Skálmöld is getting more and more popular outside of Iceland. The band started in 2009, but already released 2 successful albums and album number 3, called “Með vættum”, is out now!
Eline had the awesome opportunity to talk to Björgvin, Snæbjörn and Jón before their show in Eindhoven.
Away from home
Hello and welcome to the Netherlands! Are you excited to play the show tonight here in Eindhoven?
“Yes, definitely! It’s our first time in Eindhoven and I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve played in the Netherlands before with the Heidenfest tour, in Tilburg and Leeuwarden, which was also very nice.”
How’s touring with Arkona and Eluveitie been so far?
“It’s been really good, we already knew Arkona because they were on the Heidenfest tour as well. So far it’s been easy going, all the band members and the crew are super nice and most of the shows are sold out so that’s great!”
It must be hard sometimes to be on a tour for almost two months?
“Sometimes, but we did this ourselves. It’s a bit hard today because I had a lot of fun yesterday, I just woke up. But I like it! It’s not so hard to be on tour. But it is hard not to be at home, to be away from our family.“
What was the most beautiful or interesting country you visited during a tour?
“I like Ljubljana (Slovenia), it’s just so beautiful. It’s like being in a fairytale, with green hills and a castle and the river flowing through.”
Björgvin: “For me it’s more about the people, if the people are nice, I like the place. Wherever you are, the culture around heavy metal and touring is so good. The metalheads are so alive and positive and willing to talk, you can find that in a lot of places”
You’ve just released your third album, can you tell me something about it? Is it a concept album?
“Yes it is a concept album. All of the albums happen in an imaginary world and are based on old Icelandic myths, Norse religion and Vikings, mixed with a little bit of fairy tales and heroes. This record takes place there as well, but is more focused on Iceland itself. It’s about a female hero, who travels around Iceland and has to fight from the shores of Iceland to defend the island. She travels from the north coast to the east coast and from the south coast to the west coast and she fights four times. Ancient Icelandic myths tell about four creatures that guard the island. A bird in the north, a dragon in the east, a giant in the south and a bull in the west. In each fight she is allied by them, they help her to win the fights. Those creatures are called Vættir. They are some sort of ‘spirits, or spiritual creatures’.
In English there is a word for it, which is ‘wights’. So the album title means ‘Among the wights’.
I ask Snæbjörn how the album title is pronounced. He tells me that the album titles, songs and even the name Skálmöld are often very hard to pronounce for people who are not from Iceland. However, they will never change their lyrics into English.
“A huge part on what the band has become is because we did stick to the Icelandic and I’m uncomfortable with singing in English, it would feel like lying or cheating.”
Snæbjörn writes al the lyrics, so he tells me more about where he gets his inspiration and information from when he writes new songs.
“I think it’s mostly based on something we know. It’s something we were brought up to. All this Norse religion, Viking and ‘wights’ stuff we just learned at school. It comes naturally. But the extra ideas and the storytelling is just something I get in my head when I’m in my bed or whenever.”
If you had to make a top 3 of your albums, which one would be on top and why?
“I know it’s a cliché, but I really think our newest album is the best. But our first one is the one that made it all happen from the beginning. You can hear that the music is getting better with each album, so music wise it will be Með vættum – Bӧrn Loka – Baldur. But we feel a lot for all of our albums, also the first one. We’ve put a lot of ourselves into that one.
And what is your favourite Skálmöld song?
Snæbjörn : “It changes from time to time, I always like playing ‘Árás’, from our first album.”
Björgvin : “I think my favourite is still ‘Hefnd’, unfortunately we only have 45 minutes to play tonight, so we can’t play our favourite songs, but we will surely come back soon!”
What’s the most memorable thing that ever happened to you while playing in Skálmöld?
“There have been so many incredible things in the last few years! It’s easy to mention the gig with the Icelandic symphony orchestra. It was so amazing when we stood on the stage with the enormous orchestra in front of us and these huge choirs behind us!
Also there is a small metal festival back home called ‘Eistnaflug’, that’s the best party in the world. We first played there in 2010. Back then, nobody knew who we were. We were the first band on stage on the first day. The room was completely empty…a year later we played at the festival again and the room was completely packed. That was a great moment.
Also, the release show of the first album was somehow unreal. I would never have expected people to go nuts about our music. This band was supposed to be a hobby, but it exploded into something ridiculous. Especially in Iceland it happened really fast.”
What where the reactions of fans and the members of the orchestra when you performed with the Icelandic symphony orchestra?
“It was a surreal happening, I think nobody really knew what was going to happen. I was expecting that the musicians of the orchestra would look down on us, because they are classical musicians and we are definitely not..but nothing of that happened. From the second rehearsal, all the pieces came together. We felt like one big band. The best moment of the concert was when Edda (Tegeder, singer from the Icelandic band Angist) sings the song ‘Hel’ with us. When she came on stage for the first time, the musicians saw a tiny, petite, pretty blonde girl and they said ‘ooh there is a girl singing too, how lovely!’ But when she started singing they were in complete shock!
The whole thing was so successful, I want to do it again! We got a lot of new fans by doing these gigs. Beside the metal heads who came to see us, there were also regular Symphony orchestra admirers there who got to know us.”
So if you want to play a concert like this again…how about in the Netherlands?
“We would like too! But..it would require massive choirs that can sing in Icelandic. It would be way too expensive to take the Icelandic choirs with us. But maybe we can make it happen sometime. Let’s do it!”
If I am correct, you’ve released the CD and DVD of the show with the Icelandic orchestra yourself and not with napalm records. Can you tell me why?
“It was released by another label in Iceland. We actually didn’t officially release it internationally. Somehow our label was not very interested in taking part of this, maybe because the project and release was quite expensive and you can’t be really sure if it’s going to be successful. They have copies available though in their webshop.”
Was it difficult to get outside of Iceland with Skálmöld?
“It’s not very difficult to get outside of Iceland, there are many things back home that are helping you to get your music abroad. But it is really expensive to get the band out of the tiny little island to the mainland and it takes a lot of organizing. But if you put yourself into it, you can always make it happen. There are a lot of good Icelandic bands, like Sólstafir touring now.”
If I would go and visit Iceland, which places would you recommend me to go and see?
Snæbjörn : “You wouldn’t be bored, that’s for sure! I think it’s best to take a car and drive around. It depends on what you want to do, if you’re into nature, you should definitely go to the north. This is also where we are from. There are a lot of pretty lakes there, for example lake Mývatn.”
Jón: “The best thing is, you only have to drive like half an hour from the centre of Reykjavik and you’re completely isolated. That way you can have best of both.”
Snæbjörn : “Iceland is pretty diverse. The south and the north are completely different. It’s sad to see some mass tourism starting in Iceland. People aren’t really enjoying anything, there are pre-made ideas of what is cool and what is not cool to visit in Iceland. People get in a tour bus, have 30 minutes to see a nice spot and then have to get back in the bus again. I think it’s so much more fun to take your own car, drive for an hour or two and just see where you would end up. It’s the small things, you will always find something nice to see.”
Would you like to say something to your Dutch fans?
“In the past few years we have felt a lot of interest from the Dutch. Some of our best interviews and reviews come from the Netherlands. Also some of our best gigs! I think we have something in common with the Dutch. It’s easy for an Icelander to talk to a Dutch person. When an Icelander, a Dutch person an a Finnish guy are in the same room it’s going to be the best party ever. I always get this nice feeling when I’m around Dutch people, so thank you for that!”