The grassroots in Iceland is lively in the time of COVID-19 and therefore, the panel couldn’t decide what to pick. So, why limit yourself? The panel decided to go for one band and a solo artist this year.
First. It sucks to be you, Nigel!
“The name is kind of just, nonsense,” say’s Krummi Uggason, one of the founders of the grassroots punk band, It sucks to be you, Nigel. The Reykjavík Grapevine Music Awards panel chose the band as one of two artists to watch this year. In some ways, an unorthodox selection for the panel, since the band is not even a year old and hails from a small underground scene.
But they have used their time in an incredibly efficient way, publishing their first album, ‘Tína Blóm’, earlier this year.
The album is humorous raw punk, with titles like, ‘Is It Un-PC To Cut Children In Two?’. The answer is “yes,” if you’re wondering. It’s also highly illegal, in case you’re still unsure. Putting their music to the side for the moment, our first question upon meeting with the band is simple:
Who the hell is Nigel? Are you talking about Nigel Farage?
“A lot of people have asked us about that,” Krummi answers and his bandmates chuckle. “Me and Vigfús [Þór Eiríksson] were driving, and this was a running joke, like saying, it sucks to be….whatever. All of a sudden, we saw this number plate, and the name appeared to us in traffic: It sucks to be you, Nigel.”
The band is young. Krummi and Vigfús started it and found some bandmates in the COVID-summer of 2020. But this is punk, and stuff moves fast, so they lost some members and gained some others. But it wasn’t until they found Silja Rún Högnadóttir that everything came together.
So you’re the singer, I ask her?
“Well, I consider myself more of a screamer than a singer,” she explains. And what a powerful screamer she is. She is a long time friend of Krummi and Vigfús, but it took time for them to realise that she was the perfect fit for this odd band.
“We asked her if she was up for singing for us after the former singer quit,” says Vigfús.
“I told them that I couldn’t really sing,” Silja explains. But they answered, in true punk DIY style: ‘Well, it doesn’t really matter!’”
Asked how they managed to record an album in such a short time, they say that it’s more or less thanks to their good friend Hlynur Sævarsson, a member of Icelandic indie band Trailer Todd. Asked about the future, Silja says that they don’t want to take themselves too seriously. “We’re just playing and having fun ourselves. We love to play concerts,” she says. “It’s liberating.”
One To Watch: Árný Margrét
To be fair, Árný Margrét was a no-brainer for this category. She has only released one single, yet she has captivated Iceland’s folk scene with her soft voice and intimate lyrics. She has already cut a deal with the legendary UK record company One Little Independent, which was the first to release Björk in the 90s.
At her core, Árný Margrét is simply a young woman from Ísafjörður, in the harsh Westfjords region, where the sun doesn’t manage to crest the tall mountains in the winter, and the threat of an avalanche is part of everyday life.
“I grew up in Ísafjörður. When I was six or seven, I learned to play a classical piano, but never really connected with this. But when I got my guitar, at 14 years old, I connected immediately,” she says in a soft voice. She learned the guitar and practiced writing songs until she was confident enough to share her work. That’s when she sent one of her songs to Högni Egilsson, frontman of the legendary band Hjaltalín. He was so taken by the song that he invited her to meet him.
“We met a lot when I visited the city, and we played together,” she says. Their collaboration ended up as a song in the documentary ‘ Þriðji Póllinn’, about Högni and his battle with manic depressive disorder. It was clear that Árný’s musical career was taking off.
“I didn’t really think that I would become a musician,” she says. “This happened so quickly. I was finishing school last autumn but COVID-19 closed the world off. The winter in Ísafjörður was hard and plain nasty and I was working in my parents’ bakery. I just sent Högni the song, and then all of sudden, he introduced me to Kiddi in Hjálmar.”
On the brink of breaking out
Kiddi is one of Iceland best known and respected music producers and once a member of the Icelandic reggae band Hjálmar, which was incredibly popular in the late 00s.
“I met with Kiddi and we just recorded ten demos. I forgot my lyrics on the floor, and he called me later and asked if I didn’t want them back. And, perhaps, to record more demos, so we did ten more,” she explains. The result is incredible, setting Árn ý Margrét on the brink of breaking out. She already has a management company planning upcoming tours in Europe and the US, so it’s only a matter of time before her voice is unleashed on the world. Oh, and a new single will drop in January or early February. We at The Reykjavík Grapevine can’t wait.
Honourable mentions: Brynja, Kvikindi, Vill, Inspector Spacetime
Alexander Jean de Fontenay – Music expert, DJ and art student
Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen – Journalist and PhD in Socio-musicology
Hannah Jane Cohen – Former cultural editor at Reykjavík Grapevine and performing artist
Nína Richter – Cultural journalist at Fréttablaðið and a musician
Valur Grettisson – Editor-in-chief at The Reykjavík Grapevine
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