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Reykjavķk Grapevine

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Reykjavķk Grapevine

The next big thing to casually walk all over the 
Reykjavík music scene is undoubtedly bright-
eyed Retro Stefson. Fresh from middle school 
and already two years into their game, the 
eight-piece is being nursed to stardom by some 
of the Reykjavík music scene?s biggest names. 
Grapevine sat down with Unnsteinn, Þórður, 
and Þorbjörg after their gig at Herrafataverzlun 
Kormáks & Skjaldar to discuss their climb up 
the under-aged ladder to success.
What were your intentions when you were 
starting out?
Unnsteinn: First it was to win the Samfés (the 
national youth club organisation of Iceland) 
singing competition.
Þórður: Yeah we started with that. We didn?t 
make it to anything in the competition but we 
were allowed to play at the dance. And then 
naturally we needed to practice.
Þórður: We put together a few songs and it 
went pretty well.
Were there all eight of you then?
Unnsteinn: There was a completely different 
line-up on the instruments. Þórður played the 
drums then and now he plays guitar, and all 
kinds of stuff like that.
How does that change, are you always 
moving around the instruments or?
Unnsteinn: No, not anymore. Now everyone 
plays his or her own instrument.
That they know best.
Unnsteinn: Yes, exactly.
Þórður: It was only last summer that the band 
formed with the line-up we have now.
Þorbjörg: We got Gylfi also as our drum-
Unnsteinn: Then we were invited to play at 
Airwaves and we decided to change things 
around a bit. We buffed up the band and then 
everyone was able to play his or her desired 
What is the process like with such a large 
group as far as writing music and lyrics? 
Are you all involved or are there a select 
few who do most of the composing?
Unnsteinn: I?ll maybe come up with like a 
base, and then the first person who gets to 
hear it is maybe Þórður. Then Logi, who?s my 
little brother, gets to say his piece. He?s been 
learning music theory for the past year so he 
always comes up with something that?s really 
logical but that doesn?t necessarily end up 
working. He has strong opinions about how 
the music should be. But we don?t really end 
up following what he says.
What do you think most affects you when 
you?re writing lyrics?
Unnsteinn: We just write something, what-
ever occurs to us. We write in many different 
languages. Maybe if we want to create a sort 
of southern atmosphere we?ll speak a southern 
language in the song, I think it?s more like that. 
And if we want to have sort of a cool song 
then maybe we?ll write it in English. Then of 
course we have a lot of influences in the music 
itself. Like for example just what we?ve been 
listening to, what me and Logi?s parents had 
us listen to when we were little, which is this 
sort of world-music, like Brazilian jazz.
How has the reception been from others in 
the Reykjavík music scene? You are playing 
music that is quite different from what 
other people your age are doing. How 
much influence does that scene have on 
you and how you make music?
Þórður: Quite a bit I think.
Unnsteinn: We?ve been very well received, 
maybe because this is sort of new or maybe 
different from what has been going on here 
Þórður: It depends. Some people don?t really 
get it, but then there are others who are steady 
supporters. Like Steinþór who was back here 
screaming earlier. He?s supported us a lot, like 
many others, which is great. I think that?s what 
drives us most, this kind of strong support 
from individuals.
In other bands then?
Þórður: Yeah and then just people in the music 
world in general.
Unnsteinn: Like for example Benni Hemm 
Hemm loaned us his guitar for our first concert. 
And Bóas, the singer in Reykjavík!, encouraged 
us to form an official band to play these songs 
we had been writing.
What do you think about the exportation 
of Icelandic music? That music is becom-
ing a product whose purpose is mainly 
to be sold?
Unnsteinn: I feel it kind of splits in two. You 
have for example Iceland Airwaves and Mr. 
Destiny. They?re holding these nights abroad, 
these Iceland Airwaves Nights at some mu-
sic festivals, where young bands just like us, 
although we haven?t yet gone to one, get a 
chance to go abroad and play. But then on the 
other side there?s Garðar Cortes and Nylon for 
example. I think that music has become a prod-
uct. These methods are similar, but as far as the 
music goes, there?s more ambition in a lot of 
what the first sort is producing. Like you take 
Nessun dorma, which is a very famous opera 
song, and then all of a sudden you?re hearing 
it with Garðar Cortes and a drum machine and 
a symphony. It?s a little bit strange.
