Airwaves draws a lot of international visitors (which is not to say…tourists), who have a limited amount of time between partying-drinking-music-dancing-fun-time and sleeping to actually experience Iceland and The Nature and the Beauty That Is All Around. This can be pretty stressful for a visitor, there’s so much to do, see, experience in a limited amount of time. But you think you have it bad?
So imagine being a band, and having to do the the above list, while playing gigs and hustling from place to place. In order to relate the experience of bands on a tight schedule, I had a chat with two international bands who had relatively sane schedules: One Bird Orchestra and BRNS.
One Bird Orchestra is a Belgian four piece vocal band that played a few off-venue gigs during Airwaves. One member, Mariske, moved to Iceland to study at the Iceland Academy of the Arts. “And because we missed each other so much, my bandmates joined me for a week,” she says. They landed their first Airwaves gig through LHÍ, but after performing a few times before Airwaves, they scored some more. “I’ve noticed that lots of venues are willing to take a foreign band, so we played a lot before Airwaves, which was great.”
They weren’t expecting that venues would be open to foreign bands, and that it would be relatively easy to book shows. Mostly, they just wanted to see each other again, and make music happen. “We haven’t been able to play a lot since the summer, so we’re mostly excited to do that. We want to try to see some of the country, maybe the Golden Circle or something more, but it all depends on Sophie, as she’s the only one who can drive,” Lotte tells me.
When One Bird Orchestra is not rehearsing, performing or trying to cram the Iceland experience into a week-long visit, they’re trying to catch off-venue shows. “sóley is really cool, and I want to see her play,” Mariske confides. “She does everything herself, the keyboards, the loops, the vocals.”
BRNS, meanwhile, is a four piece heavy-pop-with-a-twist band from Brussels, and I sat down to talk with Diego after their set at Iðnó on Thursday. It was their first Airwaves, and their first time in Iceland in general, and they only had time to stop here for all of three days—it was a lightning visit. “We got here on Tuesday, and we leave on Friday. It’s been a typical tour visit, actually. We’ve only seen a bit of the city, and none of the landscape,” Diego tells me.
“We didn’t really know what to expect, coming here to play. We didn’t know whether we’d be playing for ten people or a hundred. We were really lucky that the two shows we played were in smaller venues, which were pretty full. We actually prefer small venues.” After seeing a number of bands play at a half-empty larger venue, I can understand why—the crowd has a huge impact on the success of a performance, and the mood’s better at a crowded, small venue than at an empty, large one.
When asked about what they did during their downtime, Diego kind of laughed. “We don’t have a lot of downtime. Between soundchecks during the day and performing at night, not to mention running our instruments back and forth and setting up, we don’t have a lot of time to get around. We went to a swimming pool today, which some locals do every day. Yesterday we did go see Fufanu at Kex Hostel, which was great. We also saw someone at Dillon, I forget his name… it was this one guy with a laptop who had a really cool proto-punk sound.”
Despite their crazy schedule and lack of free time to enjoy the scenery, BRNS enjoyed their time in Iceland, though. “I think it’s difficult for bands to make it overseas, especially niche bands. A festival like Airwaves is a good way to get exposure. It’s also a good way to see new places, and I definitely hope we can play in Iceland again. I’d love to see more.”
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Posted November 7, 2015