Here at the Grapevine we have writers who also like to moonlight as musicians now and again, whether the music be brassy ’60s pop, supercharged hardcore, or noise rock . Even our editor in chief likes to get his guitar out and show us some axe attack moves once in a while.
Another Grapevine writer who likes to play music is Sindri Eldon. You know him, right? For several years now as one of the Grapevine’s music writers, he’s been entertaining and infuriating readers and musicians with his articles on the local music scene, whether it’s album reviews that caused local artists to vent in a near apoplectic rage on the internet, or live reviews that had people applauding and raging in equal measure.
The Grapevine hasn’t heard much of Sindri in 2012 (note – Since the publication of this piece, Sindri has contacted us to say that he has now quit music writing). That’s because he’s currently playing in his own band, Sindri Eldon And The Ways, and has spent the year playing local gigs and recording his debut solo album of melodic power pop. So when we had a free moment, we thought it would be nice to ask him if he could give us a statement on what he hoped to accomplish with his band.
And this was the reply he gave.
“My main statement will be to prove to everyone what I’ve secretly known for ages: that I’m a better songwriter and lyricist than 90% of Icelandic musicians, my mother included. I’ve always been going to shows or listening to the radio going: “this sucks. I can write rings around this,” so about a year ago, I decided that once I finished school, which I did this spring, I’d stop doing everything except being a musician, if only to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak.
“Since I’ve spent the last five years systematically insulting and alienating every musician, music journalist, music industry person and music lover in Iceland, I’m not expecting much support or understanding from anyone, but I don’t really care. I’m in the process of recording my first solo album, and my goal is to make it sound good enough for me to be happy with it; that’s about all that matters to me. Also, I have a mother-in-law that’s very difficult to please, so it would be cool if she liked the album as well. If she likes it, I’ll know I’ve made something good.”
Oh, bloody hell! Well after reading that, we just had to go and ask him some more questions to get him to explain himself.
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In your statement you say that, “I’m a better songwriter and lyricist than 90% of Icelandic musicians, my mother included.” That’s one bold quote you have there! Two questions. 1 – What is it about their writing that’s so bad? And 2 – What do you think it is about your song-writing that’s better?
It’s just that it’s hackneyed, hookless drivel, most of it. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just failed potential. You’ve worked so hard for so long to get on the radio or TV or whatever, and this is what you have to show for it? Half-hearted, ambling chord progressions and songs about how nice the weather is?
Well saying that I can do better is not boasting: it’s just me stating that I can write a song, and they can’t. At least not very well. You could say it’s a taste thing, and you’d probably be right, but I just can’t see how you could put all your passion and guts into writing something barely hasn’t got a hint of either.
You say you’ve alienated most Icelandic musicians and music lovers with your writing. Even those who like your writing are still perplexed on your views about music and how you judge music in general. Can you tell us how you place your value judgements and what it is that you consider “good” music?
I don’t really know the answer to this one; how do you define your own taste in music, or in anything, for that matter? You just like what you like. I honestly don’t think I’m any more picky about the music I like than the next person. The only differences are, and I’m speculating here, that I’m honest about what I don’t like, and I don’t have any particular love for Icelandic music.
What is it about you Mother In Law that she’s so difficult to please?
My mother-in-law is serious business. We don’t joke about that sort of thing; I’m liable to get my head ripped off if I do. I guess it comes back to what I said earlier: everyone is picky about their music, some of us are just more vocal than others about it. She’s vocal, like me, so when I suck, I know she’ll call me out on it.
Sindri And The Waves is the latest incarnation of your musical career that includes bands such as Slugs, Dynamo Fog, and Desidía. In what way, if any, do you feel your music now differs from what has come before? Can you tell us how your song-writing has developed since your early days?
I’m mildly offended by the notion that this is, “The latest incarnation of my musical career.”! I’ve never had a musical career; you’re witnessing the start of it right now. Sure, I was in some bands (that all sucked, for the most part (if not musically, then in their inability to do fuck-all with their talent)), and I co-wrote a few songs, but that’s it. They’re separate things. That was us then, this is me, just me. I write the songs, I call the shots, I make all the decisions.
