From Iceland — "Woohoo!"


Published July 23, 2023

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Botnleðja reunites – again

As I enter Botnleðja’s rehearsal space in Hafnarfjörður’s Vellirnir – an industrial workshop the band borrowed from a cousin of their drummer Halli – bassist Ragnar Páll Steinsson rushes past to attend to other business. While his presence is missed, his absence adds to the bassist’s enigmatic reputation.

Botnleðja’s background

The story of Botnleðja goes: Three 20-year-olds from Hafnarfjörður conquer the 1995 iteration of Músíktilraunir – Iceland’s annual battle of the bands. Their debut album Drullumall was released the same year and features the now classic track “Þið eruð frábær” with the vocalised hook, “Woohoo!” The hook in question is said to have influenced (or been plagiarised by, depending on who you ask) Blur’s Damon Albarn for “Song 2.”

Photo by Art Bicnick

Botnleðja subsequently embarked on a tour with Blur in the UK, came home and released five albums, the final one being Iceland National Park in 2004. Nine years later, the band reformed to release the double-sided Þegar Öllu Er Á Botninn Hvolft, a collection of remasters, B-sides, demos and new material. Followed by open rehearsals that same summer – a series of low-profile public performances – their 2013 reunion culminated in a show at Gaukurinn.

The art of not giving a shit

Now, a decade since their last performance, Botnleðja is reuniting – again. On July 28, the band will support Pavement when the American indie-rockers play for the first time in Iceland. “Pavement is probably the only band that we’d support at this time. No other band could’ve asked us to perform,” says drummer Haraldur “Halli” Freyr Gíslason.

“You should be able to hear that there are people playing these instruments”

But despite the band’s admiration for Pavement, any influence they’ve had on Botnleðja’s post-hardcore music is not evident. “Well, if you listen closely you can hear some influences,” Halli insists.

Photo by Art Bicnick

“We’re a band that’s always had a slacker element,” singer Heiðar Örn Kristjánsson jumps in. “We’ve wanted to preserve the rawness of our music and not keep things over-produced. You should be able to hear that there are people playing these instruments. Pavement has had this attitude of not giving a shit. And we didn’t really give a shit about anyone during [the 90s].”

Ten years of inactivity will severely impact your musical ability, but Botnleðja is unphased. “Things are coming into shape. It relies mostly on Halli, as he hasn’t played the drums for 10 years. He’s not a soft drummer,” says Heiðar.

“We’ve been working hard rehearsing,” Halli adds. “It’s the same recipe as before,” Heiðar interjects. “Just practise, practise, practise. It’s all muscle memory.”

One show every decade

Six full length albums provide a lot of material to cover. Botnleðja wants to assure fans that songs off every album will be played at the show. They gesture to their set list. “You can’t take any pictures,” Heiðar insists. “Some songs are difficult to perform and they’re all different for each of us. But the most difficult songs to play are our slower songs. They are so fragile and you don’t need much for them to break up,” says Heiðar, referring to the band’s 2000 album Douglas Dakota, from which two songs will be played on July 28.

“The most difficult songs to play are our slower songs.“

With no intention of complicating the logistics, Botnleðja will only feature the three members onstage. “Straight from the cow,” says Heiðar.

Photo by Art Bicnick

Botnleðja is quick to deny any plans beyond their show with Pavement, not wanting to raise hopes around the prospect of future performances. However, the members will celebrate their 50th birthdays and the band’s 30th anniversary in 2024. Whether or not fans will have to wait a decade for another gig is anyone’s guess.

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