From Iceland — Depresso Tropicana: Árni Árnason’s Wonky Alt-Pop

Depresso Tropicana: Árni Árnason’s Wonky Alt-Pop

Published December 7, 2017

Depresso Tropicana: Árni Árnason’s Wonky Alt-Pop
Jessica Peng
Photo by
Karan Kandhari

It was one of those rainy days in London when Árni Árnason met up with his bandmates from The Vaccines in their recording studio. After a short exchange of small talk and jokes, everyone sat down and started their intense songwriting game. The goal of the game is to write as many songs as possible in a fixed short period of time.

As Árni started to churn out songs, he quickly realized that he did not have a lot of time to make decisions. B minor or G major chord? He had to think fast, or rather, not think at all. “Writing from your head means that you kind of end up writing songs that you think you want to write,” Árni explains. “But if you take that off for a second and just force yourself to not think about what you’re doing, in the end it’s way more interesting and bizarre.”

Depresso Tropicana

After many rounds of songwriting games over the years, Árni started to notice something interesting. “In all of the things that I was writing, there was this thread that I wasn’t expecting to come out of me,” he says. “It’s quite whimsical—a slightly light Hawaiian type of thing.”

“The studio is just full of crap, lots of knock-off old ‘80s synthesizers, beaten-up organs. You get this dinky, wonky sound that I just love.”

Árni took the materials back to his studio in East London, where he records everything. You probably think that the bass player of The Vaccines must have all kinds of fancy, expensive instruments in his studio. Well, you’re wrong: “The studio is just full of crap, lots of knock-off old ‘80s synthesizers, beaten-up organs,” Árni laughs. “Via that you get this dinky, wonky sound that I just love.”

That was the birth of Árni’s very own brand of music—Depresso Tropicana. It’s breezy and whimsical, but with a slight twist of sadness. It’s like sipping a Mojito on a Californian beach with a broken heart. ‘Bore You With My Melody’ is such a song.

Back to the roots

The Akureyri-born musician went to school in Reykjavik, and moved to London ten years ago. “I love London,” Árni says. “It’s the city where you can find anything you want, as long as you know what you’re looking for.”

This Christmas he will bring his whimsical tunes back to the Norður og Niður Festival in Reykjavik. He will play on December 27th, and you will get to hear the magic of his “shitty synthesizers.”

Looking ahead

“I didn’t set out to make an album,” Árni muses. “I didn’t even set out to make anything else, other than just to play a couple of gigs for fun.”

But life works out in mysterious ways. Since then he has been writing more and playing more shows. After the Norður og Niður Festival, he will be back in his studio in London, where he may continue to create his brand of Depresso Tropicana. “You never know,” he finishes. “I might just get an album out.”

Read more about Norður og Niður festival here.

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