for you as a band?
Gylfi: As a matter of fact, we were very active for the entire time. We used this time to decide what was best for us in the situation—it was trial and error—until we decided on our direction, to continue as a three-piece. But after we found our new path, the rest came pretty easy. It was a very easy album to make, if there is such a thing.
Of course it’s never easy to make an album, but as opposed to our other albums, this one came most fluidly. It was hard to get there and we truly missed our friend from the band, musically and spiritually. But the loss wasn’t troublesome like that, friendships are all still intact, we just had to fine-tune the engine that will take us through this new phase. Dóri has always been very supportive of us and he and Kjartan still play together in Seabear.
In concert you perform in a very concentrated and focused manner—there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for error or fuckupery in general. Do you put a lot of emphasis in your stage show?
Alex: We fuck up lots, but you can’t tell because we play like ninjas. Actually, Kjartan never fucks up come to think of it. He’s the über-Ninja.
Kjartan: We put a lot of work into the stage show. We are only three so there’s no room for someone not to be 100%—everyone has to deliver. It doesn’t always happen. I remember when I stopped after only half a song in Berlin because I thought it was over.
What has your most pleasant concert experience thus far, and why?
Gylfi: For me it’s usually the latest one that I favour the most, because it’s fresh in the mind and your performance there mirrors the shape you are in at present. Playing concerts is like doing heroin, it’s a powerful thing that can lift you off your feet, but when the high wears off, you need another fix.
Have you really done heroin?
Gylfi: No, of course I haven’t done heroin. It’s a metaphor, those are somewhat of a hobby to me. I’ve been told that my metaphors tend do get weird.
How about the most unpleasant/worst one? Why?
Alex: We once travelled all the way across Germany to play to an empty room, stay in a hotel and we got paid more than we’ve ever been paid for a show. I tell ya, it’s lonely at the top.
Our reviewer Bob Cluness thought your album title—Easy Music for Difficult People—sounded stupid, even though he loved the record. Do you have anything to say to him? Is this music for difficult people? Are you guys difficult people?
Alex: Those who live in glasshouses should not throw stones. What kind of a name is Cluness?
Kjartan: It would have been worse if Bobby had liked the title but not the album. Then I would like to talk to him. kimono is difficult people, we are very nice individuals but when we come together then we can be very difficult, especially to each other.
Gylfi: The review was pretty positive and the fact that he didn‘t like the title just means he doesn‘t understand it or has little imagination. The title of the album is a pretty wide concept but you must be willing to let your mind figure it out.
EM4DP is a pretty dark record, huh?
Alex: Is it? Hmmm…
Gylfi: One thing all our albums have in common is the dark shade that hovers over them, but EM4DP is probably our lightest and most accessible one. Some people will probably agree that music in a minor key can be very uplifting and enriching. I like to think of our sound as the one you hear when you’re about to return from a bad dream and wake up to find that everything is fine.
Where do you see kimono going over the next five years? Do you guys have a plan, or are you more operating on a ‘for the fuck of it’ basis?
Gylfi: We’ll probably still be making music together, but at our own pace. We all have other careers and kids are popping up everywhere, there are lives that need to be tended to. But we have a lot left in us as a band, and we’re already thinking about our next album. As you get older and you’ve been doing this for almost 10 years like us, you learn to use your time much more constructively; you get more work done in less time. We will certainly make the best out of ours.
Alex: We have plans for all of you. You want to join my cult “for the fuck of it”. My… but… Grapevine really is a potty mouth. Those prudish tourists aren’t kidding. It’s all fuck this and fuckedy-fuck fuck with you guys, isn’t it? Fucking hell.