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Mammút Interview and Exclusive A Cappella Performance

Music Reviews :: 11.15.17

Far away in a conference room in Akureyi, Iceland, 88.9’s Alex Waters caught up with the band Mammút. 

Check out the full video interview, including an exclusive a cappella performance right here

Alex Waters: You just got back from a European tour… Just got back from Switzerland, is that right?

Ása Dýradóttir: Yep!

Alex: So, what’s next for you guys? Obviously you’re playing a few shows over the festival, but then where is it off to?

Arnar Pétursson: Toronto. Wednesday, we’re going there, and then we’re doing another Europe tour after that, mostly in the U.K.

Ása: So we’re basically playing until December 2nd or 3rd.

Alex: Okay, so a nice long tour as well. That’s good. So are you staying busy writing music in the meantime?

Katrína Mogensen: Yeah, we try to. We try to make every hour count with something that is related to the band, which we would like to be only music. But lots of other stuff you have to run around when you’re in a band.

Alex: It’s been all about the music for a little while! I know way back in 2004 you won the Icelandic “battle of the bands” competition… Musiktilrauner. I can imagine that sets pretty high expectations. How do you, as a band, deal with that? Does it still come up? Do people still say, “Hey, you’re the winner of the battle of the bands”?

Ása: Yeah, like now.

Katrína: Yeah, this is happening right now!

{Whole band laughs}

Alex: I guess it is, isn’t it? Does it happen beyond this meeting room?

Katrína: Yeah, but it’s 2004, so it’s so way back. But it has been nice to go abroad {where} that sticker isn’t stuck your forehead all the time. In Iceland, there’s so many good bands that won this competition. So many bands like Kaleo, Of Monsters and Men, Samaris. Lots of bands that have done big stuff, so it’s a great battle of the bands competition we have on this island.

Alex: And definitely an honor to win it, I imagine.

Katrína: A big honor.

Alex: Speaking of all the wonderful music out of this tiny, little island, there’s 200 bands at this music festival. So obviously you’re going to your own shows. Who else are you checking out, though, over the course of the next couple days? Have any favorites?

Ása: We want to see Mura Masa tonight, but it’s in such a small venue, so we’re going to have to see.

Arnar: Ásgeir, we’re thinking about seeing him. He’s on after us so we’re going to see him. And maybe GKR, an Icelandic rapper.

Katrína: Gangly is playing, I think, too. There is a special thing about Icelandic bands going to see other Icelandic bands at the Airwaves Festival. Because this festival started out with just Icelandic bands playing. So it’s a big festival for us here.

Alex: {Looks to Alexandra and Andri} You two have been a little quiet; who are your favorites at the festival?

Alexandra Baldursdóttir: We are actually playing before Michael Kiwanuka on Saturday, so I’m very excited to see him.

Alex: We love him over at WERS as well!

Alexandra: Yeah!

Katrína: We were listening to him in the car.

Andri Bjartur Jakobsson: I really want to see Ásgeir and I was listening to Songhoy Blues too. I really like them. But I don’t know if we can see everything we like, ‘cause we’re playing a lot. So we’ll just have to see.

Arnar: Let’s not forget about Hatari, we’re going to try to see them as well.

Alex: I’ve heard very good things about Hatari, for sure.

Ása: To see them live, it’s crazy.

Alex: What sort of tricks are you bringing to your own live show, now here in Iceland? Where perhaps you might have to “internationalize” your image for other crowds, what are you able to do here at home that maybe makes this show unique?

Ása: I think we never had a set like we have now. We’ve been playing so much from the new album, so to us, it’s like a new set. No one here has seen it, so we’re really excited.

Alex: That’s very exciting, yeah. So, looking forward to sharing all of that music, I’m sure. The new album’s been pretty well-taken, I think, by both critics and fans alike. And I know there are a lot of cool songs on there that some people have said is sort of your foray into the international world of rock ‘n’ roll. Is that how you see it as well? Or is it still an expansion, perhaps, of the Icelandic spirit? Is it more of an international attempt?

Ása: It’s in English, so yes.

Arnar: Yeah, so we know that it is, definitely. But it’s also just like a basic next step for us to take.

Ása: It still has the Mammút spirit.

Katrína: We’re always changing. We hope we’re not just making an album after album that is the same, because we find it’s nice to change as persons, and the music comes along with that. Always when we come out with an album, we always think it’s the best album we’ve ever made.

Arnar: It usually is!

Katrína: So the moment that we write an album that is worse than the other one, then maybe we quit.

{Everyone laughs}

Katrína: No no, or just take two steps ahead on the next one!

Ása: Or just quit. {Laughs}

Alex: Or just quit. I don’t think anybody wants you to quit though. So what’s that process like, coming from the background of writing Icelandic lyrics and deciding, this time around, it’ll be all in English? Is there a learning curve there?

Katrína: I write the lyrics, but it is a conversation, of course, we have as a band. It’s a big decision; it’s not a decision I take as a lyricist. But it is a quite big step. A very necessary step for us to open new doors to get more people in, and to connect with the language. Because the language is a very strong thing for connecting. But at the moment we’re very happy with going abroad, playing the US and Europe, and you can feel this extra connection with the audience, so that is very important to us.

Alex: So which do you like better? Writing in English or Icelandic?

Katrína: At the moment, I like it in English, but that’s because it’s the current thing that is happening. It was my first try to write poetry in English. I’m very happy with it now, but maybe we’d go back to Icelandic, or continue with English. We’ll see.

Alex: Lots of possibilities.

Katrína: Always lots of possibilities.

Alex: Musically speaking, I think there’s a difference. I was listening to your album {Kinder Versions} earlier this morning and also on my flight in, because Iceland Airwaves puts it on their in-flight entertainment. So if it’s good enough for them…

{Band chuckles}

Alex: What is that like, to know that in this musical community, you’re sort of the “showcase artist”? That people going to Iceland, if they want to listen to a band on their flight… You’re one of the only Icelandic options. How does that make you feel?

Katrína: I didn’t know that actually!

{The whole band laughs}

Katrína: So it’s great news, and I think it’s a perfect pick for people to listen to. {laughs}

Andri: It’s an honor, yeah.

Alex: So I know you’ve also won some Icelandic music awards, so really, from the get-go, you’ve been a band of winners.

Alexandra: But slow winners. We’ve been growing very slowly, but that’s why nothing comes as a surprise.

{Katrína and Alexandra make slow inclination with their hands}

Alex: A slow burn.

Alexandra: {points upwards} But we’re going up! That’s a good thing. We’re not going slowly down. {laughs}

Alex: That is a very good thing. So then, in your minds, what is the ideal next step? In this slow ascension as a band, what’s the next milestone you hit?

Katrína: It’s just to make a living out of it, so we can just have more time and more opportunities. I think it’s always just to move forward and get to grow into it more and just be in it.

Alex: {To Ása and Arnar} You agree?

Ása: Yes.

Arnar: No. {Laughs} I don’t…

Alex: The scandal! What is your dream, Arnar?

Arnar: That was a joke, but I want to be a superstar. And I am going to be. We are going to be.

Katrína: You want to be a singer!

Arnar: Yes, but since I discovered karaoke, I no longer have the need to be the front man, because I just get to get it all out there. {To Katrína} So you can just continue.

Katrína: {Laughs} Thank you Arnar!

Alex: The karaoke stars of Mammút, solving their differences right here.

Arnar: We were doing our first a cappella tonight.

Katrína: Let’s do it now!

They proceed to break into an amazing a cappella.

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