Words by Rebecca Louder / Photos by Alísa Kalyanova / Photoshoot wardrobe courtesy of Kormákur & Skjöldur
Last Airwaves, there was a gaping hole in the lineup of Icelandic bands that didn’t ruin the festival (not by far!) but it sure felt weird – FM Belfast were not on the official schedule! Their first time taking a break from the event since the band’s beginning – their first Airwaves concert was just founding members Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson and Lóa Hjalmtýsdóttir and some friends having fun on stage – it was a much needed breather that came amidst a whirlwind of touring, recording, promoting and… procreating!
To celebrate their glorious return to the glowing stages of Airwaves, I caught up with Lóa and Árni Rúnar (with their new son Fróði in tow), as well as Árni Vilhjamsson (aka Árni Vile, Árni Will Smith, Árni Wild, Call of the Wild, etc.) to chat over dried fish, coffee and Toppur about everything from child rearing to rental agreements, miniature PCs and Canadians. Lots of Canadians. Here is a small snippet of our very fun conversation!
How has it been managing all the band and baby stuff? Were you touring while you were pregnant? How did that go?
L: Yes, well…
ÁV: It was quite easy for me.
ÁR: Yeah, yeah, fine for me. [Everyone laughs]
L: There was only one show where it was a problem. The last show we played at a festival, two months before he was born.
ÁR: She left the stage for two or three songs, I don’t remember.
ÁV: It wasn’t anything serious but it felt very serious for her and for us as well because she had to leave the stage, we were like “Uh oh…”
ÁR: I thought she was just going to rest and then I saw paramedics take her away and I was like “Aaugh!” But they were just standard at the festival. They saw that she was tired and they came over.
L: Oh, it was at the place where Hitler did that speech in Nuremberg.
ÁR: Yeah it was where he did that massive speech. We were driving through this festival space and we looked around the corner and saw it. We were like, “Wait, is that…” and they’re like “Yeah yeah yeah.”
Funny thing, last time we interviewed you guys back in 2011, you compared the creation and writing of a song to the human gestation period. Does that still hold up?
L: I’m gonna get that was you [points to Árni Vilhjams again and laughs.]
ÁV: It was probably because I had just had my baby. But I don’t remember saying this! Now it feels more like holding a baby and it depends what mood the baby is in. Sometimes you have to change diapers. Sometimes it’s messy diapers! [Everyone laughing.]
L: What about cloth-diaper people. How are they different in creating songs than paper babies?
So you didn’t play Airwaves last year and that was weird. It was weird for us anyway! Was it weird for you?
L: Yeah, it was. But we saw more shows.
ÁR: It was more relaxed.
ÁV: It was really nice to experience the festival that way!
L: We played 2006, 7, 8, 9… 10. Yeah.
ÁV: We also played 2005 but not as FM Belfast. Árni and I were in another band with Bjössi [Björn Kristjansson, aka Borko]. It’s good to be back!
And you’re making this new backdrop for the live show with a tiny computer called Raspberry Pi, if I got that right?
ÁR: Yeah! I don’t know if it’s going to be ready for this show but it’s only going to be for part of the set anyway. There’s not going to be a backdrop all through the show. But yeah, that is just a really small PC like about the size of a credit card.
Nice. So it’s small enough that you can fit it into your pocket and not forget it in the streets of East London.
[Everyone pauses for moment and then erupt into laughter.]
L: That was me! I was just so tired. But there was a really nice guy who brought the bag back. He came to our show! We invited all his friends.
ÁR: We gave him a t-shirt and a CD, but he didn’t want to take the record for free. He didn’t want our stuff!
L: He was an established person in his own professional life, I think. He had a really nice studio where he was charging my phone. But at the same time that we lost the backpack, there was a minor robbery at the venue.
ÁV: It was not a good day. We were suffering for two or three hours.
ÁR: And then he just walked in with the backpack!
Have you got a lot of these super-cool fan experiences?
L: Yep. We got tiramisu once!
ÁV: From some really nice Italians. They heard that we liked tiramisu in the hot tub, so they decided to bring us some.
L: … I didn’t know that.
ÁV: Me and Árni were discussing Italian food with these guys in the hot tub.
L: Public hot tub. It sounds like you were just at home in your private hot tub with these guys talking about tiramisu! [Laughing.]
ÁV: It’s this practice we have. We like to discuss food with foreigners in a really small bathtub.
L: It sounds like a really good interview show! Like the most pleasant interview experience you could have.
Hey so let’s talk about that video for “Delorean”. We share a hallway between our offices and you made the place really, really messy! And why weren’t the Grapevine staff invited?
ÁR: Yeah, but it was like happy-messy because it was confetti!
L: You guys were working! It was a deadline night. There were people in the office and I really tried to clean up the confetti. Interesting trivia though – I didn’t make the connection between the Grapevine office and the video.
ÁR: We got to use your coffee machine!
ÁV: It was a lot of fun!
ÁR: But that confetti is endless. It’s still there. Like between all the floorboards. We did that all in one day from early in the morning until like, 3:00 the next morning.
ÁV: Magnús Leifsson was really good at organising all of it.
L: But it took four days to prepare because I re-assembled my toy collection over there [Lóa points to a shelving unit that has disappeared under a sea of collectible toys.]
ÁV: Lóa spent four days tweaking the toys like [whispering and miming a precise movement] “Yeah it’s gotta be perfect…” [laughter ensues].
Do you guys tease or prank each other a lot?
L: No. We have a bullying truce, me and Árni [Vilhjams], because we are equally good at it.
ÁV: We love to tease and we are really sensitive as well. She’s a little bit more sensitive–
ÁR: When I first met Lóa, I had to kind of keep them apart because they were kind of too much. They were both really funny, but both at each other’s expense. A lot!
ÁV: We also don’t play pranks because we learned that it’s not so good for morale.
L: Yeah, especially if you have to sit in a car for a long time. I remember after he beat my high score in Tiny Wings, I accepted it because he’s better at those games than me. And then Bjössi borrowed my phone and he beat my high score and I got very angry. And I pushed him in the car!
ÁV: He also teases a lot. Borko is the most sensitive one, though! You can’t say anything to him. [Everybody laughs.] But one shouldn’t take one’s feelings too seriously on tour.
ÁR: No. And always remember – everyone is tired!
So let’s wrap this up before the kid wakes up [Fróði has now passed out in Lóa’s arms], but I have one last question: what band member, full or part-time, has the best collection of underwear?
ÁV: Egill Eyjólfsson our bureaucratic dancer owns the nicest underwear! When we played Austin, Texas last time we slept in a house full of strangers. Egill wore his tiger underwear the whole time. He has no shame and has the nicest collection of underwear. His pink shorts are my favourite, especially on stage.
FM Belfast play TONIGHT, Friday at Harpa Silfurberg at 1:00.