Last night, I was fortunate to check out the √ìl√∂f Arnalds show at the Scandinavia house. I say fortunate because I had never had a chance to see the Icelandic songstress live and it was by far one of my favorite shows this year. The setting was intimate, and she used it to her advantage–engaging the audience many times by having us join in the chorus. She is definitely one to check out if you have a chance. While Arnalds has played four times this week, I am sure she will be coming back soon.
Before the show, I was able to have Arnalds answer a few questions–from her place in music history as an Icelandic singer to her role as a musician during a tough economic climate.
FW: Can you give us a little background on your history as a musician? How long have you been solo?
OA: I had musical upbringing from 6 years old, learning violin, changing to singing lessons at 16, I quit music school at 21 and moved to Berlin, where I stayed for one winter and hung out with the Mum kids a lot, shortly after I moved home I started my studies in composition and new media at the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, taking a one year break from my studies to tour with Mum. I graduated from the school in 2006 and while working with Skuli Sverrisson on his record Seria from 2006 I started making my own music and lyrics for my first album that came out in 2007
FW: Do you think there is more freedom in the approach to the music when you are a solo artists? Which do you prefer more–the band environment or being a solo artist?
OA: I like doing both. What I like about playing solo is that you stand and fall entirely alone with your performance. But the musicians I collaborate with always teach me a lot and it’s also nice to be able to share the experience of touring and playing.
FW: The music you play is light and airy like Vashti Bunyan as much as it also references contemporaries like Lau Nau and Kria Brekken. What are your influences? Who do you feel are your musical colleagues?
OA: I find it impossible to pinpoint my strongest influence, I work from impulse, not from predecided ideas about sound of feel, so any influence I’m under is very indirect in my mind.
FW: The Nordic region has been churning out great music over the last few decades. Do you think their are regional similarities in different parts? What do you feel the vibe is in Iceland compared to other countries? Do you feel at all akin to the Finnish Freak Folk scene?
OA: Well, Icelanders and Finns have some special connection, especially in regards of their drinking habits! The good thing about the Icelandic scene is that it’s very fluent in a way, things happen quickly and easily, everything is very spontanious, which is something that the Finns are not.
FW: You are playing a show with Bjork on the 8th. What are your thoughts on her place in music history in terms of being an Icelandic musician? Do you feel that you “stand in her shadow” by being a female musician from Iceland?
OA: Not at all, I don’t feel like my identity is that much about being icelandic. I just see myself as a artist trying to do my best in sharing my music with others. Bjork is a fabioulus artist and I really look up to her, because she does things the way she wants to do them. That’s very inspiring for me.
FW: What bands are currently exciting you? In Iceland and from other areas?
I really like this young band from Iceland called Retro Stefson.
FW: Finally, while this is a little political, how do you think the economic crisis in Iceland affects you as a musician? Do you think it makes you want to move your music into being political?
OA: I’m not interested in putting my energy to much into politics. It’s not my job. The way the economic crisis is affecting me at the moment is that I feel a strong urge not to be smothered by it. I think it’s very important under these circumstances that artist keep their mind clear and creative, to keep up the good spirit.