Are you guys recording at all?
Unnsteinn: Yeah we?ve been trying to record 
little by little but it?s not going too well.
Why not?
Unnsteinn: I think it might just be laziness. 
Then we?ve been trying to record it ourselves, 
and then of course there are so many of us.
Þórður: It?s better to wait about putting out 
an album. You don?t really get much out of 
it financially speaking. It?s a lot of work and 
you need to prepare well for it, and we?re not 
completely ready for that now.
Unnsteinn: Plus we think it?s the most fun to 
play concerts.
It will probably help you just as much to 
put it on the net, because that?s where 
most people will hear it.
Þórður: It seems that no one buys CD?s any-
No exactly.
Unnsteinn: Yeah, it?s just download.
Do you ever have trouble playing at bars?
Unnsteinn: It depends. 
Þorbjörg: At Grand Rokk when we were play-
ing Airwaves last year Gunni wasn?t going to 
let us in. 
Unnsteinn: Yeah and then when he had let 
most of us in we noticed that Logi my brother 
was missing. It turned out he was still down-
He?s a little too small.
Unnsteinn: Yeah. So that was a huge problem 
and we had to call the festival organisers. But 
like at NASA the bouncers are always grabbing 
us. They?re completely insane. But I think they 
are just really into hassling people in general, 
not just us.
For more on Retro Stefson, visit www.myspace.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Text by Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir    Photo by Gulli
?Like at NASA the bounc-
ers are always grabbing 
us. They?re completely 
682 kilometres from the capital city in the eastern fjords, 
the quaint town of Seyðisfjörður plays host to a high 
dose of art and culture during its 8th annual LungA, or 
young artists? festival on July 15?22.
 This year more than 70 foreign participants from 
six countries will take part in the festival that director 
Aðalheiður Borgþórsdóttir says she hopes will be ?a 
melting pot of cultures from all the kids participating.? 
The festival?s art program stretches throughout the week 
with daily workshops from 9?17, ending in a celebration 
with all the festival participants on Friday.
 The workshops are tailored to young people between 
the ages of 16?25, hoping to attract artistic youth from 
throughout Iceland and abroad, and will instruct in circus 
performance, urban funk, jazz, & infusion dance, STOMP 
(led by Mínus drummer Björn Stefánsson), DJ-Sound 
infusion (led by Gísli Galdur of Trabant and Curver of 
Ghostigital), animation, clothing design, and visual arts. 
In the past, additional activities have included clothing 
design competitions, belly dancing for all ages, a song 
competition and afro for everybody.
 The week will conclude with a huge music event 
beginning on Friday, July 20 with a warm-up concert 
featuring Without the Balls, Miri, Tony the Pony, Foreign 
Monkeys and Lada Sport and concluding on Saturday 
with a concert featuring Trabant, Mínus, Jeff Who?, 
Bloodgroup and Skátar. This year?s line-up is considerably 
shorter than last year?s, which included a hefty eight 
bands. Ívar Pétur Kjartansson, one of the festival organis-
ers, says that this year?s concert has been shortened by 
an hour and each band allowed a longer set to feature 
them more prominently.
 Youth In Action will sponsor the festival this year, 
making the workshops completely free. However, tickets 
to the giant music fest cost ISK  2,800. The concert is 
expected to be the biggest single musical event ever 
to be held in eastern Iceland. LungA sets a new record 
every year.
For more information visit www.lunga.is or www.
myspace.com/lungafest. To register for the festival work-
shop call 861-5859 or email lunga@lunga.is, Tickets for 
the concert are on sale in all Skífan stores in Reykjavík, 
in Bt stores around the country and online at www.
LungA Young Artists? Festival 
Text by Valgerður Þóroddsdóttir   Photo by Skari
Lárus & Lárus
Hey Lárus, how is the 
self-portrait coming along?
Not to good, I painted 
my twin by mistake.
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