The year 2012 was a big hit for disco dancers worldwide: they lost their queen, Donna Summer, and their prince, Robin Gibb (from the Bee Gees). But that year also saw the resurgence of Icelandic disco, in the form of ever-pretty and always on-beat group Boogie Trouble. After four years of honing their groovecraft they are finally pushing their debut album, ‘Í Bænum’, into the world on the day this very paper you’re reading is published. I met up with front-couple (not actual couple) Klara Arnalds and Sindri Freyr at Klara’s house, where they had set up a micro sweatshop packaging their brand-new album, and asked them a few questions about their offspring, ideology and escapism.
What took you so long to get it out?
“Well it’s hard to answer this question without sounding bitter, because we assure you, we are not! We came into the scene at a time when the krútt/lo-fi wave was still going strong. We on the other hand were making shameless pop music and the resources we had at our disposal just weren’t quite enough to get the hi-fi sound we were aiming for,” Klara tells me. “The matter of members moving abroad multiple times and a rotating lineup also had an effect,” Sindri adds. “We also re-recorded almost all of the album because we just weren’t happy enough with the sound the first time.”
But why did five indie kids form a disco band, of all things, in 2012? Sindri says he just wanted to write pop songs and saw disco as an (of late) unused canvas. Bass player Ingibjörg (the funkiest woman in Iceland) was at that time knee-deep in Motown vibes, so she seemed like a natural fit. All of them were into different types of music but found common ground in disco. But as you can hear on the album, Boogie Trouble’s disco is not a pure breed: they also draw on elements from surf, funk and 60s Icelandic pop, to name a few strains. “When you ascribe to a certain type of music in 2012 you have to mix it with other elements, or else it’s just a replica, a costume party,” says Klara. “I feel that when we started, disco for most people was only bellbottomed pants and afro wigs; that was something we wanted to change.”
Some say disco emerged in the 70s out of the need for an escape from the hard political climate of that time. Is that a theory you think has some merits?
Sindri: “Well, disco began in gay clubs and the black community and then rises to surface, sort as a reflex to the failed hippie ideals of the 60s. The political climate in the US was absolutely horrendous. Martin Luther King and Kennedy had been killed, the Black Panthers had been killed and imprisoned, everything more or less sucked. So escapism through dancing seemed to some the natural thing to do. In that light it could be possible to look at Boogie Trouble as “hrunmúsík,” but that has to be assessed later when more years have passed.”
Klara: “I can see that, but for me personally, it had a lot to do with making up an alter ego for myself. Because I had never performed for an audience before I started Boogie Trouble I couldn’t set foot onstage without curling my hair A LOT and wearing an orange diva dress. You could call that escapism—I had to get out of my own persona, to put my regular life and quarterlife crisis on hold and turn into this howling songstress in a disco band.”
Both Klara and Sindri are very happy with the sound of their debut album and the work of their producer Janus (of Kiasmos and Bloodgroup fame). “Of course you should always put it on while having a dance party, but if you give it a spin in some good headphones you should notice subtle new details with each listen you hadn’t heard before, endless layers and overdubs,” says Sindri.