From Iceland — Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson

Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson

Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson

Published January 11, 2008

So, Chainlike Burden topped our list for album of the year, joined by Skátar’s The Ghost of Bollocks to Come. This is the first I Adapt album to receive considerable notice from the Icelandic media [it finished high on most other year-end lists also.] Did you expect this?
I didn’t really give it much thought. As a musician, I don’t pay much attention to such lists; I usually don’t even bother to read them. But yes, I did expect that if anyone really listened to an I Adapt record, it would make the cut with some left-field scribes, but I didn’t really expect it to break top five, or even top ten, especially with the general public. It was placed very highly in reader surveys and internet polls for example.
Do you know how much it sold?
No, that’s in the hands of our label. I don’t think it sold very well. It sold well in relation to the number of copies we pressed, but I don’t think it sold very well compared with many other albums. But it might pick up after all this publicity.
The label you signed to, Mamma Þín Records, is a small indie label, with little money to spend on promotion compared with many other labels. Do you think people even know this record is out there?
No, I’ve talked to a lot of people, people who go to the University with me, and so on, who don’t even know the record is out there. The fans who follow the band and lurk around on our site know about it. That’s where we promote it, and on message boards and internet forums. But that escapes a lot of people. It seems that everyone starts by going to Skífan [record store], and if a record is not available there, they might possibly look for it in other record stores. We didn’t distribute to Skífan, so…
Just before the end of the year, news filtered out that the band had broken up. Why now, when the band had just started to reach public awareness?
Yeah, well, you know. I’ve asked myself that same question many times as well. But I think it would be even worse to be in a band with four people who are not on the same page. The idea behind breaking up now, rather than later, was to maintain the integrity of the band. People who know us as a band know that we are solid guys who deliver the goods every time we play live. We wanted to break it up before the untrained ear would start to notice that the band was lacking harmony in so many different things off the stage. The reason we broke up was not musical differences or that we didn’t get along, it was everything else. We didn’t want that to be seen or heard on stage. When you see a band play where there is not total unity with everything – the sound, the equipment, rehearsals, everything – you notice it, you hear it. And then you think ‘dudes, why don’t you just give it up, or form a new band or something?’ But, if we think of this band as a fellowship, this fellowship is not going any further, at least not at this time.
So what’s next?
I have no idea. I want to be in a prolific band where I don’t need to be the vitamin injection. I’ve been doing this since I was 13, and I’ll be 30 in a month, so I’m even ready to be not in a band, or if I am in a band, to be a low-level player with no expectations or goals other than playing. [Bass player] Addi is playing with Gavin Portland, a band that is really taking off, so the future looks bright for him. [Drummer] Elli has always got some kind of art projects going, making short films and videos. I have a feeling that [guitar player] Ingi and I might end up doing something together, but not in a fully-formed band that takes to the streets to kick ass. We have written a lot of stuff after Chainlike Burden came out. That album is actually very old [release was repeatedly delayed]. Ingi and I have been throwing riffs and ideas back and forth, and that stuff is just so good, that we, as hobby musicians, want to play it, just the two of us.
I Adapt was always a band that fed off playing live. How will you cope with playing only in a dingy practice space instead of playing live?
The starting point for this band, and for me especially, was always that attending an I Adapt show should be a totally different experience from going to any other show. That was a very selfish idea as well, because I wanted to be in the position to be able to manipulate everything and bring something new and fresh. To tell you the truth, I am starting to regret that already, not to have that on the horizon. But we don’t want to have to drag the horse across the finish line. We could probably make it look OK forever, but we won’t settle for anything less than being the best live band out there. When the foundation for that was no longer there…
But is there still going to be one last show?
Yes, February 2 we will play one last show. That is going to be an all-ages show in a small auditorium somewhere, a low profile show, just for the diehards who have supported us for a long time. It is going to be a real I Adapt show where everything goes crazy.
What was the idea behind founding the band in the beginning?
We just wanted to create something totally new. We had much more of a plan back then. We were very excited, and kind of arrogant. We thought almost everything sucked, not necessarily musically, but we thought most bands were boring live. We thought it was boring to go to maybe one hundred shows a year, and nobody said anything, unless perhaps the singer was drunk. Then he would ask if everyone was having a good time or yell “Tuborg!” or “Satan!”
Back then, we were very idealistic and obnoxious. All our lyrics were very simple, they were always about some current issue, and we would explain that before playing a song. We truly believed that there should be no boundary between the band and the audience. We wanted to create a totally new live environment here in Iceland, and I am certain that we did and that is why we garnered such a loyal following. That was always the plan. We had such an attitude for the first four years as a band that we never played in a bar. If everybody was not going to get in, we refused to play. When we started to write more complex music however, the younger kids turned away from us, while we started to appeal more to older listeners, so we started to play in bars more.
Do you think that decision helped you gain more attention?
I think so, yes. There are so many music journalists who would never go to an all-ages show. It is not necessarily snobbery, but the preference to be in a situation where they are allowed to have a drink and maybe a smoke. Those people didn’t really start to listen to us until late in our career, so I think that decision helped us draw more attention to the band. We have gotten so much notice now that it is a shame we broke up really. But we don’t want to keep it going, just to keep it going. We are just in such different places in our lives right now. I wish we could keep it going, but the fellowship needs to be stronger. It is not enough to agree that it is fun to play live and practice. When you have been in a band for seven years and after several U.S. and European tours, you need more. And after touring the U.S. the last time, where we played with the best hardcore bands in the business, we only compare ourselves to those guys; we are not going to compare ourselves to some band that just won the Battle of the Bands. The measuring stick is so much higher. We just want to be convincing as a band, and if we are not convincing, we might as well stop. This is what killed the band maybe. The ambition. We are all very ambitious, but maybe that ambition is not always directed towards the same goal.

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