Melkorka Sígríður Magnúsdóttir is in high spirits, bounding into Kex’s spacious bar with characteristic fizzing energy. “I’ve just finished my exams in school,” she grins. “I called up Árni in the studio, and he was mixing our songs. I was so happy, and asked: ‘Can I come visit?’ But he was like ‘Uh, maybe it’s not the right time…’”
“We were listening to one weird little loop, over and over, fixing a tiny sound,” says Árni Runar Hlöðversson, Melkorka’s bandmate and producer. “I was just saving her from being miserable!”
Together, the two are Milkywhale, an emerging Icelandic electronic pop band who stole the show at Airwaves 2015 with five stellar performances, from daytime shows in cafes and hostels to the big stage of Harpa’s Norðurljós. Their formula is simple: catchy, high-energy pop songs, accompanied by Melkorka’s joyful, celebratory dancing. She’s a born performer, shimmying, posing, and bounding around as she sings, enjoying herself so much that it’s impossible not to be swept along.
“I got so much energy from the crowd at Airwaves,” says Melkorka. “I was amazed by the response we got. I went a little overboard! My whole body was aching after the first gig. It’s a little bit like going to gym. But when you’re on the stage, the show just takes over.”
“She performs no matter how many people show up,” smiles Árni. “I’m used to feeling like the pride comes from how many people are there. But if it’s a small show, Melkorka does exactly the same show. I appreciate that so much—being true to the show, no matter what kind of crowd it is. Because people respond to the energy. It becomes a kind of feedback loop.”
As well as generating a word-of-mouth buzz, Milkywhale were one of the two Icelandic bands at Airwaves who were subsequently booked to play at the huge Roskilde Festival. “They booked us and Reykjavikurdætur,” says Melkorka, “so two really performative bands.”
High performance pop
The two met whilst working on a theatre production, winning a grant to develop an initial hourlong show that straddled the line between theatrical performance and concert. “When you see a concert that goes outside of the box, even just a tiny bit, you experience it in a different way,” says Árni. “We’re try to keep an element of that in the show.”
It’s at this point that Melkorka drops a bombshell: Milkywhale has a secret third member. “My mom writes the lyrics,” she smiles, mischievously. “She’s actually an accomplished writer. I think she really enjoys it.”
“I think that’s kind of the key of this band,” says Árni. “Each one of us is going a little outside of what we usually do—like being a pop star, writing lyrics, or producing fully-blown pop songs. Each one of us has a lot of fun with it.” Melkorka agrees, beaming broadly, and finishing: “It’s so much fun. The most fun thing I’ve done.”
See Milkywhale at Grapevine Happening At Húrra on June 3rd.