From Iceland — The Story of Grandmother’s Records

The Story of Grandmother’s Records

Published May 9, 2008

The Story of Grandmother’s Records

OK. So you figure the name’s supposed to invoke irony. I mean, the five releases that so far make up Grandmother’s Records catalogue don’t sound like anything any grandmothers I know would approve of. Noisy, skronky blasts of puerile satisfaction do not delight them much. So you don’t know what they’re about, and you see their album covers, you hear their records and you stumble into their concerts at well past midnight; these are smart, hip young(-ish) kids in shiny pants that don’t seem take themselves or anything else seriously. So of course the name is an ironic gesture. “Ha ha ha, delightfully noisy records for grandmothers!” But therein lies a conflict, because Markús Bjarnason, singer and keyboard player of staple Grandmother’s acts Skátar and Sofandi and apparent ideologue-slash-creator of the concept underlying the whole Grandmother’s Records business, comes across as an urgently honest young man. Whether in conversation or in concert, he feels like he is constantly trying to bare his soul to you, as if he’s had some shocking revelation that the whole world needs to hear, and he intends to make it listen by any means necessary. He also has a surreal sense of humour, which colours the Grandmother collective’s output and activities considerably. In a red-eyed five a.m. e-mail, he explains to me what the Grandmother’s Records moniker means, and why: “The last track of Anguma, Sofandi’s first record [and the label’s first release] has lyrics about the period in life where all your drawers and cupboards are filled with crap, when the TV only has eight channels and you want to watch the ninth. And how good it feels to visit your grandmother at a time like that, and have a chat with her. And how Everything (sic) becomes OK after a chat like that. And when we needed a name for the label, we immediately thought of Grandmother’s Records.” So, it turns out that it isn’t ironic. Not really. Grandmother’s Records is by all means an accidental gathering of like-minded folk, one that has been growing organically and joyfully since that first release. Says Markús: “When we, the members of Sofandi, started making our record, we knew we would have to pay for it out of our own pockets. We fully realised that our music wasn’t going to appeal to most people. We had competed in the Battle of the Bands and listed our category as Baroque music, which metamorphosed into “Bar rock” in the newspapers. We lost the contest, and nearly got kicked out of it for acting “weird” backstage. So we knew, and we recorded that album with a passion and released it ourselves, on our own label. Our friend Stína did the cover, and our friend Krissi did the layout. This is the way we have worked since. “When our friends in Graveslime wanted to release their record, it was self evident that they should do it on Grandmother’s. Because it was never anything but a name, an umbrella over a group of friends that liked hanging out in rehearsal studios and attempting to make music. And so they did it all themselves, and we helped where help was needed. Which is what this entity has evolved into, and perhaps always was, a co-dependent mutual self-help organization. You do things yourself, and if you want our help and to learn from our experiences, you can come to us.” And those friends are having a party tonight (given that you read this on this issue’s street date of 05.09.2008) where they will celebrate the fact that their catalogue is now available on-line via And everyone’s invited. The party will feature some schizophrenic performances and a DJ set by Iceland’s premier noise artist, which says a lot about the collective which is releasing its sixth long-player shortly, a début by the mighty RETRON. And if you read this in time, you should pay them a visit. For your début might be the next one on the label. They really want everyone to join. Grandmother’s catalogue: Sofandi – Anguma (2001) Sofandi – Ugly Demos (2001 – originally released by Thule Musik) Graveslime – Roughness and Toughness (2003) Skátar – Heimsfriður í Chile (2004) Skátar – Ghost of the Bollocks to Come (2007) RETRON – TBA (2008)

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