A Sorta, Kinda, Somewhat Interview With An Awesome Icelandic Band


A photo of White Signal playin' in Reykjavik. As per the photo quality: myyy bad. #forgotthenikon
A photo of White Signal playin’ in Reykjavik. As per the photo quality: my bad. #forgotthenikon

Okay. So it wasn’t an official interview. That might be a tinsy-tiny hyperbole that I used to give myself some journalistic credence (which, God knows, I need). It was more like an amicable chat. But whatevs. Point is:

The band is called White Signal. They’ve given over 100 performances throughout Iceland in the past two years and were voted the “Band of the People” at Iceland’s 2011 Battle of the Bands. They won a nationwide Christmas Song Competition both in 2011 and 2012 and, during the Icelandic Music Awards of 2012, they were nominated as “most promising Icelandic band”. The most impressive part? Most of the band members are between 17-20 years old, making them one of Iceland’s youngest bands.

Here’s how I got to talk to them:

Today we were walking through the center of Reykjavik when we heard some drums playing from a nearby bandstand. I’ve heard endless rumors about Iceland’s infamous music scene and some of my favorite bands come from this country (Sigur Rós, Of Monsters And Men, Without Gravity) so I figured it was worth investigating.

Here’s the thing (and I don’t get to say this often): I was right.

We found ourselves in a small outdoor pavilion, with onlookers sitting on stone steps or standing on a sloped lawn. A six-member band was playing in the center; a song was finishing as we walked up.

I’ve lived around a few major cities and visited multiple metropolitans across the globe so I’ve seen my fair share of street performances. So I know the routine: I usually listen for a little bit, nod politely, clap when they finish a song and then continue on my merry way.

But this time it didn’t go that way. Instead we just kept listening and smiling. Listening and clapping. Then listening and cheering and listening some more.

Because this group had a contagious spirit about them. They were catchy, crisp and obviously well-rehearsed. The two lead singers, both female, sang in perfect harmony. The saxophonist sounded like Kenny G minus 20 years of aging. The drummer, bassist, and electric guitarist synced like they were from the John Mayer Trio (no coincidence, by the way, as I heard them riddling off notes from “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room” after they were done with the set). They were young, they were confident, they were fun and they were infectiously good.

I’m no music critic but I know what I like when I hear it. And though we just planned on stopping for a moment, we stayed for the entire show.

After they finished their set the crowd dispersed and we started walking away. Halfway across the street, I decided that I really wanted to go back and talk to them. But, truth be told, I didn’t know what to say beyond “that was awesome, can we be friends while you get famous?”

We found them hanging out in the pavilion and got to talk to them a little bit. They were remarkably friendly and conversational (something I’m finding to be a common trait among Icelanders). I struck up a conversation with Georg and Björn, the band’s drummer and saxophonist respectively. Georg has been playing drums for 15 years, an,d in addition to working construction, also runs a small recording studio.

Björn also raps and plays saxophone for another side project called Undir Eins. I learned that this was a common trait among the band members: many of them were involved in three or four separate musical projects. An aspect which, undoubtedly, adds something special to the group.

They were both quick to brag about their two lead singers, Guðrún and Hrafnhildur, but also talked about how well the band worked together as a team. “Every person in the band,” Björn told me, “has their own special gift or talent. It’s a huge privilege to work with them.”

It was a privilege to hear them. And I’m convinced that, if the right scouts ever hear them, they could have a shot with a US record label.

I don’t usually recommend things on here (other than Bill Watterson, who really requires no recommendation) but I’m recommending them. In my personal opinion, they sound like Of Monsters and Men had a get-together with Stevie Wonder, invited Jackson 5 and then (who else but?) Kenny G crashed the party. Also, I have to say (with a hopefully prophetic air) that their sound reminds me of the early days of Walk The Moon, another band I was privileged to encounter before singing.  Check them out on Facebook and Spotify.

(And whenever these guys get signed and come over to the United States, just do me a favor and remember the blog that told you about them first. Okay? Yea. I’ll be here. Thanks.)

Here’s a recording of my favorite original they played today, Hero Of My Dreams:

Friday Playlist: Sunset

Today’s song isn’t exactly a small-time band (their debut album was ranked by many as one of the top bands of 2009). But it has taken me a while to get around to listening to them and so I figure everyone else must be as slow to the punch as I am. Either way, here’s a great lazy winter afternoon song: a little bit pensive, a little bit dark and just the right upbeat.

I hope you enjoy it: