From Iceland — A Tourist, No More: On His Debut Effort, Axel Flóvent Returns Home

A Tourist, No More: On His Debut Effort, Axel Flóvent Returns Home

Published March 12, 2021

A Tourist, No More: On His Debut Effort, Axel Flóvent Returns Home
Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Perhaps Axel Flóvent’s debut album ‘You Stay by the Sea’ is the album 2021 needs, even if it doesn’t know it yet. After the chaos of 2020, Axel’s calming, homey tones feel like a retreat into the quiet, carefree warmth of childhood—the folky indie-pop that reminds us of the unpretentious humanness of the genre. It’s an effort that exists outside of current events. Much like the waves it’s named for, Axel has created a timeless work that harkens back to a time where the chance of a moment alone at home was a luxury, rather than a torment.

Axel Flóvent returns home

The album followed Axel’s move from Amsterdam to Brighton and subsequently home to Iceland. It was a dark time for the artist. He felt isolated and unsupported. For years, he had dreamt of releasing his debut album, which he had years ago gone to Europe to do, but the pieces had never lined up. Now, missing his family and friends in Iceland and seemingly without purpose, he felt like he had no other choice.

“I got to a point where I thought—is this what I want to do with my life? The thing I love the most?”

“I didn’t want to move home right away,” he says softly. “I felt that if I returned to Iceland, I had failed in my mission. In my naive mind, I had this idea that if I was going to return to Iceland, I needed to come home with something.”

But coming home ended up being serendipitous, because upon his return to the country, he was immediately contacted by his current label, Nettwerk, who were anxious to help him release his long-awaited debut. “They were the perfect fit for me,” he smiles brightly. And in January, his dream was finally realised.

Axel Flóvent

Photo by Art Bicnick

That cliché feeling

“The concept of the record came from this story,” Axel continues. “It was the sense of being close to the sea because I grew up by the sea. It was a concept I wanted to write around; the story that I went on this journey, just to find out that I wanted to be home.” Suddenly he laughs, almost rolling his eyes at his words. “The cliché feeling.”

Of course—things are cliché for a reason. They’re usually true.

Musically, Axel emphasises, it was also a journey home. “Previously, I felt like I wanted more pop elements to show people that I had a lot of sides to myself as an artist,” he admits. “But I guess I thought that I wanted to do that more than I did, so when I went to this record, I thought I’m going to go back to my roots. I went more acoustic indie-folk because I had always wanted my first record to represent that part of myself.”

“Maybe you’ll find it”

“Tourist”—Axel’s first single from the album—is particularly emblematic of this. It’s a pining song that feels most apt for a twilight walk through a foggy city. Slow and mournful at the beginning, it journeys into a large, aching soundscape and coalesces with Axel’s resigned plea of, “Maybe you’ll find it”—with each repetition more heartbreaking than the last. Even so, there’s still a note of warmth in Axel’s voice. You get the feeling he doesn’t just hope you’ll find it—he’s sure you will.

“‘Tourist’ is how I felt. I felt like a tourist in all these places.”

“‘Tourist’ is how I felt. I felt like a tourist in all these places. And the emotion that brings out in you is just feeling lost, and looking for something that makes you feel like that is where you’re meant to be,” he explains. “And being a tourist is the opposite of that. You’re unsure of your emotions. You start questioning everything and it had a domino effect on the rest of my life. I got to a point where I thought—is this what I want to do with my life? The thing I love the most? I got myself to a point where I started questioning my love for music.”

But with the return home, Axel’s questioning faded. And the album ends on an inspirational tone with the title song “You Stay by the Sea.” It’s a secure song, without the self-conscious questioning of “Tourist”. Instead, from his position back in his roots, Axel ends his debut effort with definite sureness. Slowly, over a strong, simple piano melody, he gives his wisdom:

“That your eyes won’t bleed as much
When you stay by the sea
And your house won’t need as much
With her, you will see
You stay by the sea”

Check out ‘You Stay by the Sea’ by Axel Flóvent on all streaming platforms or pick up a copy of Axel Flóvent’s new album at the Grapevine Shop.

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

You can also check out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!