From Iceland — Carl Sagan Pop Cosmology – The 1860 Interview

Carl Sagan Pop Cosmology – The 1860 Interview

Published October 3, 2012

Carl Sagan Pop Cosmology – The 1860 Interview


1860 do some mean folk pop, are fans of Jusup Wilkosz, and think Cradle Of filth are for kids. True story!



[pullquote_left] “It would definitely fill us with murderous rage if someone were to dismiss us as a “happy band.” Writing only happy lyrics are just as insincere as writing only about pain and death.”     

1860 on their lyrical themes[/pullquote_left]

There are times in life when all you are looking for music that simply allows your brain and soul to melt away into each other, allowing you to forget about the world outside and the hassles of modern life, such as paying the bills, getting to work and dealing with the dishes. In this case, break the emergency glass, grab 1860, press play and feeeeel.

1860 are a band that plays modern folk pop with a pure smile on their face, but that doesn’t mean they’ve a bunch of limp wristed, bland Mumford merchants. They started back in 2010 when Guitarist Óttar Birgisson and singer/mandolinist Hlynur Júní Hallgrímsson began writing folk inspired pop music as a break from their main band, The Telepathetics. Over time, the band fleshed out with the inclusion of Gunnar “Coral” Jónsson (bass), Jóhann Þorgeirsson (guitar), and Andri “Mammút” Jakobsson (drums). 2011 saw them release their debut album, ‘Sagan,’ which was nominated for the “best newcomers” award at that year’s Icelandic Music Awards and has since went on to become sold out in Iceland.

But even in the admittedly cosy world of 1860, things are still hectic in the run up to Airwaves. “We’re just putting the finishing touches on our plans for October,” say the band as we caught with what’s happening in their camp. “Including Airwaves, we’ll be playing around 10-12 gigs in October and hopefully recording stuff in between. So things are hectic but very good!”



While listening to ‘Sagan,’ there are themes about the power of love and relationships, sunshine, and ice cream that’s incredibly positive and upbeat, even for Icelandic music. What is it that drives the music of the band in terms of influences and thought? Any Cradle Of Filth by chance?

Well, it’s true that one song mentions ice cream and trips to Paris, but that’s actually a pretty bittersweet lyric when you read the rest of it. In any case, it would definitely fill us with murderous rage if someone were to dismiss us as a “happy band.” Writing only happy lyrics is just as insincere as writing only about pain and death, and we’d like to think we don’t shy away from any particular topic. In terms of lyrical influences we are consistently blown away by Carl Sagan and modern cosmology. But then there is also some bad-ass ice cream to take into account! And regarding Cradle of Filth, that’s just theatre for kids, although they’ve written some decent tunes. When we want the real deal, we’ll listen to The Jesus Lizard or Mayhem’s ‘Deathcrush’ EP. Now that’s cool stuff!

You’re not wrong there. May this year saw the release of “Go Forth,” a single from your second album. The song feels much stronger and muscular in terms of sound compared to the music on ‘Sagan.’ Is this an indication of how the new album will sound?

The new album is definitely a change of pace – however subtle or overt that change ends up being. The idea of a muscular album is a fun one so let’s just say that yeah, it’s gonna be one muscular album. It’s gonna be the Ronnie Coleman of folk pop albums, but with a beard – so it’s basically gonna be the Jusup Wilkosz of folk pop albums.

OK, I so did not have to look up Jusup Wilkosz on the internet right now! Speaking of your second album, what is the current state of play with regards to production and release date?

With all the gigging we’ve been doing lately, we haven’t been able to escape the real world and lock ourselves away in the studio as we would’ve preferred. But the whole recording process should be finished by Christmas. We’re looking at releasing it on Pi Day – March 14th, 2013. So to recap, it’s gonna be both muscular and nerdy.


I’m flexing my ears in preparation for it. Now it seems that you’re breaking your Airwaves duck this year with your debut performance at the festival. How are your preparations coming along for it? Will you sticking to songs from ‘Sagan,’ or will you concentrating more on the newer material?

Well, as we’ve mentioned, we’re in great playing shape after having gigged all over Iceland this summer and fall. So the preparation will mostly involve not breaking/cutting off our hands or suffering some sort of brain injury that might lessen our musical prowess. In regards to the set-list it’ll probably be a nice pu pu platter of the hits from ‘Sagan,’ and the new stuff. In any case we’ll make sure to present the band in a thorough and professional manner. But who knows, maybe we’ll just play some Cradle of Filth covers and wear outrageous outfits. We hear spandex, hairspray, neon colours and triangular graphics are the in thing at the moment, right?

I don’t know. You’ll have to speak to Retro Stefson about that one. But if there’s ONE place (be it bar, café, shop, place of interest) that you think that a traveller should go to while they are in Reykjavik for Airwaves, what/where is it?

Noodle Station is a fantastic noodle joint on Skólavörðustígur. It’s highly addictive and cheap, so we recommend that. But we can’t pick just one place, of course. Foreigners have to go to a swimming pool, otherwise they’re seriously missing out. We’d recommend Laugardalslaug, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try Breiðholtslaug. Their hot tub has the most powerful water-spouting massage-nozzles in the city and it’s located in the “ghetto” of Iceland, Breiðholt, where our bass player comes from. Their gas station there is notorious for stabbings. So go there to meet derelicts on speed and buy a tasty hot dog with potato salad. But remember, its stab or be stabbed!

It’s a true Reykjavik experience! Apart from yourselves, who else should we advise the huddled masses to see while they´re at the festival? Who should be on your playlist?

As always, it depends on what your tastes are. Ojba Rasta plays fantastic reggae. For electronic music you can’t go wrong with Enkídú, Úlfur, and braindance terrorist Fu Kaisha. To witness the reconciliation of punk and prog, go see Caterpillarmenn in all their glory. To satisfy your organ quartet need,s check out Apparat Organ Quartet. For awesome rock and roll, check out Mammút, Japanese Super Shift & The Future Band, HAM, Jón Þór, Muck and Two Tickets To Japan. And for great indie pop music go see Ylja, Kiriyama Family, and us of course!

 Final question – Incredible String Band… or Mumford And Sons?

Hmmm… actually, neither is really our cup of tea. But that’s not to speak to the merit of either group’s work, but rather our personal tastes. So we’re pretending you asked us to pick between Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Arcade Fire, to which we reply: Ooh, what a great question. We can’t choose!

 1860 are performing Saturday 3rd November, 2050, at Harpa Kaladón. Even though it is sold out in Iceland, you can still buy or stream ‘Sagan’ over at their bandcamp site. 


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