The Mayor of Keflavík greeted them with open arms and an open apartment – setting up a special rate so that the band wouldn’t have to commute from Reykjavík. On a chilly September Sunday, Bart Cameron drove Iceland’s most dangerous stretch of highway to see Iceland’s best live band in the studio.
Grapevine: (Shocked to see the band hamming it up on a studio, to no one but themselves, while the record light is on.) Why are you guys so damned goofy? Have you been recording too long?
Viddi: (Usually the bassist, but now playing guitar and electronics) Well, we’re just doing extra tracks. Songs we didn’t think we’d record.
GV: But you were only here two weeks. You did a whole album in two weeks?
Viddi: Yeah. We finished the album three days ago. This is track number 15.
GV: How many days off did you take?
Viddi: Zero. We spent two days setting up.
(Band breaks into another hyperfunk version of “Ring of Fire”. Ragnar, the lead singer, belting out ´And it burns burns burns.’)
GV: Shouldn’t there be tension? Bands are supposed to be tense when they record. Especially after two weeks. And living in the same house.
Viddi: There is no stress. WE know each other.
GV: I really thought you’d be more serious. You go so crazy on stage, I figured you were repressed accountants or something.
Ragnar: It’s kind of like that. (He gets a straight face like he’s thinking of childhood abuse.) No…we’re always stupid, really.
GV: My big question is this: aren’t you worried about disappointing on this album? The expectations are so incredibly high. You could provide this year’s biggest disappointment.
Doddi: We might release it next year. So it can be next year’s biggest disappointment.
(Then quieter.) It’s going to be next year’s masterpiece.
(Whole band momentarily quiet.)
Viddi: Okay, we’re going to play basket.
GV: Basketball? Are you trying to get into shape for your naked shows?
Ragnar: No. It is very important that we are not fit. There is nothing more stupid than naked fit bands. I like naked fat bands. Not naked fit bands!
GV: (Turning to leave, notices two calendars featuring strippers from Goldfinger´s club in Keflavík.) Those calendars don’t have the right date.
Ragnar: Yes, they’re here so other bands can whack themselves and play slow songs.
GV: Is this a strategy Trabant employs?
Ragnar: (Speaking with a false German accent.) No! It is totally forbidden in our band to whack yourself ‘cause you will get lazy. It’s like the handball team.
GV: That makes sense.
(Everyone in room looks at bathroom, where Doddi the drummer has been for more than three minutes.)
Ragnar: (High pitched and extremely German) Doddi! We know what you are doing!
(Band storms out into the street. DJ Gísli Galdur dribbling, other members kicking at the ball. At a local park, band begins humiliating themselves trying to make easy shots on a 7-foot hoop.)
GV: Oh my god. You may be the worst basketball players I have seen in my entire life.
Ragnar: (Who has put an ascot on just for playing basketball, belly laughs and throws the ball somewhere near the hoop.) Stupid soulless white motherfuckers.
GV: You are a horrible athlete. You do sing well, though. Were you a choir kid?
Ragnar: Hah. No. When I started singing I was shit. But they were patient. I couldn’t sing in tune. But when people are patient and nice you end up getting confident.
(Goes to dribble and somehow loses his footing.)
Gisli Galdur: He’s got the dandy style.
(The band walks with Grapevine photographer through backyards, looking for good photo locations. Ragnar knocks on locals’ doors to ask permission. For half an hour, the band sets up poses and laughs with our photographer. We get exhausted. Trabant seems willing to try more poses.)
GV: (Walking back to the studio.) Tell me about your lyrics Ragnar. What is the inspiration?
Ragnar: Sometimes they have… well… it’s just SEXY. Our first philosophy is SEXY.
GV: For all lyrics?
Ragnar: Yes. Emotional meltdown.
GV: How can that be sexy?
Ragnar: It’s epic sexy. Song of the whip. That is angry sexy. It’s all pretty frustrated. Frustrated in the head.
Doddi: Not negative frustrated.
Ragnar: Yeah, it’s SEXY frustrated.
GV: I think you are all a little too happy. I mean, come on. How is this possible? Don’t you get tired?
Ragnar: We’re just all really good actors. It’s a happy feeling when you’re here in Keflavík.
(We get to the studio. A rush to the instruments and Ragnar jumps into his vocals for his Hell in the Sauna song.)
Ragnar: (Singing at the top of his voice and gesturing.) Read the instructions. Close the door. Boys get sweaty. Boys get sweaty.
(Band plays two versions of song.)
GV: Okay. I am dizzy and would like to go home.
Viddi: (Patting me on shoulder.) You should take off your shoes. Here, have some food. We eat a lot. That’s the key to a happy band.
GV: (Looking the still ecstatic Ragnar in the face.) It occurs to me that your vocals are all extremely sad. I mean, they sound so desperate.
Ragnar: They are pretty sad. All of them.
Doddi: I didn’t think so. You get so much output in The Funerals. (One of Ragnar’s side bands.)
Ragnar: Yes. It’s sad. It’s frustrated. It’s religious: god, hell and love. The holy trinity.
GV: Yes, of course. You’re like the Prince of Iceland.
Ragnar: Oh. Prince. He’s sexy.
GV: Yeah. I guess he’s a naked fit singer that isn’t annoying. But then he’s small.
Ragnar: (Laughing and temporarily distracted.)
GV: Thanks for your time. I’m going to leave.
Grapevine stumbles out to car as band gets ready to record another take of the Sauna song. Ragnar screaming “Boys get sweaty.”