From Iceland — The Return of Rökkurró

The Return of Rökkurró

Published October 18, 2013

The Return of Rökkurró

Rökkurró formed in 2006, releasing their breakthrough LP “Í Annan Heim” (“In Another World”) in 2010. It was a cult hit, ending the year as the most-streamed album on Icelandic streaming service Gogoyoko, and picking up healthy acclaim elsewhere. After some European touring, the band went on hiatus when two members went to study in Japan, but now, Rökkurró are working on a new sound with some fresh faces. Grapevine chatted with singer Hildur Stefándóttir about krútt, rat museums, police arrests, and the changing times.

Rökkurró are back, and have undergone something of a reinvention. You have a had a switch in personnel, yes? What’s the story?
Yep we’re back! We’re so much back that we’re exploding with new music. It is just pouring out, but we’re trying to capture it all at the moment as we’re making our third album. Our music is sounding different and we’re really excited about the changes. We’ve also gotten a new bass player, Skúli. Our old bassist quit because she wanted to focus on other kind of music, but it was all good, a break up done in a friendly manner. Since the last album we’ve also added a new pianist, Helga, but she doesn’t feel new anymore. It’s like she has been there from the start, she’s like our mom.

It must have been difficult for the band when two members went to Japan. Did you continue writing or playing? Was new material brewing, or how did you cope with that?
I think what we needed was a break. We had been playing the old material for a long time but not been very inspired to write new songs. At the time we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. But then me and Helga went to Japan and we all used this year to focus on our own things, playing music for ourselves and not as Rökkurró. I think that made it more clear for us what we wanted and didn’t want for our new stuff. But of course, this band has been together for six years, so it was quite weird not playing together for such a long time.

I’ve heard a couple of rumours about new material – that Rökkurró now has taken a little change of direction maybe, gone a little more pop… and maybe some non-Icelandic-language lyrics?
The new material is definitely different. There are new elements and we’ve dropped some of the old distinctive sounds. We have more electronic sounds now, less strings. To use the word pop would clearly be more fitting now than before but I think the main thing that has changed is the power – we’re less into eerie, ethereal sounds and more into the dynamic pop/rock outfit. And singing out! There’s definitely a new sound in the vocals. As for lyrics, we love Icelandic too much to let it go completely but we’re trying out new things in other languages too.

Have you been finding a new dynamic after the long break and with your new member?
Sure thing. We’re feeling a kind of crazy strong new dynamic that has surprised us all. It’s hard to find a new member in a band – it’s kind of like starting in a relationship with someone, you’re hoping for the best but you’re not sure if the person will live up to your dreams. Well, our new bassist is doing that. He’s the bomb!

Will Airwaves be the first time you’ll play out the new stuff, or is there a warm up show in the pipeline?
We decided to save live performances of the new stuff specially for Airwaves. We are always excited to play Airwaves but this makes it all way more special, this years Airwaves will be something really unique. I feel Christmas time is coming and I’m about to give everyone a really surprising gift that I can’t wait for them to open. Something like a gold car.

There’s a common perception outside of Iceland that the Reykjavík scene is all about krútt and pretty stuff, because of the success of Sigur Rós, Björk, múm, amiina etc. Do you feel that Rökkurró has some relationship to that, or used to, or still does?
Oh yes! I mean, we were so adorable when we were starting the band that it was as obvious as calling hugging panda cubs cute. You just have to do it. We were seventeen, we had accordion and cello and were all extremely shy. And some of us were chubby. Now that’s just adorable! But apart from our looks, yes, the music was fitting to the “krútt” scene when we started. Now? Not so much. But it’s hard to wash this label away. People that once called us “krútt” will probably continue doing it. Until we release a metal album. Then they will call us “krútt” metal band.

What are your favourite new Icelandic bands of the moment, that people should look out for?
Check out Grísalappalísa. Their new album is swell. And the name is fun to say again and again. Also, if you want something out-of-your-mind-crazy, go and see Dj Flugvélar og Geimskip. She’s very cute and that will definitely be a show to remember!

You went out and toured around Europe a couple of times. How were your adventures? Any highlights in terms of gigs, places or just tour fun?
Yes, it has always been amazing and weird and dangerous. We have so many good memories from the shows but also funny memories of the stuff in between. Like when we were playing in London one time. After the show we decided to walk from the venue to our hostel. We got so lost on the way back, mostly because we were drunk and stupid and didn’t remember the name of the hostel. The name actually sounded like a strip club, I don’t know why we couldn’t remember that. In the end we found it, with a little help from some random guys at an internet cafe. The next day we woke up when the police was at our so-called-hostel. It looked more like a rat museum. The police was arresting a guy in the next room so when we were leaving the hostel we had to squeeze between where the police had this guy in handcuffs, all accidentally touching the handcuffed guy and the police man as the hallway was so narrow. It was awkward. The day after our English friend told us that this neighbourhood where we’d been lost is very shady and thought to be one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in London. That was a nice surprise!

What’s the plan for the immediate future, is the album finished or in progress?
We’re still in the progress of finishing the album. We’re going straight into the studio for a week after Airwaves, which is really good because the week straight after Airwaves tends to be the saddest week of the year. We’re planning on releasing the album in the first half of 2014, then we’re planning on a European tour, which is always amazingly fun. So happy times ahead!

See where and when to catch Rökkurró in the Airwaves App for iPhone and Android, and follow their studio adventures on Facebook.
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