“Do you know the song ‘One Note Samba?’ This track is called ‘Brown Note Samba,’” says Sveinbjörn Thorarensen, known professionally as Hermigervill. He’s referencing the hypothetical infrasonic frequency that would make people lose control of their bowels due to resonance. “There are theories, but we don’t know if it’s possible,” he says. “The frequencies are somewhere below 20hz, so humans can’t hear them.”
This tongue-in-cheek nerdiness is part of what has made Sveinbjörn such a popular fixture of the Icelandic music scene. We sit down in the hip Kreuzberg neighbourhood of Berlin, the city where he spends as much time as possible. All smiles, two red braids cascading down from under his baseball cap, he recounts last night’s escapades at notorious club institution Berghain. “Berlin’s techno scene fascinates me,” he says. “All my life I’ve tried to make techno and failed. Everything I make is just too jolly, I guess.”
Smart young people
A hardware enthusiast, Sveinbjörn made a string of solo records introducing his unique sensibilities. “For the last five years, I’ve been collaborating, and it’s opened my life up so much,” he says, “both musically and personally. I used to be kind of antisocial and somewhat insular. But now I’m excited about collaborative projects. I thrive on them.”
In fact, the charming beatmaker has his hand in a myriad of projects—almost too many to count. He was a member of Retro Stefson, who disbanded at the end of 2016, but he immediately joined another heavy-touring crowd favorite, FM Belfast. And his collaboration with brothers Logi Pedro and Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson has continued, despite the end of Retro Stefson.
“They’ve been a huge influence on me,” says Sveinbjörn. “I just think young people today are smarter than you and I were back then. I try to spend as much time as possible with young and fresh people. They keep me going, both in terms of creativity and motivation.”
Given Sveinbjörn’s additional work with Berndsen, Karó and, most recently, Sturla Atlas, one wonders how he finds time to sleep. “I’m always in the state of almost having a burnout,” he smiles. “That’s my modus operandi: fifteen minutes to burnout. Still, you have to keep life interesting.”
In February, Hermigervill released the track “Solitaire,” along with a tripped-out music video based on the classic PC program of the same name. The track came out on Eskimo Recordings, a Belgian label known for space disco by the likes of Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas.
His forthcoming solo album is a fully instrumental hip-hop album, however. It’s a forward-looking approach, says Sveinbjörn. “All my projects have been somewhat backwards-looking, sample-based, made to sound like they’re from the seventies,” he explains. “But I want this one to sound a specific way. One track is made completely on an iPhone. I think what defines the most exciting music of today is just not giving a fuck. Doing whatever you want without context.”
Admitting that he’s in the dark about the marketing side of the industry, Sveinbjörn wants to do things right this time, after a string of catastrophes. “One time I released an album and the label went bankrupt the next day,” he says. “Another time, I released an album and the whole stock disappeared. Nobody knows what happened. One time I released an album, and it sold out, but the people involved never paid me. Everything’s gone wrong.”
Nearing the end of our chat, he suddenly remembers one more project, asking: “Did you hear about the lightning music I made in the UK?” I hadn’t. “I made music for dancers wearing metal armour with lightning shoot out of them. Midi-controlled music—drum ‘n’ bass—at Glastonbury, for forty thousand people. A twenty-metre-tall spider.”
Somehow this all seems normal when Sveinbjörn says it.