Even though Iceland has been cold as fuck this year, local alternative goth trio Kælan Mikla have found themselves a spot in the sun. When we sit down with bassist Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrysdóttir and lead vocalist Laufey Soffia (the third member, keyboardist Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir, is out of the country), they’ve just returned from playing the Meltdown festival in London, where they opened for Placebo, and were part of a line-up featuring Nine Inch Nails, Mogwai, Deftones, The Libertines and My Bloody Valentine. Let that sink in.
The festival was curated by The Cure’s legendary vocalist Robert Smith. As big an event as it was, it turned out to just be the warm up: Kælan Mikla were also invited to play at The Cure’s 40th anniversary show, alongside Interpol, Slowdive, Editors and more. There must be some witchcraft involved.
A day in the life
Imagine opening your emails and finding an invitation to play Meltdown Festival in London, with a personal letter from Robert Smith. It must be a scam, right? “We sent it to our booking manager, and he told us it was not,” Laufey remembers. What followed were at least 30 minutes of screaming and CAPSLOCK conversations on Messenger.
The Cure is what originally bonded the band together, music-wise, despite each of them having a very different taste. Robert Smith had retired from music, but after checking out all the new acts at his Meltdown, he became inspired again. “It’s like full circle,” says Margrét. “He inspired us, and now we are inspiring him!”
From darkness to light
Kælan Mikla’s recent fortunes have been well earned. They started out playing dark venues, and winning a poetry slam in 2014. After years of unpaid gigs, they’d finally had enough. “We had to be really strict with ourselves,” says Laufey. “We weren’t gonna let people walk over us anymore.” Margrét agrees: “We deserve to be paid. It’s about having respect for yourself and your work. It’s our job now.”
The new approach paid off. Kælan Mikla have developed a fan base all around Europe—and in South America, where they’ll embark on a tour in October. First, however, they’ll tour with King Dude, the master of dark-folk. “’I’m really excited—it’s going to be a tour bus that we can sleep in,” Margrét smiles. “We’ll live in a bus for like 20 days.” Like real rock stars.
As well as working on a new album, the band is re-releasing their “long-lost debut,” ‘Mánadans.’ Produced by Alison MacNeil of Kimono, it was originally released as a self-funded limited edition cassette. “I was so pissed off that we hadn’t released it,” says Laufey. “It was haunting me. So I ended up taking money from my own pocket to pay for it.” This August—four years later—a remastered version of the album is being released by Artoffact Records, with a bonus track.
Five years after ‘Mánadans,’ the band haven’t lost their genuine, almost childlike love for what they do. Getting stage fright is a part of it. “Even when we play 20 shows in a row, I still get sick,” Laufey chuckles. Margrét adds: “It would be boring if you didn’t feel anything. It would be so ingenuine. You wouldn’t be giving anything from yourself.” Amen.
Kælan Mikla’s debut album ‘Mánadans’ will be reissued on CD & vinyl by Artoffact in October. Order at kaelanmikla.bandcamp.com.