Icelandic Duo Feldberg Prepare to Tour
Smalltown America signing bring the joy
When we think of Icelandic music, the likes of Bjork and Sigur Ros stand head and shoulders above everyone else, the pop pixie princess who has dominated the cutting edge of avant-garde pop music for the best part of 20 years now and the sonic heirs to Radiohead respectively.
However, much like Northern Ireland, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes in that small country, with an underground pop scene threatening to cross over to a wider audience at any point.
'Reykjavik has really strong bands in every genre,' confirms Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld, one half of Icelandic pop duo Feldberg, with a hint of an American accent. 'We’ve got a lot of mellow indie, bands like FM Belfast, then there’s electronic music, like Gus Gus, of course. And then there’s party pop music. It’s like everybody is in a band,' she beams.
Ísfeld's own band is on the cusp of making a real impact upon our shores. Having released their debut album, Don’t Be a Stranger, on Derry-based label Smalltown America, Feldberg have been slowly spreading their electro-indie joy pop throughout the country, picking up fans in the most unlikely of places.
Ísfeld and her musical partner, Einar Tönsberg, are about to get stuck into a whistle-stop Irish tour that will find them playing everywhere from Wicklow to Mullingar, Fermanagh and a few places in-between.
'I love small places,' says Ísfeld of the forthcoming tour. 'You’re really connected to the audience, and we’re always the ones who end up being surprised by how things go. I’m looking forward to playing in Whelan’s in Dublin. I’m doing a DJ set, and I have no idea what to expect. I think they’ll like me, though.'
If the support the duo have received in relation to Don’t Be a Stranger is anything to go by, she needn’t worry. As well as being represented by Smalltown America, the band have released material on Ministry of Sound, and the hugely influential French label, Kitsune, home to Bangor’s Two Door Cinema Club.
Audiences in Iceland and central Europe have succumbed to the band’s perky charms, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Ireland follows suit. 'Smalltown America are so nice to us! Really good people. Kitsune, in Paris, heard the album, and it was a really organic thing – no pushing at all. Through that, people wanted to do remixes, and we just leapt at it.'
Feldberg’s music has a universal appeal, but there remains something quintessentially Icelandic about their sound: an upbeat, playful mixture of indie rock, electronica and good vibes. It’s pop, but it’s dislocated enough to take on a life of its own.
'I didn’t know Einar at all before I came into the studio,' says Ísfeld of the band's origins. 'He’d come back from England, and was working on music for a commercial. A lot of people know me, and they pointed him towards me. He called at 9.30 in the evening, really stressed and up against a deadline. I came in and half an hour later we had it done. Easy.
I’d spin around on The Thinking Chair every Tuesday, and then we had an album done. 'It’s kind of a duet, very simple, and nothing is forced. He just seems to go with it. We don’t decide whether to be more pop, ore rock, it’s just laidback melodies, really bubbly. I guess it’s a little like the Cardigans?'
Ísfeld’s enthusiasm for what she does certainly comes across when she talks about her art. Like the music she makes, there is nothing contrived about her. She is a naturally effervescent person who lets her personality shine through in her music. It’s not difficult to see why the band picked up a fanbase on their previous visit to Ireland.
'They should build a bridge between Iceland and Ireland!' she argues. 'When we were here before, it was completely different for me, and I got a big ego. Everybody liked my voice. They kept saying I could replace Sinead O’Connor as the voice of Ireland!'
Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. However, it appears that Ireland’s love affair with this Icelandic duo is on, and this is just the beginning. If we love her as much as she loves us, it’s going to be a passionate love affair indeed.
Feldberg play Animal Disco at Auntie Annie's on August 5 and Café Del Mundo in Derry~Londonderry on August 6.