From Iceland — Kælan Mikla: Someone Please Help Them Break Out

Kælan Mikla: Someone Please Help Them Break Out

Published November 7, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Johanna Persson

I’m not normally into touting local bands to the wider world as being in need of breaking out and making it big. Mostly because I don’t pretend to know enough about music to consider myself a good judge where that’s concerned. But sometimes you see an act, are hugely impressed with their sound, and then wonder how on earth it’s possible no one has stepped in to make an offer to bring this band into international attention. It just seems obvious on its face that this needs to happen, and it feels like a mistake that it hasn’t. That is certainly the case where Kælan Mikla is concerned.

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This trio has moved from being a post-punk outfit of bass, drums and vocals into bold new territory. Chilling, neurotic synth loops paired with ass-end bass and some positively haunting vocals, their sound has evolved into something darker, stronger, capable of taking us from the everyday world into the gauzy barrier between us and our nightmares. Like watching a forgotten reel of film shot at a haunted house, you come away from seeing them live wondering if it’s really over, as you can still feel icy fingers reaching towards you.

As the crowd heard songs spanning from the older to the more recent, you can hear how their voice has become more refined, complex, and hits you in the gut harder. Even so, they have yet to release their first album, although the band have informed me that the wonderful Alison MacNeil has helped them record it, and needs only to be mastered.

This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve reported on this trio, but that only underscores my point. For as long as they’ve been around, and for as many accolades as they’ve received in review after review, it seems beyond comprehension that the rest of the world has yet to discover them, and bring them into the pantheon of Icelandic Bands That Broke Out. That needs to change.

I sat down with the trio after their Airwaves set to get some of their thoughts on the festival.

This isn’t your first Airwaves gig. How does this one differ from the one previous?

Laufey: There’s more people! Everyone’s just always really nice, and always up for showing up. It’s not a problem being hungover, they just do it.

Do you notice any difference between playing Airwaves and playing just a regular show? Is there a different vibe to it?

Maggi: There’s much more spirit [at Airwaves]. People are much more hyped. A lot of the people who are coming have never seen us before. Usually when we play a show, it’s people who already know us who come and want to see us again. But when people have traveled all this way to hear some Icelandic music, you can feel the excitement. They want to see something new.

Have you been approached by the foreign press?

Solla: Well, there’ve been some contacts in Norway and Germany who’ve been in touch, and said they’d help out if we came out that way.

Laufey: I met one man, he was from somewhere else, who said he had been looking forward to seeing us for some time.

You’ve been playing music for a while now. Do you get used to hearing that someone from outside of Iceland is into your music?

[A resounding no from all three]

Solla: I’m always really surprised and happy.

Laufey: Like earlier we were like “Oh my god there’s so many people!” And they were so glad to hear us. There’s no better feeling than walking off stage and feel they just really appreciate what you do. They don’t understand what we’re singing, but some people come and say “I actually cried when you were playing.” They don’t understand the lyrics. It’s amazing.

And when can we expect some new stuff?

Laufey: Well, me and Maggi are in school …

Maggi: It’s just really hard being young and trying to be in a band, and going to school, and working a job, and paying the rent. I mean it’s great, but we haven’t been able to release an album because there’s so many other things to do. But we’re really trying.

Plenty of bands are contending with work and school while trying to compose, rehearse, perform and record. I know this. I am still imploring the world: someone, please, give Kælan Mikla the resources to spread their amazing sound to the world at large.

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