From Iceland — The Opposite of Rock Stars

The Opposite of Rock Stars

Published October 7, 2005

The Opposite of Rock Stars

Grapevine: How did you get the idea to enter Musiktilraunir?

Gunna: I think it was me and Alexandra, we went downtown one school day to sign up for it and just used it as an excuse to skip class.
Kata: And I didn’t even know about it. They just came and said, “Ah, we’re going to Musiktilraunir.” And I was like “No!” because I thought we sounded so bad.

Grapevine: So this was your first big show?

Kata: We played in our school, but we only had one song and then we were just doing covers.
Gunna: We only had two songs when we joined the Musiktilraunir.Kata: And then we had to make the third one in a week because you need to have three songs [to qualify].
Arnar: We finished it the same day we played.
Kata: We were just so stressed that we went a little crazy and you can hear it in the song. The song is about eating people because I was so frustrated. I wanted to eat them [gesturing at the other band members]. I thought they were so annoying because everything was so stressed. It’s called Átvagl. It’s like a person who eats too much.
Gunna: We were really annoyed with each other.

Grapevine: Did you have a chance to hear the material of the other bands you were competing against?

Gunna: Yeah, on the Internet.

Grapevine: Was that intimidating, or did you think, “Oh, we’re gonna win this one, it’s a slam dunk.”?

Andri: I was the only one who said, “We’re gonna win.”
Gunna: We were thinking, “Oh, the other bands are so good.”
Kata: I don’t think we won the competition because we played well on our instruments. I don’t think that was it. We didn’t play well.
Arnar: No. Well, it was OK, but it wasn’t outstanding.
Kata: Gunna didn’t know her instrument.
Gunna: Alexandra and I had been playing our instruments for like three months or something

Grapevine: So you two had just started learning guitar and bass?/i>
Gunna: Yeah, I had just bought my bass.
Kata: OK, this sounds like a mess.
Alexandra: It was like, “OK, you play the bass, and I’ll play the guitar.” And then she bought a bass and I bought a guitar.

Grapevine: And that was three months prior to the contest. So after you all were done playing on Musiktilraunir, you get off stage, what were you all thinking?

Arnar: I was really, really stressed. Someone was trying to talk to me and I just didn’t listen.
Alexandra: He was sitting in the corner under some stairs like this (rocks back and forth).
Gunna: (laughing) Because he had played something wrong and thought he had ruined everything.

Grapevine: And when you heard the results, how did you react?/i>

Kata: There’s a picture of us the moment when they said, “Mammút!” and we’re all just like (expression of great shock).

Grapevine: So what did this contest do for you as a band?

Arnar: It was a complete mess the first days afterwards. Many people were calling and asking us to play.
Gunna: But we just had three songs. We were asked to play a concert and it was just so stupid because we only had three songs and then were just playing covers.
Kata: So we had to lock ourselves in the garage and make more songs. Andri: And then after six months there were like, two more.

Grapevine: So, armed with five songs, you’re ready to hit the road. Did your music career disrupt your daily lives?

Arnar: No.Alexandra: We’re so smart we don’t have to study.
Kata: I didn’t pay much attention to school after Musiktilraunir. It was too hard to think about that.
Gunna: I’m working. I don’t have any homework so I always have time for practice.

Grapevine: When you started playing out, what was your biggest surprise?

Gunna: Often when we play at concerts, I often see the same people. Like, (happily) “Oh, it’s that girl again.” And many people that we didn’t expect to like our music like us.
Arnar: Yeah, we see more of the same people at our concerts.

Grapevine: So the biggest surprise you’ve run into is that you’re forming a fan base?

Gunna: Yeah, I often see the same people.
Kata: I think our songs are so, not-on-CD songs. I can’t see myself putting our CD in a CD player and listening to it. I think it’s more music you’re supposed to see live. I can’t really imagining sitting on the sofa and listening to Mammút.

Grapevine: But you’re not telling people not to buy the CD.

All of Mammút: No!
Kata: But I’m not telling them to buy it, either.

Grapevine: Do you find that other bands or club owners treat you less seriously because of your age?

Gunna: Sometimes, yeah. They think we don’t know better because we’re just 16.
Arnar: Yeah, and we can just play for free everywhere.
Alexandra: We have been playing places with some bands that are older – the members of the bands are older than we are – and sometimes they get paid and we don’t.
Kata: When we played at Gaukur á Stöng, I was 14, the girls were 14 and the boys were 15. The guys [in the crowd] were very drunk, we were girls in the band, and they were screaming that we should take off our t-shirts. I just looked at them and I thought, “Poor guy, he doesn’t know that I’m 14.”

Grapevine: Tell me about the songwriting process. Is there a lot of arguing and chair-throwing?

Gunna: At first we couldn’t bear each other. But now we’re getting to know each other better, it works out much better.
Alexandra: Yeah, when we write songs, it’s like everyone’s trying to build something together, and put something into the sound from something they like.

Grapevine: So you don’t have a songwriting team. The songs are written by everyone?

All: Yeah.
Andri: But it’s usually she [pointing at Kata] who does the lyrics.
Kata: I’m not very good at it, but I’m trying.

Grapevine: You’ve recently gone into the studio to record your first album. How has that been?

Kata: We recorded it live. It wasn’t that much different than a practice, but much more fun.

Grapevine: What made you decide to go with live recording?

Kata: We didn’t have a lot of time.Alexandra: The prize we got from Musiktilraunir was 20 hours at Sundlaugin, so we were trying to use the time to finish the album.
Gunna: And it’s a lot fresher live.
Kata: Yes, because we mixed a song once at Tíminn, the studio at Klink og Bank, and we were recording the instruments separately, but when we listened to it later, the song didn’t really come together.
Arnar: It’s a great song, but it doesn’t have the same feeling.
Kata: Yeah, you can hear it’s too perfect. There were no mistakes.

Grapevine: So this new album is going to be on Smekkleysa (Bad Taste Records). What’s it been like to be on their team? Met any of the bigger names on that label yet?

Arnar: No, I haven’t met them yet.
Kata: Yeah, you met [former Sugarcubes frontman and Smekkleysa owner] Einar Örn.
Arnar: Yeah, he’s my relative. But we’re not really really related.
Kata: Does he know?
Arnar: I don’t think so. But I met him at a family reunion, so we must be a little bit related.

Grapevine: Was this before or after you all got the Smekkleysa deal?

Arnar: I think it was after.
Kata: Say after!
Arnar: Yeah, it was after.

Grapevine: How do you feel about playing Airwaves? Nervous at all?

Arnar: I think it’s really good promotion because a lot of foreign critics will be there.
Alexandra: I sometimes get nervous before I go on stage and you can see because I get these red spots on my arms and chest. Then you can see I’m stressed. And then I get more stressed because I can see them and I think, “Oh no, I have spots everywhere and everyone can see them.” I should wear longer sleeve shirts.

Grapevine: Or maybe a hoodie. If someone comes to see your show or listens to your CD, what’s the one thing you hope they take away from the experience?

Gunna: I just hope they don’t feel bored.

The release of Mammút’s album is expected before Christmas this year. For more information, visit

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!


Ísafjörður Calling

Ísafjörður Calling


Show Me More!