Bedroom Community is often referred to as Iceland’s best record label. Based in label founder Valgeir Sigurðsson’s Greenhouse Studios in Brieðhólt, and built from the work a small group of experimental, often groundbreaking artists, the label puts out a varied range of “serious” music — from folk to avant-garde composition to drone, ambient and noise.
We caught up with Valgeir ahead of Airwaves to see what the label has been up to in 2015, and how you can experience the Bedroom Community at Airwaves.
What’s been going on with Bedroom Community this year? How’s life in the label and the studio?
We’ve released two albums, both of them debut albums of two new Bedroom Community members, Emily Hall’s ‘Folie á Deux’ and Jodie Landau & Wild Up’s ‘you of all things’. Emily is a London based composer and Jodie et al. are based in Los Angeles, so we’ve spread our wings a bit wider in terms of our members geographical location. But also what’s interesting is that these are both vocal albums, Jodie is an incredible singer as well as composer and percussionist, and Emily mainly writes opera. Jolie á Deux’s lyrics were written by the Icelandic poet Sjón, who is an old friend. So we’re also glad to have him in the fold.
You guys did your own festival this year – how did it go? Was it an interesting challenge? Will you be doing it again?
Yes we did Breiðholt Festival, which was a really fun one day festival that all took place around where the label and the studio is based, in a corner of the Breiðholt suburb. We really wanted our neighbours to come out and enjoy some culture in this area, which has spawn so many artists but, because of dreadful urban planning and Icelander’s strange idea of what a residential area should have to offer for its residents, there is literally no visible culture out here. And we wanted to change that for a day, and I think we were successful. We’d definitely like to do it again, hopefully next year.
I’ve seen that BedCom is doing a bunch of off-venues at Kaffibarinn and Mengi, right? Do you have special relationships with those venues, and the non BedCom performers?
Yes we’ve had an Airwaves off-venue residency at Kaffibarinn since the early days of the label, and we used to host monthly events there for a while. We do have a special relationship with that bar indeed, that goes way back. There isn’t a place like it, wherever I go in the world I always hope that I can find the “Kaffibarinn” of that city. We also have a great relationship with Mengi and we really support what they are doing down there, it’s so ambitious and fabulous.
Are Bedroom Community doing any “on-venue” stuff? I remember the shows at Iðnó being a festival highlight in years gone by. How come those stopped happening?
Not this year. We’re laying low now and working out our future moves. The label will turn 10 years old next year and there is going to be a lot of activity happening throughout the anniversary year, including a strong presence at Airwaves. The Iðnó nights were always great, we have done so many memorable shows there, but you know, this is also a good reason to move on and try something new, we sort of outgrew that format a little bit and it felt like a good idea to mix it up a bit so our last big label night was actually at the enormous Hallgrískirkja Church and that was a blast.
How about your year as a producer and a musician – what were your personal highlights?
I produced baby-twins, that is an absolute highlight and I don’t think I can ever beat that one!
Does it ever feel like a struggle to give real time to composition when you have the production and label?
Yes it has been in the past and still is. There are always many many things that I want to be nurturing and collaborating on and those have often taken priority. But I’ve gotten much better at it in the recent years, so I’ve actually never written as much music as over the time that has passed since my last album Architecture of Loss came out in 2012. To the point where now I’m really having trouble catching up with myself recording and producing all this music. I’m working on several things now that I’m exited to bring out before too long.
Often at BedCom events, you’ll be seen performing as an auxiliary member with, say, Nico Muhly or Sam Amidon. Does that come naturally from your role as producer on many of their albums?
Yes it does, it’s sort of an extension of what I have been doing with them in the studio and it’s really great to get the opportunity to follow productions through to performance.
Any new BedCom artists or label family members you want to flag up for the future?
I suggest Airwaves people come to see Jodie perform at Mengi and Kaffibarinn, and keep a close eye on us next year, it’s going to be our busiest year ever with lots of events and releases, new music and even some unreleased material. And of course the collective Whale Watching Tour is going to happen again in 2016.
See the BedCom website for more info here.
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