The biggest music story to come out of Iceland in 2015 was arguably Vaginaboys, the anonymous, maybe-or-maybe-not-a-supergroup, masked electro-pop-R&B crusaders who released an EP called ‘Icelandick’, played already iconic sets at Airwaves, and made music that managed to be sexy, sad, weird and creepy all at once—no small feat for a band who dropped their debut single on Soundcloud a little over a year ago, with no fanfare to speak of. Their videos have also left a mark on our collective psyche—VHS-ripped images of woman simulating sex acts on colorful backgrounds, 80s-esque neon logos emblazoned across the screen. What makes Vaginaboys seem so fresh is their amazing aesthetic sense: it’s clear that everything they do is painstakingly thought-out, calibrated and unveiled accordingly. Nonchalance is so 2000s.
In keeping with seasonal tradition, they even released a wonky Christmas song last month, “Jólalag” (“Christmas Song”), complete with sleigh bells and their own trademark autotuned vocals. It seems like, from their name to their approach to marketing (or lack thereof), Vaginaboys expertly walk the line between comedy and seriousness, novelty and sincerity, sex and love.
It’s fitting that our expert panel decided to name their début single, “Elskan af því bara,” as Song Of The Year 2015. A nice cap to a good year.
We caught up with an anonymous Vaginaboy over email right after ringing in the New Year, and it turns out they are setting their sights on new horizons in 2016, between expanding their live show out of Iceland, writing songs in English, and just generally spreading the gospel far and wide. Godspeed, Vaginaboys. Godspeed.
WHAT A YEAR!
What is your best Vaginaboys-related memory of 2015? Shows, lyric, audience?
Oh where should we begin! Well, we just started doing shows in May, and a lot has been going on for us since, fortunately. To be honest, I guess our best memory is how our debut song blew up and we just took it from there. Around the beginning of the year Sin Fang’s Sindri asked us if we could perform with them, which resulted in our debut concert at Húrra. It was amazing to see so many people show up, and the reception we got was really heartwarming. We played a lot of shows after that, and most of them were pretty packed. We did five shows at Airwaves and every single one of them went beyond our expectations. It was also kind of sexy to get a call from KEXP to perform for their sound and camera crew at the KEX Hostel, to wake up a few tourists.
It’s always interesting, yet unusual, when non-English pop acts with an obvious potential for international success choose to sing in their native language. Why do Vaginaboys sing in Icelandic?
Yeah. We just kind of felt like it. It’s easier to relate to natives through their own language. I guess people in Iceland were seeking more love-inspired music in their native language.
A lot of the time, performing anonymously adds a level of immediate notoriety to your band (think: Daft Punk, The Knife, Burial, etc). What exactly is the reason Vaginaboys decide to wear masks?
Yeah, it’s funny. The reason is that we don’t really aspire to become publicly known faces. We do music for our love of music rather than to reach some kind of social status, and if we wouldn’t perform, very few people could potentially relate to our music. It’s basically done to keep our private stuff private, and our music stuff music.
Is your use of autotune another level to the anonymity, or is it purely an aesthetic choice?
We see the vocals as an instrument, and adding autotune makes it more easy to work with, and sometimes it rhymes better with our music. You’re also much quicker to produce and record songs that way, especially when you’re doing everything yourself in a low-budget home studio.
Explain the title of your EP, ‘Icelandick’: simple pun, or is there more meaning there?
The plan is to do more songs in English, so that was kind of our goodbye to the Icelandic lyrics for a while. Simply naming it ‘Icelandic’ was not interesting enough, and when we figured “dick” goes very well with “vagina,” it was love at first sight.
The video for “Ekki nóg” fits perfectly with the band’s aesthetic—sexual, wobbly, old-school yet futuristic. How did the treatment come about—who are the women in the video?
Thank you so much. We know some talented people from when we were doing graffiti and I checked a few of them who have graduated from art school and they were kind enough to help us. The women are friends of ours who made the video.
You’ve described your music as “romantic,” yet the name Vaginaboys, the masks, and all that, they convey a level of sexual detachment, coldness. Can you describe what about your music makes it romantic to you?
The lyrics bring the romance. Our English-speaking friends will get to know them soon enough, there’s a lot of new stuff on the way.
BOOK SOME VAGINABOYS!
Obviously the Icelandic music community is small but very prolific. How do Vaginaboys fit in?
We are doing pretty good. It’s amazing to feel how everybody in the scene sticks together, and it’s heartwarming to feel the love when we meet fellow musicians, like backstage for example. Perhaps there’s something about music’s ability to bring people together that makes them so likeable, or perhaps only the likeable people produce music here. We have yet to figure that out.
Who came up with the logo? From your social media presence, it looks like it’s becoming a bit ubiquitous, no?
Björn Loki, the man behind our first music video, made the logo for us. We produced a few T-shirts and baseball caps that Macland at Laugavegur is selling for us. We’ve been making that peace sign our main trademark for now, and the sales are going pretty well—hopefully people are satisfied with their apparel.
Any resolutions for 2016? What are your musical ambitions for the new year?
We’re going to keep experimenting and bringing new talent to the crew. Our main goal for now is to nail the Sónar show at Harpa in February. Then we’ll be playing at Secret Solstice in June. We hope to be able to do more DJ sets in Iceland and abroad. If anybody reading this knows any good clubs in Europe and the US please hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look! It’s The Winners Of Reykjavík Grapevine’s 2016 Music Awards
How often does an event have to be repeated to warrant tradition status? If the number is four, we present to you the on-going tradition of the Reykjavík Grapevine Music Awards!
DL: The Best Track Of 2015 – Vaginaboys’s ‘Elskan Af Því Bara’
Seeing as we’re spending much of this January issue celebrating Iceland’s 2015 in music—a vintage year, by any standards—we thought it fitting that our Track Of The Issue should be, in fact, our Track Of The Year.