I never want to talk about any of those bands ever again, because in a way, they had nothing to do with me. They all had their respective frontmen, and I just played my instrument. That’s all.
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You’ve mentioned that you are in the middle or recording your proper debut album. What can you tell us about the album itself and how the recording has gone? What are you looking to achieve in terms of sound and feel? And will it be all new material or a reworking of earlier tunes?
The album will be an attempt at everything I’ve aspired to musically since I wrote my first song. I’m currently in the process of layering guitars on the tracks, which is the hard work. It takes a lot of creative energy to arrange a song, as opposed to just writing it, and I think that people who have never done it ever appreciate how hard it is.
Like 99% of all debut albums, there’s old material mixed with new. The oldest song was written when I was seventeen, and the newest one was finished in the studio, so the album spans nine years of my life. Of the thirteen potential tracks, eleven of them have been recorded in demo form, and are in fact available for free download on my BandCamp site, but those are lo-fi, shit-tier quality recordings. For once in my life, I want to make something you can actually fucking listen to, a hi-fi, well-produced record. I can’t promise I’ll deliver on that, but I’ll do my best.
You’re playing on Saturday night at Café Amsterdam in the last of a rather intriguing line-up. What have been your preparations, and what are your thoughts on how the night will go in general for everyone concerned?
Hmm. Well, I’m sure the organizers had their reasons (even if those reasons were simply not giving a fuck), but no-one knows who I am, so I never have any high expectations when I get my Airwaves placement. This is my third year playing as me, and the eighth playing the festival in general, and I’ve only once gotten a decent slot, and that was in 2003, when the band I was in had just won Músíktilraunir. But like I said, I’m not bitter about it. I’m just happy to be part of it. I keep expecting them to turn me down when I apply, but they never have. Cheers to them.
We were also intrigued to find out that you’re actually playing an off-venue gig with Hollow Veins, Jón Þór, and AMFJ… at Mjódd bus station! How did that one come about? Why should people come out all that way from the comfy confines of 101 to see this gig?
Yeah, that is funny, right? I’m good friends with Alisa Kalyanova, the sexy and capable young woman in charge of doing the off-venue booking, and she called me up about it. Apparently it was the bus company’s idea or the city’s, I can’t remember which. Anyway, a bunch of bands had already turned it down, but I have a very strict “never-turn-down-a-gig-anywhere-ever” policy, so I said yes, even though it sounded like a terrible idea at the time.
Now it looks like it’s gonna be pretty cool: some good friends of mine are playing, and even if it does end up sucking, I guess it’ll be funny in a ‘This-Is-Spïnäl-Täp’ kind of way. With the aforementioned policy, I’ve ended up playing quite a few shows like that.
Apart from these guys, is there anyone you think we should tell the masses to spend their time watching at this year’s Airwaves? Is there anything good to mention about this local music scene that doesn’t involve glaciers?
Hah! Well, I was really fond of Nolo’s full-length that came out last year, so they should be good. Gang Related are another Icelandic band that can actually write a song or two. As far as the live experience goes, you never know who’s gonna surprise you, so I recommend seeing as much as you possibly can. Man, I wish we had some real foreign bands playing. I remember when we could get shit like Ratatat and Kent to come here; what happened to that? Oh yeah. Those bank fuckers. Never mind.
What’s your Favourite Big Country Song?
Aha! Well, I’ve still only listened to ‘The Seer’ (which is about eight thousand times better than the Swans album of the same name), but I love “I Walk The Hill,” “The Teacher,” and “One Great Thing.” I believe there was a question earlier about what I consider “good” music? Those are some fucking tunes right there, my friend. Those are some, fucking, tunes.
Sindri Eldon And The Ways will be performing on Saturday November 3rd, 02:00, at Café Amsterdam