From Iceland — Mad Scientist Samaris

Mad Scientist Samaris

Published May 26, 2011

Mad Scientist Samaris

During the Reykjavík Music Mess I caught up with Samaris, the recent winners of Músíktilraunir. The band is composed of three Icelandic youngsters: Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir, Jófríður Ákadóttir, and Þórður Kári Steinþórsson (Doddi). Since Áslaug couldn’t make it to the show that night, Jófríður and Doddi invited their turntabling friend, Bjargmundur Ingi Kjartansson, to scratch a few impromptu beats.
Though they have yet to discover their exact formula, the band members mix seemingly antithetical sounds like mad scientist musicians full of grit and exuberance. Samaris’ songs are battles between the past (ethereal vocals and clarinet) and the present (electronic knee-rumbling beats). This summer, when the bane of homework withers in the freedom of warm(er) weather, the trio plans to record their first album using the studio sessions they won from the Músíktilraunir contest.

How did winning such a legendary competition feel?
Jófríður: In these competitions you can never know what the judges will focus on. All of these bands were really good in their own way. This competition was happening when we were trying to get our music out, so we thought, why not just enter the competition? It’s made everything so much easier for us now.
Yeah, it got us this gig. A lot of people pay attention to the contest every year. The festival organisers probably wouldn’t have paid attention to us otherwise.
How did you start getting into music?
J: My parents are musicians, so music has always been around me. I’ve been in a lot of bands with my sister since I was little. I’m in Pascal Pinon with her, which has been very important for us for the past last two years.
If you have a band already, why did you feel like you needed another one?
J: Samaris came up as a joke between me and Áslaug. We wanted to start a band with a lot of joking. Áslaug and I were going to call the band Portal to Ecstasy.
What kind of ecstasy are you talking about here?
J: Like it means the vagina [giggles all around]. You get the metaphor. That was the sort of thing we had in mind at first, but then we met up with Doddi and made really nice mixed music. He makes the synths and the beats and I always write the melodies and sing. And Áslaug plays the clarinet.
How do you handle being in two bands and school?
J: This week has been the craziest week of the whole year for me. I recently had a lot of tests in school so we only had two practices for this concert. Today and yesterday.
Þ: And we hadn’t practised for like two weeks.
J: Did you see us laughing on stage? It was because we hadn’t practised that song at all. It was really ridiculous. I was singing lyrics from another song that we didn’t use.
Do you think anybody noticed?
J: No not really. The lyrics could have made sense because they were just from another song. We just wanted to improvise and have fun.  
Þ: Yeah and get loose.
Who are your influences?
J: We’re influenced by Fever Ray, Portishead and James Blake. I have also been influenced by Björk, of course.
Þ: I’m mostly influenced by deep techno, a lot of trip hop and DJ Crush.
Did you guys see the MT review in Grapevine, by Sindri and Bob?
J: Yeah, we thought it was really fun.
D: Yeah, I liked it a lot.
It didn’t piss you off?
D: Noooo.
J: He can have his own opinion.
D: I thought it was really funny. It was just a joke. I didn’t take it personally.
J: They were also dissing a lot of great bands, so I really couldn’t take it personally.
Do you think that Jófríður being in Pascal Pinon, a kind of well-known band, helped you guys win Músíktilraunir?
J: I hope not. That wouldn’t be very fair.
Þ: I think that the clarinet got us the win. The combination of the clarinet and the computer hasn’t been done a lot.
J: We’ve heard this kind of music in other countries, but it’s not been done much here in Iceland.
Þ: We’d like to add the turntables to our sound too.
So Áslaug not being here tonight has changed the band?
Þ: We were trying to get someone else to play her part but it was kind of a long shot. So it got us thinking what we could do differently.
J: We thought, how can we make the best of this situation? We mentioned our idea to Bjargmundur six days ago and started practising yesterday. Down the road, he’s also going to do some work remixing Samaris’ stuff too.
Þ: Yeah, he’s going to be playing a bigger part for sure.

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