Seven days ago Spain was on our minds as we explored with Jon Tessier, but now we’ve packed our bags and for a very different place; Iceland. Historically known for their Vikings and presently acknowledged for breathtaking landscapes, it’s the home of Kiriyama Family, an indie pop band that takes you by surprise as the bend the rules of genre and take you any and everywhere with their music, including their sophomore release Waiting For…. We talked about the unexpected, growth, their homeland and a little more…
Kendra: Are there any traditional sounds that come from Iceland that you grew up on, or were you always influenced by more mainstream music?
Kiriyama Family: We all share a love of music, from classical to the newest music… all genres. Hulda (Singer) and Bjarni (Synths) are both classically trained artists. Additionally, Bassi (Drums) comes from a lineage of Icelandic music and has been playing professionally since he was a small boy. Check out the video here.
Iceland is the nexus of a magical musical phenomenon. After WWII there was a shared British and American military base in the south of the island in Keflavik where the airport is. On this base, the Americans would receive radio signals from the US with Elvis, Ray Charles, and classic Americana while the Brits would be receiving the British radio with Beatles, Bowie etc. So early on Iceland’s music has been influenced from two musical powerhouses. The most significant influence that all members in the band will state is Sigur Ros but it goes much deeper than that. Many artists are influenced by artists who are still creating and these artists feed upon each other for inspiration.
The heart of Icelandic traditional music really comes from a this more contemporary influence rather than what might be considered “traditional.” This is why, when you listen to Kiriyama Family, you hear reflections of nostalgia with the synthesizers but you also hear more progressive computer technology, sound effects, and modern techniques.
From this, it becomes easy to understand why we have such a diverse range of influences which also lends itself to the originality and, at the same time, relatability of their music. We are influenced by many artists but some areas where we agree are Led Zeppelin, Daft Punk, Prefab Sprout, Rhye, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, and Blur.
Collectively, however, our common ground…the one artist we all agree is an influence is Sweden’s Little Dragon.
Kendra; I have to admit that when I clicked “play,” what came from my speakers was very unexpected – in a good way – do you get that a lot after people hear you for the first time?
Kiriyama Family: Yes, this is the common response. Since we are independent, people expect an “indie sound” but we have have been doing music for all of our lives, we have devoted ourselves to it. Bassi (the drummer) is actually one of Iceland’s premier producers and we have his full studio (Tonverk) in Hveragerði. We could be accused of overproduction but we do it all ourselves and we put our souls into it… it’s a result of long hours, hard work and perseverance. Think of us as the misfits of the world of music… kind of the underdogs… we may not have it handed to us but we never stop and we keep working because we love the music, and we love to relate to the people who love our music. We want to connect with our music… we want to put words (and music) to feelings our listeners don’t know how to describe… because that’s how we feel too.
Kendra: It was after listening to “About You,” which was serving up this very metropolitan nightlife sound. Which, what’s a typical night out in Iceland like?
Kiriyama Family: We just finished performing at the Secret Solstice Festival here in Reykjavik and the one word we can say about a typical night out in Iceland is…“Never-ending.” Especially during the summer, the sun never truly sets so we are out until one o’clock in the morning and it’s as bright as noon anywhere else in the world. So your whole perspective is completely turned on its head. On a typical night out, you go to a friends house, have a few drinks there and at about 12 midnight you go out clubbing. Unless there’s a concert, you go to that and then you hit the dance floor. Reykjavik is an analogy for this. While it’s the middle of the night and daylight is shining, Reykjavik is a beautifully modern city surrounded by some of the most beautiful nature less than five minutes drive from city center… this may be why tourism is so big now here. We all come from country towns and, while we still go back to those roots regularly (as can be referenced in our video “Chemistry”) and so much of our metropolitan sound could be coming from our desire to reach this bigger city. Out in the country, many of us didn’t fit in and so in the city, you really have the opportunity to reinvent yourself and truly experience the obsession and desire in “About You.”
Kendra: Now more about your music. It’s been awhile since your debut and your most recent release. What growth did you personally hear between the self-titled and Waiting For…?
Kiriyama Family: This is a difficult question to answer. We had so much success from our first album and then there was a bunch of turmoil and heartbreak when a Johann left. It really sent us reeling because he was a friend and a great contributor to our initial sound. But as they say, “Everything’s destiny is to change, to be transformed, to perish. So that new thing can be reborn.” We had to go through that to find Hulda and Bjarni… without them, this new album wouldn’t have been born and the lessons of five years of life wouldn’t have been available for us to include into Waiting For… We have grown immensely, experienced sweet and sour, cold and hot, and now we are so happy to have gone through that forging process because that crucible has created something so much better than if we wouldn’t have had to grow. Ultimately we are becoming more focused and driven in our work.
Kendra: So what else can we expect from you guys this year? Please tell us you’re heading to the US.
Kiriyama Family: The USA is our ultimate goal but we are almost afraid to say that! We really want to share our music with a country we love but unfortunately, the recent rejection of fellow Icelandic musicians at the border has forced us to change our plans temporarily. For now, we will be touring Europe, Canada and all other areas around the US until we know more about what it’s going to take to share our music with the US. We are working on album #3, and we are playing other festivals like Iceland Airwaves from November 1-5. We plan on touring in Europe, Asia, and other parts of North America…but we promise to share as much as we can with the US. Think of us as two characters on opposite sides of a glass wall reaching out… we want so badly to come and play in the US. Also, we will have to continue Waiting For… Until then, it’s easy and beautiful to visit us in Iceland!