Icelandic electro-pop quintet Sykur are a thrilling live experience. From a foundation of throbbing bass, sparkling synth octaves and diamond-cut pop melodies, they whip up a celebratory feeling that can tip a nodding, swaying audience into a full-on freakout. At the centre of the storm is Agnes Björt, a preternaturally talented vocalist who flips between growling, roaring, crooning, bellowing and rapping whilst prowling the stage in sky-high glittering heels, waist-length hair extensions and dramatic makeup. She incites and invades the crowd, whipping up their energy to breaking point—and she makes it look easy.
A case in point was their headline performance at Aldrei for ég suður, the much-loved end-of-winter festival in Ísafjörður, which ended with the stage full of rapturous, dancing, grinning festival-goers. “I think it’s the most fun festival I’ve ever been to,” says Kristjan Eldjarn, one of the band’s musical mainstays. “We asked people to come up on stage—a legendary Icelandic punk drummer from the 80s came up on stage and started playing, with his shoes in his pockets, and GKR was up there, and lots of other people. It was a perfect ending to the festival.”
Looking for energy
Agnes is humble about her onstage talents. “It’s just about being there for the crowd,” she says. “Our best gigs are when people come to have fun, and not to judge. And as well as going to the crowd to look for energy, I can also go to the band, to Kristjan and the boys. Sometimes I don’t even have to look at them, I can just feed them grooving behind me and it lifts me up.” Kristjan smiles at this, adding: “I have to say, from my perspective, I think she was born to be on stage.”
All of this has led to a well-deserved live reputation that’s taken Sykur to different parts of the world for some memorable shows, big and small. “We played in the middle of a mountain in Norway, in Bergen,” says Kristjan. “It was in an old bomb shelter. They’d hollowed out a small mountain, and you had to walk in through a very long corridor, with natural stone, to a huge, raw space in the middle. That was a crazy gig.”
Photo: Erik Luyten
Banging and screaming
Agnes’s most memorable show was special for different reasons. “We were playing in this really tiny bar in Milton Keynes, and like, four people came,” she recalls, “but those four went completely crazy. They were banging on the walls and screaming! It was great.”
The band are now slowly and steadily preparing new material, which they’ll be trying out live this year in their current four-piece stage incarnation. “We’ve been writing a lot,” says Kristjan. “We have maybe two and half records of new songs. We’ve been recording them, slowly, and playing them out live with guitars and digital percussion, to add more energy to the live show. We’re making the video for new single now—it’s a very summery song. It’s an anthem!”
Also read: Kristján Eldjárn’s new solo project, KRELD.