The most important, versatile, touching “instrument” in music you cannot pluck, bow or beat. Basically, you don’t need anything to play it and you can easily play it everywhere – typically in your car or under the shower by the way. But it needs a lot of talent and courage to raise your voice in a way to form a song that makes us laughing from joy, longing for something or shedding a tear. Amongst all those stunning voices in Iceland , there’s one that thrills me exceptionally and that is able to arise all those feelings, sometimes even in a single song: the one of Valdimar Guðmundsson of Keflavik-native band Valdimar.
The band was formed some eight years ago by Valdimar together with Ásgeir Aðalsteinsson (guitar and programming) and since then grew up to a full sized band, Valdimar and Ásgeir told us. And they came together like lots of other Icelandic bands do: “Our core band consists of 6 members. Besides Valdimar and Ásgeir we have Högni on guitar, Kristinn on keyboards, Guðlaugur on bass and Þorvaldur on drums. Most of us just got to know each other in elementary school, high school and college.” Fortunate circumstances, as the band developed to one of the most critically acclaimed and popular ones in their home country. However, the founding members Valdimar and Ásgeir are still something like “the mom and dad of the group” as they like to call it: “Ásgeir is very organized while Valdimar can be a little bit careless at times. For instance, Valdimar is still working on his tax returns but Ásgeir probably did that a few months ago.”
Nevertheless, the whole band is involved in the creative process and every single member produces new ideas as they reveal: “Each has their set of responsibilities. The foundations of most of our songs are written by both of us and then presented to the group where it can go to places we hadn’t even thought about. So it’s quite a team effort.” During their infecting live sets, the group usually grows even bigger as the band is supported by a brass ensemble. And by the way, Valdimar himself is not only an amazing singer but also a great trombone player. Together, they almost become one single organism on stage and definitely are one of the most thrilling live acts in Iceland. Don’t you tell me you don’t get goosebumps all over when you watch this:
Just about a month ago, the band was decorated at the Icelandic Music Awards as winners of category Rock Song of the Year: “It was a great honor to receive this award. Feels pretty good!” they say and without a doubt, it is: The IMA’s are one of Iceland’s most important musical appreciations. The band’s competitors like Kaleo – who are about to reach popularity abroad compared to Iceland’s biggest export in recent years, Of Monsters and Men, and topped the category last year – or whizkids Fufanu read like a who-is-who right now in Icelandic Indie rock music. But Slétt og felt, Valdimar’s contribution, surpassed them all. It is an utterly beautifully and brilliantly arranged, melodious and vibrant mid-tempo rock song. Rather minimalistic during verses, enchanting and vivid during breaks and refrains: “We spent a lot of time on this track and it went trough a lot of changes while we were working on it. We did the lyrics at least three times, the original lyrics were about something completely different. The song ended up being quite powerful and loud and the original lyrics did not fit anymore. We needed something with more ‘bite’. The final lyrics are inspired by contemporary things that have been happening in Iceland. The financial crisis, the panama papers and the anger and desperation people felt when they lost their homes and savings because of greedy bankers and corrupt politicians” they explain.
Talking about lyrics, it’s noticeable that not just Slétt og felt, but virtually all of Valdimar’s songs are sung in their mother tongue. This adds another wonderful facet to their music, as Icelandic is a very sonorous and powerful language and perfectly fits Valdimar’s tremendous voice and the band’s musical style. “It is always hard to generalize all our lyrics in description but I think they all have one thing common. They are mostly about people and human behaviour” Ásgeir explains to the ones among us that don’t speak Icelandic. “I think our main inspiration comes from people around us and our relationships. There are some love songs – yes, there must always be love songs – but also about friendship and family. Valdi wrote one about his sister for example. Our lyrics tend to be a bit on the dark/emotional side but there is always hope.”
So far, the band delighted us with three full length studio albums. In 2010 they released their critically acclaimed debut Undraland, two years later the amazing record Um stund, which has also been nominated at the IMA’s back then as Album of the Year, and in 2014 their third and – so far – last one, Batnar útsýniđ. Now it’s 2017 and we have been missing a new album in 2016, given the “typical” two years interval. However, their IMA winning song Slétt of fell is something like a herald for album #4: “Yes, it is true we are a bit behind schedule. Members of the band have been busy with many different things so we haven’t had as much time as before to work on new songs. But we are planning on finishing a new album this year” they explain. We can hardly wait for it! And usually, a new album implies a new tour. A few weeks ago, the band finished a small, six gigs tour through Switzerland and Germany: “The tour was really good. Every gig felt like a success and there was always a very good vibe at the concerts. It’s really like starting over when you’re playing for a crowd who hasn’t seen you before and you don’t know if they will like it or be interrested in the music that you play. It is a pleasant feeling!” Of course, we’re deeply hoping for a return as soon as the band has finished their new album and the guys keep our hopes alive: ” There are no tours on schedule at the moment but we’ll try to book some once the new album is ready!” After all, such a tour would be based on reciprocity: “We are very happy that we get to play music and have people who want to listen to us play it.”
And dudes, we really do want to listen to you 🙂
Make sure to check out the band’s website!
Photo © Valdimar