Members of Jakobinarina
Ágúst Fannar Ásgeirsson [Keyboard]
Björgvin Ingi Pétursson [Bass]
Gunnar Ragnarsson [Vocals]
Hallberg Daði Hallbergsson [Guitar and back vocals]
Heimir Gestur Valdimarsson [Guitar]
Sigurður Möller Sívertsen [Drums]
His Lyrics are disastrous 7" on Rough Trade (UK)
Interview in www.reykjavik.com by Hanna Björk Valsdóttir
Fresh Body Movin' Electro Indie Rock!
Jakóbínarína are the local heroes of the moment. The rise to success was stupendous, with most band members still at school. They formed in late 2004 with impressive highlights so far: Battle of the Bands, Iceland Airwaves, Rolling Stone, South by Southwest and now most recently, the Rough Trade label. This autumn sees the release of their much anticipated debut album.
The 12 Tónar store is the understated empire of Icelandic music. Jakóbínarína are jumping around on the weathered couches. It seems the store has changed into their second home. They just came back from doing interviews at local radio stations introducing their first single: His lyrics are disastrous. Jonni from 12 Tónar suggests I take them to Café Babalú up the street on Skólavörðustígur. They all seem hyper from being on the air or maybe they are just excited about the new single. As we are about to leave the store the mailman arrives with a large envelope from Rolling Stone. The boys are excited. Pretty cool to be sixteen, from the small town of Hafnarfjörður on the outskirts of Reykjavík and have David Fricke, the editor of Rolling Stone, mention your band in the story "Five bands that broke out of South by Southwest." Mr. Fricke has been a fan of the band since he saw them perform at the Iceland Airwaves music festival last October and that's when things started to get crazy for the young boys.
When I take them to Babalú I realize just how young they are. They have never been there before, they don't even drink coffee and they are not used to the smoky air. Gunnar points to his bracelet that says: "No Smoking." They are sixteen and seventeen and will finish their exams for this year and then they are leaving school to tour the world. Seems like they are too young to be dropping out of school but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As Gunnar explains: "The Icelandic school system won't collapse while we're on tour. We can always go back to school later. Playing our music is what we really want to do. It seems like a waste of time to be writing a psychology report for school when I could be practicing or writing more songs."
Friendship in Hafnarfjörður
Gunnar is the singer and the most talkative one; he also seems to be the responsible one. During the interview he keeps giving Hallberg, the guitar player, a particular look when he doesn't want him to reveal something. Hallberg has all the witty answers and when they start joking about girls (like typical sixteen year olds; I didn't bring up the subject) Gunnar says, "Please, my mother will read this." The bass player Björgvin is the smallest and quietest of the boys but every time he opens his mouth the others laugh hysterically. When the interview is over he has to rush to work at a Bónus supermarket. Maybe their recent fame hasn't changed their lives so much.
They all went to the same school and had been in different bands when Jakóbínarína was born in late 2004 and in February 2005 they won the Battle of the Bands. "We only had two songs when we entered the competition and we wrote the third song the week before we went on stage," says Gunnar. "It was just the five of us then, Heimir joined later." Heimir, the guitar player, is the oldest of the boys, he is actually nineteen, and away with his girlfriend. The drummer, Sigurður and keyboard player Ágúst, are also busy the day the interview took place. "Winning the Battle of the Bands is just an opportunity and we had to use it," says Hallberg. "We started practicing like crazy, writing a bunch of songs and playing as many gigs as possible."
Media Frenzy and the Rolling Stone
The next big break for these youngsters came at the Iceland Airwaves festival last October when they played to a room full of locals and David Fricke, who wrote in the Rolling Stone that Jakóbínarína was the highlight of the festival.
"For weeks we couldn't open the newspaper without seeing our faces. They kept finding just one more thing to write about and every time there was a new feature," says Hallberg with a hint of sarcasm and the others laugh. It must be fun to be sixteen and have your face in the paper every day even if you think it's ridiculous. "We just thought it was funny. We had no idea who David Fricke was but we saw all the Icelandic music celebrities at our show and were really excited about that. But now we know David and he's a really cool guy, like cut from a band picture of the Ramones. He's seen two of our shows and gave us really good reviews both times. He's cool," says Gunnar.
First Trip to Rock 'n' Roll Land
"We've had meetings with all of our parents, they are with us all the way," says Hallberg. When they went to play at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas they were accompanied by two dads and the guys from 12 Tónar label to whom they now refer as dads also.
