The winners of this year’s Músíktilraunir, Ólafur Kram quickly became a local favourite in the Reykjavík scene. Serving up a cacophony of genres, the band—which consists of trumpeter and singer Birgitta Björg Guðmarsdóttir, guitarist and singer Eydís Egilsdóttir Kvaran, bassist and singer Guðný Margrét Eyjólfs, keyboardist and singer Iðunn Gígja Kristjánsdóttir, and drummer Sævar Andri Sigurðarson—has made a brand of punk all their own.
Ólafur Kram was originally called Gaia, but the group went back to the drawing board after many Icelanders had trouble pronouncing it. They spitballed other potential band names, but nothing felt right. Then, on the most unlikeliest of times, inspiration struck Birgitta—or rather, noitaripsni did.
“On Christmas night, I had an epiphany. It was like a lightning bolt from the sky that ‘Mark Ruffalo’ backwards is ‘Ólafur Kram,’” she laughs, causing the rest of the group to break into giggles.
“I think it’s an appropriate name in that our lyrics and the words we pick are very decisive and particular,” Eydís says. “There are many words hidden in our lyrics, so it’s appropriate that our band name is wordplay.”
The group cites songs that, when put in an acrostic poem, spell out the names of band members. They also often modulate rhyming words to create new imagery. “We’re playful in the way that, for example, sjó and snjór—the Icelandic words for sea and snow—sound very similar. So in one song, we say, ‘he’s throwing a seaball’ instead of a snowball and that they’re ‘swimming in the snow,’’’ Guðný explains.
Guðný also has some very powerful lyrical commentary on the hierarchy of the Icelandic words for toaster, the group explains. “The word for toaster is very debated in the Icelandic community,” Birgitta reiterates. “Some people say brauðrist while others say ristavél.”
“Brauðrist is more proper,” Guðný asserts, smiling. “It’s more educated.” This then prompts a lively discussion on when and where it’s acceptable to use either term—a very Ólafur Kram moment.
And just like their multifaceted exploration of language, musically, Ólafur Kram is an anomaly. From one song to another, they seamlessly journey from punk to jazz to rock to even things like bossanova and disco. You just can’t define them—forwards or backwards.
“We always put our own flair on everything, which I think is this chaotic feeling,” Eydís muses. The others agree, describing their music as “educated punk”.
“We’re the result of coming from very different musical backgrounds. Like Iðunn has a lot of jazz in her musical background while I just listened to Taylor Swift,” Guðný laughs. “We have people that are very skilled and educated in their instruments and others that are new.”
The group’s sound is, as they emphasise, ever-changing, so much so that they even regard their debut release ‘nefrennsli / krossaflens’ as more of a time-capsule of their sound at that particular time. In fact, they play most of those songs completely differently nowadays.
“Once we tried to write a waltz for couples to dance too, but then it wasn’t a waltz, it was a screaming song,” Guðný says, laughing.
“For us, everything we do, we go in every direction we want,” she concludes.
Check out Ólafur Kram on all streaming platforms and catch them live at Toolraiser. You can follow their Facebook here.
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