In a garage in the West of Reykjavík, Ateria are meeting for a practice session. Their studio is just large enough to fit their instruments, amongst the vintage walking skies, homemade jams, some belongings in storage, and a few scattered boxes of chocolate raisins. “The chocolate raisins are important,” says Eir. “There’s always a pack in our practice space. This is our sixth pack.” Ása chimes in: “… in just a few weeks.”
Ása Ólafsdóttir (17, guitar and vocals), her sister Eir Ólafsdóttir (15, cello, bass and vocals), and their cousin Fönn Fannardóttir (12, drums) started Ateria last autumn when they set their sights on taking part in the yearly Músíktilraunir (“Music Experiments”) competition. Schoolmates with busy schedules, they meet once a week to share ideas, write and play their tunes.
Ateria is not their first band together. “It’s actually experiment number two,” says Eir. “We started a band at our uncle’s wedding and played some cover songs, five years ago in 2013. Fönn, you were just eight!”
“We heard Fönn had started learning to play the drums,” continues Ása. “We thought: we can have her with us! It’s easy because we know each other well.”
Starting to believe
The three went on to win the IME competition, joining an exclusive club that also includes Mammút, Samaris, Of Monster And Men, and more recently, Vök and Between Mountains. The competition was a big factor in getting them started.
“We wanted a goal to set our sights on,” says Eir. “You always work better if you have a real reason to be doing something. IME is a great opportunity, and you learn a lot from it.” Ása adds: “Then we won. That was a weird feeling.”
Winning the competition means extra support for the fledgeling band. “We’re getting time in a studio, concert gigs and funding,” says Ása. “We’re just really lucky. I think we’re just starting to believe it.”
Ateria are also inspired by a wide range of musicians, new and old. When asked who their favourites are, they respond eagerly. “Grýlurnar and Emiliana Torrini,” exclaims Ása. Eir adds: “Emiliana Torrini, especially when we’re cleaning the house on Sundays. Also Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Led Zeppelin and Metallica.”
“Classical music is a big part of our everyday life,” continues Ása. “But we’re not thinking about being in a specific genre. We do what we do, and it is what it is.”
The name Ateria comes from the term “Somateria Molissima,” which is Latin for the Eider bird. “We helped our grandparents take care of the Eider bird nesting area in the summer,” says Ása. “Our grandparents have taken to caring for the birds in the past few years. Ateria also means food in Finnish. We think that’s really funny—it’s random.”
Ása is the band’s lyricist. “Sometimes a word or a sentence just drops to my mind,” she says. “Then I work through it during the night when I can’t sleep. Mostly I write it down in my phone, in notes.” The songs are often born during their weekly meetings. “Sometimes we’re just sitting with the instruments and we hear a chord,” says Ása. “I start to play with it, and we make something from there.”
This promising trio will spend the summer writing new material and preparing for their sets at Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves. Meanwhile, the Eider birds will be shedding their precious feathers.
See Ateria play at Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves. Follow them on Facebook here.