I ask the boys if they felt more pressure playing outside of Iceland for the first time and to play a festival like South by Southwest but they try to convince me it is easier. "It's much easier because the people don't know us. At home if we mess up everybody in the crowd will notice. I'm never nervous before a gig. I love playing and love it when people dance and we jump into the crowd. We are doing this for ourselves and it's all about us having fun, we don't think about the rest. It's what we enjoy the most," explains Björgvin, for the first time being serious. "Nothing has changed since we were all messing around at our school, it's just us hanging out and writing songs," says Gunnar.
Their live performance is really a joy to watch. Six energetic boys running around the stage, some with instruments almost the same size as them. And they all got the moves. "We're brilliant dancers after a lifetime of practice at our school," says Björgvin. "We're not exactly following a dance tradition or a particular style, we just move the way our emotions tell us to," says Gunnar, "and during the xfm awards (awards held by a local radio station where Jakóbínarína won best new artist) the legendary Rúnar Júlíusson (grandfather of rock 'n' roll in Iceland) came on stage and said maybe I should learn Jakóbínarína's moves and started dancing like Björgvin does," says Gunnar enthusiastically and gets up from his chair to show me the moves obviously very proud.
Our Songs Deserve to Be Heard
After Iceland Airwaves there was a lot of hype around the band and labels started to show interest. After being voted one of five best bands at SXSW in Rolling Stone, they decided to sign to Rough Trade and are very happy about releasing their first album with them. "We will tour as much as we can and take this album as far as we can take it," says Hallberg. The boys are fiercely determined to make it big. "Our songs deserve to be heard so we will promote them as much as we can. I think the songs are really good; people will really like them like we do. This is our passion," says Gunnar. "It's our life," says Björgvin. "We do everything for the band now," says Hallberg.
What about parties and other stuff that comes with fame?
"We're sixteen, sure crazy parties and girls," says Gunnar laughing, "I mean if we wanted to we could." Hallberg explains, "Things have changed, couple of years ago we wanted to know all these people on the music scene but now they want to know us. It's such a small scene, we know everybody now." They think it is funny. "The first person to show up at our gigs was Jónsi from Sigur Rós. We really appreciated that. He was our first celebrity fan. Now Alex his boyfriend is designing the cover for our single. That makes us really happy," says Björgvin.
What makes you so good?
"We've got such a big heart," says Björgvin and the others burst out laughing once again. "We are very ambitious and we are always very well-rehearsed. We try to write new songs all the time and if they are not good enough we throw them away," says Gunnar. "We're just boys who grew up together, we went through puberty together. That's what our songs are about, they're a great document about puberty," says Gunnar and something tells me they will continue to grow together as friends and as a band. Their journey has just begun.
Interview with JAKOBINARINA in The North Face
27th January 2007 (Rough Trade record label)
Icelandic six piece Jakobinarina or for short 'Jako' are heading to Sunderland to represent Club NME and play The Independent. TNP asks lead singer 'Gunnar' a few questions...
What is Jako all about and how did you form?
We just met in school and we all live in the same street. And so we just formed, started to play some musical instruments and fooled around. And it evolved. We started out in 2004, however then there was only five of us, but now we are six.
What does Jakobinarina mean?
Jakobina is an Icelandic girls name, it’s a play on words.
What inspires your music?
We listen to so many bands, we listen to a lot of rap, recently Wu Tang Clan. We also listen to the Stone Roses and The Smiths. The Futureheads, we like alot and the first album is very good.
How would you describe your sound?
Its very fast, when we are recording its not just one kind of music, it passes through different genres. We are experimenting.
You have been compared to a lot of bands but whom would you most like to be compared to?
Erm…The Beatles? Just because they are so good.
So what's next for Jako and where do you see your self in a years time?
Hopefully just touring and presenting our album all over the world.
So are live shows equally as important as recording?
Yeah, yeah that’s our whole band really, its very energetic. We have always been very energetic live.
What have you been up to in the UK?
We have been recording our debut album, with a good producer. We have finally found one that hits the spot. His name is Stan Kybert, he’s worked with lots of people throughout the years. We hope it will be a good collaboration. And I am very satisfied with the results.
What can we expect from your live show in Sunderland?
It will be very energetic, and we hope Sunderland joins in. It should be a great gig!
David Fricke in Rolling Stone
Six charming, rollicking youths from Hafnarfjordur, Iceland
If the name looks like a mouthful, take heart: "You can call us Jako," singer Gunnar Ragnarsson announced before these precocious ravers (five of the six members are still in high school) proved youth is not wasted on the young. The band writes short, sharp songs bursting with teenage ennui ("Power to the Lonely"), fires them up with double-guitar jangle, then plays them at hyperspeed -- like the Arctic Monkeys with smiles. Jakobinarina are cutting three tracks for their debut single, two of which will be produced by Sigur Ros producer Ken Thomas. Prepare to be charmed.