Lóa Hjálmtýsdóttir stops everything when it’s brought to her attention that season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race is now on Netflix. Although I attempt to continue the flow of the conversation, she is determined to fact-check that I am not lying to her. She exclaims a great sigh of relief upon seeing that it’s true. “You have just made my life so much better, and Árni’s life so much worse!” she laughs.
She is of course referring to her long-time partner in life, music, sports and crime, Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson. Together the two comprise the nucleus of Iceland’s untouchable ultimate party band FM Belfast, whose fourth album ‘Island Broadcast’ comes out on November 3rd.
Stinking raisin-sized ego
Lóa has graciously welcomed me into her home, ostensibly, to talk about the album. But the laughter-filled conversation veers between topics including STDs, first albums (Bubbi Morthens and Bryan Adams), outsiderism, My So-Called Life, and a peek into Lóa’s supposedly “raisin-sized shrivelled little ego that stinks.” This self-effacing statement seems to speak a comical truth that comes with age—know thyself.
“We are releasing and manufacturing the new album ourselves, and I’m panicking,” she reveals. “I had to meet someone at the manufacturer and I was imagining that he doesn’t like me, and all these horrible things. It’s not a good job for me. I probably couldn’t do any job without being down. I worry about being unemployable.”
Although she is candid in sharing her deep anxieties, her mischievous grin reflects the same joyful exuberance that comes from seeing FM Belfast play live. Their shows are a blur of bouncing bodies, lights, rainbows, streamers, confetti, and so much glitter. “I go to Partýbúðin a lot,” she says, referring to a party supply store in Reykjavík’s Skeifan district. “Everything that we do starts out as a joke or a random thing and becomes part of a ceremony and a ritual. We approach it both as a sport and a ceremony. If we’re playing at a festival and some band is being rude, we’re always like, ‘Let’s win.’ Mostly as a joke, but it’s a fun mindset.”
This glistening joy is fully present on their new album. Written, recorded and produced over the course of several years, the songs are bouncy and exciting, yet polished and mature. “I don’t take criticism well and I finally realised that. That was a breakthrough,” confesses Lóa, referring to the process of growth that came about through the album. “I am destructively competitive, which is why I can’t play sports. I once beat Árni with a flappy little shoe during a game of basketball.”
When they were considering the title for the album, one option was to name it after the track ‘Fearless Youth,’ but the matching cover concept brought up Lóa’s fears about appearing delusional on the subject of aging. The lyrics of the song, however, reflect the passage of time that the band has seen. For now, they are embracing their age and their exuberance as they head towards Airwaves. After that they will tour their new album, and Lóa is looking forward to losing herself in that experience. “When I play I get to dance and forget who I am for an hour so that’s very good for me,” she says, laughing. “I have a lot of energy made with my little anxiety motor!”
FM Belfast’s ‘Island Broadcast’ comes out November 3rd. Lóa’s studio at Hafnarstræti 15 will be open during Airwaves as a pop-up shop.