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Riot Quiet

We’re here for the royal family because we love strange people.” As far as interview openings go, this is one of the most memorable. Icelandic duo Feldberg, Einar Tönsberg and Rósa BirgittaÍsfeld spoke to Playmusic during the time of royal fuss, but that’s neither here nor there. Don’t Be A Stranger, their debut album, on the other hand, is memorably slinky, Icelandic pop that rests easily between the eloquent wispy airings of Björk and the gentile strumming’s and piano chords of numerous sublime ballads. Coming from a country whose financial decline was widely proclaimed as

doomsday for the entire globe – the reality recently becoming more violently obvious in the UK, but still far from starvation and infrastructure collapse – the beautiful melodies come as a surprise. But not to Einar. “The recession is beautiful! Why? Because when there was no recession, the banks started sponsoring music and art and the only people who get money from that are some idiots who talk the business language. Now there’s no bullshit and only good music coming up,” he says, deadly serious. “You can’t be a princess. If it’s something you want to do, no one’s gonna do it for you. I think it’s healthy like this, because you want it and fight for it.” For such vitriolic words, the music that this enigmatic duo creates seems to have more in common with the imagined, wonderful landscapes of Sigur Rós’ Iceland, rather than the desperate scraping for a living that is envisioned these days. Their single Dreamin’ has been used on Icelandair’s planes as passengers board the aircraft. It’s soothing, it’s rather pretty; it is not the sound of a country in turmoil. And frankly, it reflects the reality of the situation far more than the sensationalist headlines and videos on Youtube and Sky News. The reality being escapism, concentrating on the good things, tinged with melancholy because life just isn’t easy. Although apparently making this record was. “Well the intention was just to make something. Both our previous bands

made really complicated music and had to have a concept and overcomplicate things. We just wanted the first 10 minutes to spring to mind, not analyse anything and we both like pop! In the end we worked really fast. We didn’t do any demos. We just recorded it. It took eight months and considering we had

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Icelandic duo Feldberg make music that defies the harshness of the economic climate. ‘The recession is beautiful!’ they insist to BRAD BARRETT.

other things to do and weren’t aiming to do an album, that’s pretty good.” The partnership seems to be an unlikely one, especially as it turns

preconceptions of studio guy and female singer on their head, as Einar explains. “Rósa’s a DJ back home and she’s got a great knowledge of music and she will tell you all about the coolest things,” says Einar. “I will say all the stupid things. Because I work in the studio all day, I turn off music when I can and, when I listen to the radio; I listen to BBC4, just talk radio. I’ve had enough of music after 8 hours of it. I’m bad like that. I will need a holiday away from the studio then I talk to friends about what I should listen to. But if you’ve got 8-10 hours a day with just music loud in the speakers...well, it’s like chefs are famous for cooking all day and they get home and just don’t want to.” This doesn’t seem to reflect the content of Don’t Be A Stranger, but it does show it to be a truly collaborative project. Again, it shows in what Einar tells us about the music community in Iceland. Collaboration is an entirely natural thing, both because of the struggle to be able to make a living from it and because of each musician’s attitude towards music. “Traditionally, no one survives doing it back home. So generally it’s a passion and no one has an expectation of making a living. It also means they’re really proud of what they do and they don’t fall into ‘I’m doing it like this because this is happening now’. It’s a good environment but lacking places to gig,” Einar continues. “Musicians are really close there, they all play with each other. It’s not unusual that people are in five bands. It’s very likely that someone who is playing here tonight (London venue Lexington’s Ja Ja Ja Club: A Nordic Affair night) has played with someone in Sigur Rós. We’ve never been precious. We play music and if someone says ‘I’m doing an album, come help me out!’ I’ll be like ‘yeah, I love doing albums! I’ll help you out.’” If this is the true spirit of musical communities that thrive under any conditions, the UK should start taking notes fast, especially if it brings with it inspired pop along the lines of Feldberg. PM

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