Retro Stefson frontman Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson recently unveiled his solo project, Uni Stefson. He caught the public’s attention with his first release, a thoughtful rendition of Jónas Hallgrímsson’s poem, “Enginn grætur,” and has since played a handful of shows. Although a long-time veteran of Airwaves, IA2k14 marks the first time Unnsteinn performs solo at the festival, so we thought to ask him a few questions via email. You can catch him tonight at Slippbarinn off-venue.
Your first EP, EP1, was released a few weeks ago. How happy are you to have it out?
I am very happy to finally release this damn EP. I started writing the songs in January, and then recorded them with local producer Oculus, from the band Sísý Ey.
Word on the street is that you’re working on ‘EP2’ at the moment. What can we expect from it?
Well, the first EP is all in Icelandic, but the second will include more beats and grooves. I’m thinking it will even be in English, but we’ll see.
You’re juggling a lot of projects at once these days, being frontman of Retro Stefson, host of popular youth TV show Hæpið (“The Hype”), and then your solo project Uni Stefson. How do you find the time to tend to all of these at once?
I would like to say “meditation” gets me through it, but that would be a lie. In our next music video I’ll portray a boxer, so what’s really helped recently has been me having to wake up in the morning and go to the gym. I’m not a very organised person, but I have managed to make my iPhone calendar do most of the work for me.
What motivated you to adapt Jónas Hallgrímsson’s poem “Enginn grætur” into a song? Are you a fan of any other Icelandic poets? How much influence do you think the old poets have on contemporary musicians?
There is a tradition in Icelandic classical music (and probably everywhere else) to write out new compositions for various poems. I like to think of myself as taking part in that tradition. This particular poem is very close to my heart because I sang it a lot with my college choir, so for me it’s more than your average poem (it’s a great poem, actually), in a sense that it’s more like a statement I could relate to my personal experience.
Your Iceland Airwaves artist profile calls you a child prodigy who has grown into a “full blown adult prodigy.” Did you write that yourself, or agree to that text being written about you? What do you think about the label?
I didn’t write it myself, but I think it’s a just a funny thing to have in there. A joke on how young we were when we started Retro Stefson.
With all the effects in play in your songs, what kind of live setup do you have? Will your brother Logi or other members of Retro Stefson play with you?
There is one member of Retro Stefson playing with me, Gylfi Sigurðsson the drummer, playing a drum machine, and then I have a musical genius on the keyboard, Tómas Jónsson. The sound guy from Retro Stefson, the one and only Rob Steiger will fly in from Berlin for Airwaves and help me with the effects.
You can catch Uni Stefson on the following dates:
November 5: Kex Hostel (off-venue) at 18:00
November 6: JÖR (off-venue) at 17:00
November 7: Slippbarinn (off-venue) at 17:00
November 8: Húrra at 20:40
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