From Iceland — Part Arty, Part Party

Part Arty, Part Party

Published November 9, 2014

Good Moon Deer has no idea what he's doing ... but it sounds great.

Atli Bollason

Good Moon Deer has no idea what he's doing ... but it sounds great.

Good Moon Deer is the stage name of one Guðmundur Ingi Úlfarsson (Guðmundur, Guð-mun-dur, Good-moon-deer … get it?) who usually performs with drummer Ívar Pétur Kjartansson. The duo played a whopping six shows at this year’s Airwaves to a slew of dance crazed audiences. To me, they sort of sound like a cross between The Books and Four Tet. I caught up with Guðmundur moments before The Knife took the stage on Saturday night.

GV: How are you enjoying Airwaves? Have you been often?

GIÚ: It’s been great. I’ve played six times already this year. It’s the third year in a row I perform. I only went once before performing. I’m not from Reykjavík and I used to live abroad so I never got the chance until I returned here a few years ago. The first time I went I had insane fun and I immediately wanted to perform, so the following year I did.

GV: Do you think performing at Airwaves has advanced your career?

GIÚ: Yes. Especially the off venue gigs. Those have been better attended and by a more diverse crowd while the official showcases tend to clash with someone bigger and better known. The off venue crowds just sort of wander in and are surprised and intrigued and happy to start dancing all of a sudden. Our official show this year [in Harpa’s Kaldalón room, the one with the seats] was more proper whereas the off venue stuff is very casual. We’re more casual and the audience is more casual.

GV: Your music tends to tread the line between weird and experimental on the one hand and full on party music on the other. How do you negotiate this divide?

GIÚ: It’s just a reflection of who I am: Part arty, part party. I’m just going with what I enjoy and hoping that if I like it, someone else will too.

GV: So Good Moon Deer as a project doesn’t have a concept for a sound that it aims to put forth?

GIÚ: If you’ve followed our shows over the years I think you’ll have noticed that I have an affinity for certain sounds and certain types of beats and so forth. But it’s not a conscious decision on my part to aim for a certain sound. It all happens very randomly. It feels like abstract painting or sculpture or something akin to that.

GV: Your music definitely has a very collage-like quality; it’s a quilt of sounds. Do you know anything about music or composition in the traditional sense? Do you have any education, for example?

GIÚ: I don’t know anything about music.

GV: And I think that comes through, positively speaking. The music sounds like it’s very instinctively put together.

GIÚ: Exactly. If I feel like two sounds go together I’m willing to go with it even if they may not gel in any ‘proper’ sense. I have faith in my own taste in music, so if I like it I go with it. I know a bit more now than I did when I started out, but I still can’t play any instruments or anything.

GV: So you’re completely self taught?

GIÚ: I was DJing when I lived in Amsterdam, playing with four decks in Traktor, looping stuff, creating new stuff in the club basically. From there I started experimenting with [Ableton] Live.

GV: And when did you decide to contact [your drummer] Ívar Pétur [Kjartansson]?

GIÚ: I was commissioned to make music for a fashion show at Lunga [annual art festival in Seyðisfjörður, in the east] in 2010 or 2011 and the reaction was way more positive than I had anticipated. I didn’t want to be the guy on the laptop – at this point I didn’t even have controllers or anything – so I rang up Ívar Pétur and asked him whether it was actually possible to drum over my tracks and he said ‘yeah, definitely’. To begin with I would strip my tracks of percussion and he would fill those spaces with something very different and introduce this more jazzier element. Now I don’t even bother muting my perc tracks, we just layer them on top of each other.

GV: Your primary occupation is graphic and typographic design. Do you see parallels between music and your design work?

GIÚ: On a business level, the parallels between running an indie band and a small ‘indie’ typography design firm are immense. Both operate in digital realms and I guess if I were very lucky I could make a decent living from those jobs. But making fonts is a very time consuming and detailed process, as is making music, and people just share both freely. These objects simply aren’t fiscal anymore. Music is essentially a very time consuming and expensive hobby for me, and I lose money doing it.

As for the creative side… I didn’t study typographic design and I know that if I were to it would solidify my ideas about what fonts should and shouldn’t be whereas now I go very instinctively about it. I know I’m doing many things ‘wrong’ but I feel like getting things ‘too right’ is flat out boring. If I were to learn how to play an instrument I think the same thing would happen; I’d do to many ‘correct’ things and perhaps make more boring music in the process. Ívar is a musician and my girlfriend Sunna is too, and they hear all the things that are ‘incorrect’ in my music but I think that makes for an interesting tension. So I guess the parallels in what I do is that I just do something without thinking too hard!

Thinking further, the processes are very different. When making music I play around with loops and I experiment; again, it’s rather like splashing paint onto canvas. Making fonts is more zen.

GV: Are you super conscious about the visual representation of your music?

GIÚ: We try to project visuals when we play, and I’m very conscious about how we place ourselves in the performance space. I think I aim for a certain symmetry. I really like it when you come across a band that has created their own universe, so to speak. FKA twigs is a great example of a rich and detailed visual universe. It’s too common that musicians don’t think about these things.

GV: What’s next for Good Moon Deer?

We’re trying to finish an album before the beginning of next year. I have a lot of material and I’m trying to figure out how to present it. Something will be online and maybe there will be a vinyl release. I’m not going to make a CD and take it to the bookstores and hope it sells. That just doesn’t interest me. But maybe it would be nice to have made an object that I could bring to shows and such.

GV: So you think of your ‘album’ more as a checkpoint along a route?

GIÚ: That’s a very nice way of putting it. I want to try to cement something. The working title for the record was ‘Dot’ – period. The end of a sentence. But our songs keep on evolving, it’s a constant flow and it’s very hard for me to nail anything down.

GV: So Good Moon Deer’s prime habitat is on the stage?

GIÚ: I think so. Optimally I’d like to remain in a flux of pinning things down, unpinning them, and then pinning them again.

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