Take the legendary artist Andy Warhol, change three letters in the last name so it becomes a play on the Icelandic word for black hole, and you have the unconventional duo Andy Svarthol. Comprising brothers Egill and Bjarki Hreinn Viðarsson, the band have spent the last three years chipping away at their debut album, ‘Mörur,’ which came out in the beginning of April.
A psychedelic soft-rock work, ‘Mörur’ is reminiscent of ‘60s bands like The Zombies and The Beach Boys. Add to that complicated harmonies and unexpected chord progressions, and you could easily assume you’re listening to jazz veterans or, at the very least, studied composers.
Learning the ropes
But you aren’t. Actually, neither brother has any formal music training. In fact, while most musicians learn how to play before starting a band, both Egill and Bjarki did the opposite, more or less learning to play and record through Andy Svarthol.
While Egill was previously in a band, he found his musical education really kicked into gear when he started working on the album with his brother. From learning to play his instruments to learning how to sing and record music, the album process has been about “learning the ropes.”
Bjarki, the younger sibling, also came into the band with absolutely no musical experience. He essentially picked up an instrument after joining Andy Svarthol, and even jokes that the most difficult part of making ‘Mörur’ was just learning how to play the guitar. “It’s been a learning process,” he says. “This release is kind of a graduation for the both of us.”
The first gig
But—even with their inexperience—the boys have sounded like anything but amateurs since their inception. In 2016, the two released their first single “Irena Sírena,” and soon after played their first gig at that year’s KexPort. Not only was the widely attended, live-streamed concert Andy Svarthol’s debut, it was also Bjarki’s first performance ever.
“We went straight into the deep end of the pool,” he says, laughing. Egill smiles. “I’m really proud of Bjarki. My first gig was terrifying too, and that was just a rock concert at a café,” he says. “Now for him, having this be his first gig…” He gives a panicked expression.
The album title refers to creatures found in old Norse folklore called Mare, who would sit on unsuspecting people’s chests while they slept, causing them nightmares. While Egill didn’t initially want to give the album a title, he found the concept of Mares tied into the theme of the work. “Egill’s lyrics are often about things he’s afraid of,” says Bjarki.
But the sound of the album is anything but fearful. Egill is particularly fond of the first and last songs. “They are funny,” he says. “Not in the lyrics—just in the sounds. It’s kind of ridiculous. I like how it evolves.”
After spending three years working on the same songs, both are anxious to work on new material, especially now that they know what they are doing. “It’ll be easier this time, for sure,” Bjarki says, before he bursts out laughing. “But we have to follow this album through, I guess. We spent three years on it.”
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