Keflavík: Home Of Icelandic Rock 'N' Roll - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Keflavík: Home Of Icelandic Rock ‘N’ Roll

Keflavík: Home Of Icelandic Rock ‘N’ Roll

Published July 8, 2014

Screamer, hell-raiser & acrobatic guitarist Halli Valli speaks on ATP’s influence on his renegade punk band Æla

Photos by
GAS

Screamer, hell-raiser & acrobatic guitarist Halli Valli speaks on ATP’s influence on his renegade punk band Æla

All Tomorrows Parties acquired cult status almost the moment it was conceived. Its line-ups betray a strong aesthetic that differs from much of the festival landscape, both figuratively and literally—rather than stages set up in fields and live music happening out under the stars (or in mud), ATP took the innovative approach of colonising holiday camps.

These places have an atmosphere all of their own, with echoes of England’s pre-budget-airline UK seaside holiday past. When the festival was held in Pontins Holiday Park at Camber Sands, the main room lay up a staircase that led through the mouth of a huge plastic octopus, while downstairs you could see bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Deerhoof and LCD Soundsystem performing against a backdrop mural of Peter Pan, pirates and wicked witches. These camps are like crumbling, careworn seaside monuments in their own right. And rather than camping out, everyone got a bedroom to sleep in, resulting a chalet-town that came alive with impromptu house-gigs, sing-alongs and after-parties late into the night.

A community grew around the festival, with many people proudly discussing how many ATPs they’d attended, and which legendary acts they’d witnessed. As a lightning rod for more creative, heavy, surreal, weird and artistic musicians and listeners, it became a meeting point for like-minded alt-music folk from all over the world.

One such festivalgoer is Halli Valli, leader of veteran Icelandic punk-rock-noir band Æla, who have roots in Keflavík—and opened the inaugural ATP Iceland festival.

ATP CHANGED MY LIFE

“ATP literally changed my life,” he recounts. “I came across this festival when I was browsing for new music online. I think I found it when I was searching for Shellac shows, or maybe Bonnie Prince Billy. All the bands that I knew on the line-up were good, and the ones I didn’t know then I checked out and every single one proved a pleasant surprise.”

ATP provided a jumping-off point into a world of new music. “You know when you get this feeling when you discover a new band or musician and it feels like the songs were written for you or even by you?” he says. “That’s how I felt with a lot of the bands at ATP. I called my bandmates and few other friends and planned a trip. I also called my friend Ingi that was studying in Manchester and we planned to meet at Camber Sands. And every year after that I checked out what was on at ATP to discover new music. And if didn’t go to the festival, I went and bought the CDs. And most of my favourite bands have played or are playing at ATP somewhere. So in a way I could say that my taste in music is ATP. ”

VOMIT

There was a certain beauty to Æla opening the first ATP Iceland. “It was a true honour,” says Halli. “Æla is a hugely ATP-influenced band, so it also made a lot of sense for me. I felt it was a little bit weird to perform in a theatre in the afternoon, but it was also an interesting challenge. But we did a surprise gig late at night in the festival’s food court, playing outdoors from the back of a van—people went crazy, it was so much fun.”

Like most bands, Æla were drawn to the lights of Reykjavík, but Keflavík has a special place in their heart. “I don’t always agree that Æla is from Keflavík, seeing that I am not personally from Keflavík,” says Halli, “although my bandmates are. But being labelled as a band from Keflavík has its pros—historically, it is the rock ‘n’ roll city of Iceland, so it should have its benefits—but Keflavík also has a bad nightlife reputation, so we got more active when we were all living in Reykjavík. But Paddy’s in Keflavík is still our favourite place to play and drink—an Irish bar, with the best burgers you can find in Iceland! So our headquarters is there, and it’s a real home to us.”

Æla’s much-delayed second album is allegedly approaching completion—follow the band’s Facebook page for more info.

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