Steinunn Eldflaug Harðardóttir, aka dj. flugvél og geimskip, steps inside Hressó, hugs me and apologises profusely for being fifteen-minutes late. She was held up, she says, because her two cats dragged a bird into her living room. The bird wasn’t visibly hurt, however, it was absolutely losing its shit trying to find a way out. Steinunn called a few friends for help. One of them left work early to assist. They got the bird out safely. Once that was done, she zoomed down on her bike, as quickly as possible.
That’s why Steinunn was fifteen-minutes late.
It’s been a busy year for Steinunn. When we met, the eclectic, enchanting electronic musician had just returned from a brief US trip that saw her perform both coasts. Over some coffee (which she loves), we discussed about the past year (that she’s loved) and Iceland Airwaves (that she, incidentally, also loves).
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It’s been a crazy year for you, what can you tell us about it?
I finished my album ‘Nótt á hafsbotni’ (“Night At The Bottom Of The Ocean”), which Mengi released, and then I’ve been playing a lot of concerts, toured internationally, and done all kinds of stuff! My dream was always to make music, travel and play, and now that’s just what I do! My dreams have come true, and it’s all very fun.
What was it like, touring the US singing in Icelandic?
It wasn’t that big of a deal, really. I had translated all of my songs over into English with the help of my mother—she’s really good in English—and I was going to sing them that way. But I’m incredibly forgetful, and I sometimes forget my own songs before I play, so I decided not to take any extra risks. I just explained what the songs were about before I played them, which is funny because you can’t really explain songs, so my explanations varied wildly depending on the mood I was in. When I play in Iceland, though, people often join in and sing along, but they couldn’t really do that in the States. But I got them to meow along to some of them.
What was really confusing for people over there, though, was that they couldn’t pronounce my name. I don’t remember how I chose that name, but I wish I had made it “airplane and spaceship” right from the beginning, because it means the same thing. I think in Iceland people think “huh, flugvél og geimskip? What’s that about?” and then they come check me out, but when I’m abroad they’re probably like “fuhhfnahveel gifhafh” and think it’s some Icelandic joke or something… However, if they’d hear “airplane and spaceship” they’d be “whoah! That’s far out!” I tried signing stuff like that on Instagram, but it was confusing for people. It’s pretty sad when people can’t remember your name and find your songs or albums after the concert—I wish I could just have two names, but otherwise it was fun, and blah blah, this has become a really long answer!
You were otherwise well-received over there?
Oh yes! It was amazing! I was supposed to collaborate with a girl called Cat who plays as Sassyblack, and we had half an hour around noon to prepare a song that we were going to play together. I had been stressing about it for a while, but then when I met her we just clicked! She’s like me and loves space. We agreed that she’d sing and I’d play, and when I was thinking of a bass line I didn’t want to be bossy and asked her “what do you have in mind,” and then she played the line I had in mind!
Then when we played, Mammút and a bunch of other Seattle bands were also performing, and the place was absolutely packed, with queues reaching out and down several streets. One girl filmed the queues and showed us when we were getting ready, and we were like “wow, that’s so cool!” It all felt unbelievable, and our collaboration was very successful, so I hope we can do something else together in the future.
Then, later, I played with Mammút and Fufanu at some record store in New York, and there were only ten people there, including two family members of mine, but it was still pretty fun because when few people show up, I often allow myself to try doing something different.
Did you take any special considerations when performing in the States?
Yeah, I was veeeeery careful not to get confused, be on top of my game, and not leave too much time between songs, because I had heard people in America aren’t as patient as they are back home. Over here, if you mess something up or forget something, it’s okay, because people are pretty chill; they know you and are willing to forgive you. “It’s just Steinunn,” they’ll say. But otherwise it was just speaking in English in between the songs.
Is there anything you learned from that tour that you’ll carry over into your Airwaves shows?
Well, after looking at a lot of pictures of myself, I learnt I need to stand up straight more [laughs].
Well, I always unconsciously start leaning forward because the crowd is standing a little below me, but that half a metre doesn’t really make any difference, so I think it’s better to stand up so you can look over the whole crowd and connect better with them. Also, you maybe have more control over your instruments, because you don’t have to move so much to reach each dial and knob. When I think of it, yes, that’s how it should be, and then you have better oversight of everything, which is something I generally don’t have in my life… But that’s okay!
We’ve talked about the festival before, and you’ve described it as being very dear to you. What are some of your earliest memories of Airwaves?
