“We saw the fish on Klappastígur and thought it was somehow posh and that made us laugh,” Indriði Ingólfsson, guitarist and second vocalist for Reykjavík’s Muck, tells me. “Kalli Ställborn [lead vocals/guitar] took a picture of it and when the film had been developed it looked great to us—the fish is nicely dressed.” Bassist Loftur Einarsson adds: “It’s funny how the fish is fishing for fish.” We’re of course discussing the cover art for their debut full-length ‘Slaves,’ which says a lot about the band’s playfulness and intuition.
Born of chaos
The two lads indulge me as I attempt to articulate and reconcile how the band’s recent transformation has hardcore enthusiasts, indie rockers and artsy types all along for the ride.
Most of what Muck seems to put together is haphazard, but at the same time meticulously thought-out. “We made a conscious decision not to stick to a single concept, idea, or sound; we didn’t want strategize how ‘Slaves’ ought to sound,” Loftur tells me. “The direction of the music was not planned. Everything was born during rehearsal. Maybe we brought a single riff or a lone beat, but never anything beyond that.”
Indriði figures that to the outsider Muck’s creations might seem haphazard and up in the air, but to them it’s the “art of choosing,” as he puts it.
Muck isn’t complex arrangements-wise, musically or aesthetically. “We wanted to capture the raw elements. Our compositions are not grand. It’s because Muck happens at rehearsals. There’s no time to ponder at home, fine-tune and tweak. Our music is born from chaos,” he tells me. And I believe him. As a result Muck right now has and is becoming simpler than Muck of old. “There’s constant noise but then something happens and we simultaneously recognise its potential and what it can become, we hone in on that and work it.”
So it’s haphazard after all? “Yeah, kinda,” Loftur replies, “but to the extent that sometimes we’re all tuned into the same band and during a jam sessions we’re like ‘let’s do something similar to these guys.’”
But Indriði says it isn’t always that easy. “There have been periods where weeks are spent trying to come up with something good. We’re playing around with twenty riffs, jamming for two hours straight yet nothing works. That’s because we’re picky. We create a lot of stuff but the majority gets discarded.”
No slaves to convention
Muck’s music has changed dramatically since its inception in 2007. In fact Muck sound like a totally different band. Slow has been replaced with fast and moody has made way for rowdy. After 2009’s ‘Vultures,’ Muck lost their original vocalist, and Kalli, and to some extent Indriði, took on the vocal duties, but this wasn’t the main catalyst for the change. “Kalli and Ási’s involvement with Manslaughter [a fast hardcore/grind band] rubbed off on the rest of us,” Indriði explains. “The speed of their songs, and the simplicity and quick song writing process made me jealous.” Loftur adds: “They would be in that type of mode after Manslaughter rehearsals and transmit that over to Muck.”
Beyond the mundane
Muck has also recently incorporated visual and performance art into its on-line presence and live shows. Chalk it up to two of the members’ enrolment in the Iceland Academy of the Arts. A few voices have expressed resentment for these new additions suggesting pretentiousness and showboating.
Are they trying to change the band’s image? “It’s just boyish shenanigans, mostly,” Loftur says. “A lot of the time friends that do art other than music ask us if we want to partake in their projects and we say yes.” Indriði elaborates: “For us it’s just a way to do even more band stuff together. It nourishes.” Loftur explains that it enables the band to approach its creations and potential from a different angle. “We’re inspired by our friends,” he says. “We want to have fun. That’s our main goal. And sometimes we want play outside the conventional box in hopes of a different experience for all involved. Simple as that. It’s ridiculous that changing things up should have to be an artistic statement. It’s simply a chance to look beyond the mundane.”
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