Despite only forming a year and a half ago, Geisha Cartel have already proved themselves to be one of the most inventive acts in Reykjavík. Deftly treading between scenes, the three cousins bump an undefinable sound. You can’t label them, and you can’t tie them down—you can just watch.
This year, after dropping their debut album, they’ll be making their premiere appearance at the Secret Solstice festival. And, if it’s anything like their prior shows, it’ll be one of those talked-about performances you can’t afford to miss.
Walking the line
The cousins arrive to the interview in style. Dark Prince Fendi, aka Jón Múli, wears jeans covered with sharpie drawings. Bleache, real name Eyþór Ingi, is covered in black and white tattoos. Plasticboy, or Kristján Steinn, would round out the trio, but he’s currently studying in the Netherlands. They immediately project that DIY confidence you only find in late teenage and early 20s boys with the ‘think it, do it’ mentality that just makes things happen. It’s pure punk of the kind rarely seen in modern day hip hop.
Despite being cousins, the three who formed the Cartel came from wildly different backgrounds. “We’d all been making music, but it was never focused,” says Jón. “I was doing dance inspired stuff. Eyþór was into acid-techno, and Kristján was all about hip hop. So it was a focusing of ambitions. It was going to be hip hop, but vocal—an underground type of music that transforms into pop.”
Cloudy? Mumble? What?
Their music displays these disparate inspirations. You can’t call it trap, or cloudy, or mumble rap. It’s a melting pot. “I guess you’d say we stand out,” says Eyþór. “We have a weird eccentric vibe, but at the same time, we could belong to the mainstream. We work with both.”
The name Geisha Cartel exemplifies this juxtaposition. “The name has an opposite meaning, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the content,” Jón says. “I mean The Cure has nothing to do with a cure.” Eyþór nods. “It’s a contrast,” he adds. “A cartel is a ruthless organisation and a geisha is an entertainer.”
Breaking glass and roses
At their first performance the boys crashed a RÚV interview, landing their first bit of press in the process. “We really had no idea what we were doing but we just did it. We just jumped in,” says Jón, laughing. “And on stage, we played twenty minutes non-stop, which we wouldn’t do now because we know how to play, but then we just made everything chaotic.”
Musically, though, they emphasise that everything is straight from the heart. “We have this song ‘Svartar Rósir’; it’s emotionally loaded,” says Eyþór. “It was created in the midst of the heaviest snowfall in Reykjavík, and we had just being experiencing our friend descending into the criminal scene.”
Others are less serious. “My favourite is called “Alltof létt,” Jón says. “It says, ‘Yeah, it’s beautiful how you move. 100 grams that I buy and sell.’ So you could be talking to a person that’s dancing or the product you’re moving. Dancing with the way you make your money,”
Both these songs are on their new album, ‘Illa Meint’, which was dropped in early June. “The new album is a timeline of where we started to where we are now. Some of the songs were made a year ago and some are fresh,” Eyþór says.
Geisha Cartel are not tied to being weird, though. “We always try to do something new, of course, but we’re not going to lose ourselves in the avant garde,” Jón says, shrugging. “There’s always something but it’s not like just sounds of glass breaking.” He laughs. “There are drums and vocals. Our music is eccentric, but it’s always fun.”