One of the hotly anticipated local acts at this year’s Music Mess is Tilbury. Originally founded by Þormóður Dagsson as a solo project in 2010, Tilbury is now a band with members hailing from groups such as Hjaltalín, Valdimar, Sin Fang and Amiina. Their debut single, “Tenderloin,” which can be found on their newly released debut album ‘Exorcise,’ has been creating buzz that’s impressive, even for our local music scene.
So Þormóður, you started off as a solo project called Formaður Dagsbrúnar. When did it change from that to the shining act we see before us now?
I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed after performing as Formaður Dagsbrúnar with my cousin and guitarist, Örn Eldjárn. I knew it wasn’t good enough and I knew it could sound better. That was two years ago and in the meantime Örn introduced me to Kristinn Evertsson who he had been studying composition with at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. Kristinn had been experimenting with synthesizers and electronic sounds and when we invited him to our rehearsal studio and played the songs I knew right away that we were on the right track. Shortly after that we got together with bassist Guðmundur Óskar Guðmundsson and drummer Magnús Tryggvason Eliassen and it all came together nicely. It was a quite a long process, but fruitful.
Icelandic music is known for collaborations/side projects, yet Tilbury has been described as a bit of a ‘supergroup.’ How do see yourselves as a unit? Are you like the Traveling Wilburys at all?
We are a busy bunch, involved in other projects, but we really enjoy playing together when we meet. I bet the Traveling Wilburys had assistants and companies that organised their practice schedule. We on the other hand have Google Calendar. And it works great. And since we are talking about the Traveling Wilburys, I have to say Wravelling Tilbury’s.
Good name! You’re named after the short story ‘Tilbury’ by Þórarinn Eldjárn and your single, “Tenderloin,” contains some lovely footage from the film of the same name. What is it about this story that draws you all to it?
I saw the ‘Tilbury’ film when I was about eight years old and some of the scenes had a strong impact on my fragile little mind. And growing up I wasn’t really sure that the memories I had from the film were from an actual film or just a weird nightmare. It wasn’t until much later that I found a clip from the film on YouTube that I had it confirmed.
I’m also fascinated by how Þórarinn Eldjárn combines this strange Icelandic folklore with the wartime period in Iceland, a period when British and American cultures collide with a rather primitive Icelandic culture. When those fine looking and well-mannered men came to this isolated country, all dressed in uniforms, a whole new world was revealed to the Icelandic nation—a cleaner, more sophisticated and cool world, along with all the candy and upbeat music.
Your debut album has some touching, alt-pop sentiments, yet it’s named ‘Exorcise’ and has a cartoon of a wartime couple represented by ectoplasmic goo. So you feel that underneath such civility and sweetness in society there is a lot of nastiness trying to get out there?
I like bittersweet melodies. And I like films by David Lynch, where there is often a sense of some demonic undercurrent creeping beneath a pretty surface. We wanted to capture this mood on our album, to have a melody imply something sweet and then the lyrics or soundscape imply something completely different. The “exorcism” on the album is a sort of catharsis, like most honest music is; it’s healthy to get it all out.
For those who are wavering about going to the Reykjavík Music Mess, whom would you recommend (apart from yourselves) that they should go and see?
I’m really looking forward to seeing Cheek Mountain Thief. And it’s always a pleasure to see Snorri Helgason.