As Iceland Airwaves approaches, Icelandic pop duo Milkywhale is expanding horizons by reaching out to a new audience. “We’re playing for kids in elementary school, down to 6 years old,” says Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir, the singer, dancer and all-around frontman. Together with producer Árni Plúseinn of FM Belfast, Milkywhale is taking their choreography-heavy live shows to kids outside of Reykjavík, as a part of the program ‘Art for All,’ spearheaded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.
“Some areas in Iceland don’t have the same access to cultural events as the city, where we’re super privileged,” Melkorka explains. “It’s an intense tour, going to Sauðarkrókur and Snæfellsnes and all around. You learn a lot about yourself when you play to a new type of audience and see the reaction, what people like and don’t like.”
The project is a part of a gig-heavy September for the duo, who are also set to play the La Mercè festival in Barcelona, and to celebrate the vinyl release of their debut album with a party at Kex, supported by pop singer Hildur.
Melkorka, a trained dancer and choreographer, exerts a huge amount of energy onstage, taking on the duties of both singer and one-woman dance exhibition. “I’m doing personal training three times a week now to get ready,” she says. “I studied in Amsterdam, and used to admire the musical theatre department. The hardest thing is singing and dancing at the same time. I’ve really had a taste of that medicine with Milkywhale.”
When Milkywhale debuted—in a performance at the Reykjavík Dance Festival—it was a pre-planned show, rehearsed over many weeks. As it evolved into a concert band, the focus had to adjust. “In our first ever concert, I finished all my energy in half an hour,” Melkorka admits. “I’ve started to learn where I can conserve the energy, and where I can jump around like a madman. The energy I get from the audience also helps—I don’t do it by myself. I can kind of just orchestrate the show like a high priestess.”
The live shows tend to spark new ideas for the band, Melkorka explains, a sort of practice by doing. “It’s all about the fun, the music, the dancing, and connecting with the audience,” she says. “I come from the background of contemporary dance, where everyone sits real serious without reacting, and you’re lucky if twenty people show up. Now, I’m in a concert venue with a thousand people jumping, screaming, dancing. That’s a change I really enjoy.”
Whale of a time
In April of next year, Melkorka will premiere a new dance piece, ‘Vakúm,’ in Tjarnarbíó theatre. Featuring a cast of singers and dancers, including musicians Auðunn Lúthersson, aka AUÐUR, and Gunnar Ragnarsson from Grísalappalísa, it will explore the connection between choreography and music. With all this going on, and with Árni’s busy schedule with FM Belfast and other projects, how do they find the time for the energy-intensive Milkywhale?
“Honestly, it can be difficult,” Melkorka confesses. “We’ve had to say no to some exciting concerts. As an artist I’m used to running on 3000 percent energy, and trying to make all the projects go forward. Creativity is the priority, and we divide it into different exploits. But for me, Milkywhale is number one, two and three. It’s the most fun thing I do.”
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