From Iceland — Love, Drugs, Escapism: The Mysterious Cult Of kef LAVÍK

Love, Drugs, Escapism: The Mysterious Cult Of kef LAVÍK
Photo by
Timothée Lambrecq

Kef LAVÍK are an unusual band in more ways than one. They’d released three albums—‘Kuldinn er Fínn,’ ‘Lifum Alltaf,’ and ‘Vesæl í Kuldanum’—before they even played their first gig, opening for Vaginaboys in front of 400 people at Harpa in 2016. An instant hit, every show since has has sold out.

Such an out-of-the-blue arrival is rare. Perhaps it’s something to do with the way they crack themselves open—their lyrics are nakedly personal, addressing struggles with love, pain, drug abuse, suicidal thoughts and longing. Their shows, conversely, are nothing short of celebratory. Their devoted crowds sing at the top of their lungs, jumping around to the upbeat electro-pop-rap crossover tunes. Even those who don’t understand the words get swept up in the atmosphere their diehard fans create. 

Anonymous duo

Their setup as a band is also unusual. Despite (or perhaps because of) their cult-like appeal, the duo prefer to remain unnamed. The music is written by an honour-roll engineering student—for the purposes of this article we’ll call him “The Writer.” His music is performed onstage by his partner in crime, who’s studying to become a chef—we’ll refer to him as “The Frontman.” 

“I’m just writing what the public are thinking, but wouldn’t say out loud.”

The two have known each other since childhood, and the band started as an inside joke. “Then it stopped being funny,” smiles The Writer. “But he [The Frontman] is still happy when I send him lyrics to practice. Like: ‘Ég finn skíta lykt af aumingjum.’” (English translation: “I smell bullshit from losers.”)

“He says it for me.”

The three albums tell the story of a tumultuous drug-fueled relationship, and the lyrics struck a chord with listeners. It was a surprise to the band when, at that very first concert, the crowd started singing along.

““I’ve been trying to get myself into equally dramatic situations so that I have some more material to work with.”

The lyrics reveal an inner turmoil that perhaps their audience shares. “People connect to the material,” says The Writer. “I’ve always thought that I’m just writing what the public are thinking, but wouldn’t say out loud. And I still don’t.” He smiles slyly at The Frontman. “He says it for me.”

The albums form a single cycle of works, all tied to one autobiographical tale. “I’ve been trying to get myself into equally dramatic situations,” says The Writer, “so that I have some more material to work with. But it hasn’t worked out… yet.”

Conspiracy theories

It wasn’t by design that the albums had been released before the first show. Life just got in the way: The Writer is also a fisherman, and The Frontman was putting long hours in at work. The two maintained their anonymity until their debut gig, leaving a lot of empty space for their burgeoning audience fill in the blanks. 

“What may start out as a true story spreads and mixes with other theories,” says The Writer. “It’s cool that there are conspiracy theories about us. Maybe that’s a part of the cult.” 

The winners 

Kef LAVÍK released a new album lately, entitled ‘Ágæt Ein: lög um að ríða og/eða nota eiturlyf’ or ‘Fine Alone: Songs on Fucking and/or Using Drugs.’ It marks the start of a new narrative. “But it’s about the same protagonists,” says The Writer. “The winners. You could say that heat—summer and death—are the background of the new album. But the stories are still not fun. Not fun at all.”

Follow kef LAVÍK on Facebook to catch their next gig and make sure to nab tickets to their show.

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