My oldest memories of Airwaves are from when I was fourteen or fifteen, still in tenth grade. I didn’t have a ticket, and I was too young to drink or go to clubs, but I loved music and bands, although I didn’t know anyone in a band except for my dad who’s in Apparat Organ Quartet—he managed to sneak me in backstage on the main night when Apparat were playing, and it was crazy fun. I saw a lot of good bands, like Gusgus and The Hives, which was a big band back then. I was star struck, getting to hang out with Apparat! When someone came backstage, I had to hide under a bench, and I remember I took some honey vodka with me, which was Apparat’s signature drink. It was just honey mixed into vodka, but they liked offering people shots of it.
I was so happy because it was hard to get a hold of alcohol at my age, but there I was, drinking that vodka with Sighvatur from Apparat, and we got very drunk together. Sighvatur is also a videographer and had brought some filming equipment along, so when The Hives finished their set, we spontaneously decided to go and interview them, and they said sure, why not. They were all sweaty and had taken their shirts off, so I was like “ooh lah lah!” [laughs]
Sighvatur then asked them a bunch of silly questions, playing around with the guys; it was a great experience for me, sneaking about and hanging out with famous people. I was so enchanted by this world that I had stepped into.
A year later, I was out with my friends on Culture Night, and I saw that interview projected on a big screen at Ingólfstorg! You could see me there for a few seconds, and my friends couldn’t stop laughing about it.
Years later, are you still excited about Airwaves?
Oh yes! But it’s completely different. Now I’m not excited about getting back stage any more, but about getting to play so often for so many new people, because I love playing shows. People often ask me if it’s not hard playing so much, but every time I step onto the stage I get this rush of energy, and if a lot of people show up, I get hyper, which is great! If you manage to keep composed throughout the festival, you feel ready for anything once the festival finishes. I didn’t manage to do that the first time I played there, but it worked out great last year. You also get to know other musicians a lot better.
Ten Or More Steinunn Picks For Iceland Airwaves 2015
Steinunn had a really hard time not mentioning every act on the line-up. Here’s a number of her recommendations, presented in no particular order.
Skepta: I’ve been listening to him for a long time, and I look forward to seeing him live.
Sophie: He has a great and weird sound.
The Drink: This has to be a great band, because they have a great name! I think band names are very important, like with Evil Madness—I remember seeing that name and thinking they’re good.
Snooze Infinity: He also has a great name!
Rvk DNB: I love this outfit! It’s a bunch of DJs playing together, and making their own music. I also love drum ‘n’ bass music.
Oculus: He’s really good.
Mercury Rev: It sounds like Martin Rev, and that’s a good name. It sounds stupid to like a band because of their name, but I think if they have a good one, it could mean the band members are fun.
Just Another Snake Cult: They have such a cool picture! You can’t ignore a cool picture!
Fufanu: This is a great band! I played with them in America, and they play cool rock music, sort of like Singapore Sling, but not quite the same of music, but still…
Smurjón: They’re good too! [Steinunn admits she’s biased, though, as it’s her dad’s band, and she plays in it]
Panos from Komodo & Godchilla: They’re not playing at Airwaves so they just get an honourable mention, but I’m really sad they’re not playing!
Steinunn will be playing Airwaves on the following days:
- Thursday (November 5)
- 18:00 at Nordic House (off-venue) as dj. flugvél og geimskip
- 20:00 at Gamla Bíó as Smurjón
- 22:30-23:00 at Gamla Bíó as dj. flugvél og geimskip
- Friday (November 6)
- Saturday (November 7)
- Sunday (November 8)
- 17:50-18:20 at Vodafone Hall as dj. flugvél og geimskip
- 20:15-21:00 at Vodafone Upstairs (Extreme Chill) as dj. flugvél og geimskip
If you made it this far, you may as well check out our feature interview with Steinunn:
Run Towards The Light: The Spaced-Out World Of DJ Flugvél Og Geimskip
On a recent Saturday afternoon, amongst the bustling circus of Reykjavík 101’s summer street life, an unusual spectacle grabbed the attention of the throng. Under the blue sky, one of Iceland’s most exciting young musicians, DJ flugvél og geimskip, aka Steinunn Harðardóttir, was performing on the street outside of Klapparstígur’s Reykjavík Record Shop. In front of a windswept curtain of gold streamers and amidst blinking, colourful lights, the diminutive, brightly dressed Steinunn hit keys and pedals to create a joyful cacophony.
Posted November 5, 2015