Two Little Dogs TLD
Interview by Magnus Axelsson
Jan Mayen have been steadily building a reputation as one of Iceland's most promising young alternative rock bands. This August saw the release of their second full-lenght CD, while their first CD got them various nominations for the Icelandic Music Awards in 2005. Their music has been described as a combination of loud rock with pop and noise influences and critics have said their music sound something like Sonic Youth, Minute Men, The Strokes, The Ramones, The Rapture, Pretty Girls Make Graves and Liars. They will appear at the second Reykjavik Nights in London on September 26th.
Two Little Dogs got hold of singer Valgeir and had a little chat with him.
TLD: How and when did this all start?
The band formed around 2002-3 when it dawned on me, Ágúst and Vidar that we didn't want to be in a band with anybody else. We wrote down the band's prime directives and have stuck to them ever since. The prime directives were that we'd have two guitars in the lead, concentrate on catchy melodies and fun songs, no f**king crap. We wanted to fit ourselves within a classic pop-structure, but blow up everything inside it, i.e. we'd have verses and choruses but let go of unnecessary repetitions and cliches. The pop we play is logical but not predictable.
At first there were only the three of us with no bassist, but we got a bassist in order to record the first EP in fall 2003. It got rave reviews and a year later we released a full-length CD on Bad Taste entitled "Home of the Free Indeed". Following this release we got a few nominations for the Icelandic Music Awards, but we lost to Björk. Since then she is our sworn enemy.
On the next album, (the recently released "So Much Better Than Your Normal Life") we wanted the drums and bass to be more prominent, and thus got Sveinn Helgi Halldórsson on bass, and we now consider the band fully formed. We took some time to adapt to this new situation, and the end result is the new album which we are currently busy promoting.
TLD: What have you been doing in music apart from Jan Mayen, have you played in other bands as well?
I was just a kid when we started this band and had never performed with another band. Vidar and Agust used to be in some garage bands playing some kind of industrial/experimental goth rock. Sveinn, on the other hand, had already proved himself as one of the younger generation's most promising bass player, first in the band Rými and then in punk band Æla (which occasionally visits the UK).
We're all meddling with some other type of music as well which doesn't belong in Jan Mayen, 'cause the band's mission is crystal clear - no bullshit.
TLD: Tell me a little about the new album.
We recorded the album in two sessions, each session lasting one weekend. Then we took some time to mix and add various details to the songs, until we were perfectly happy with the outcome. The album was mostly recorded live 'cause that's how we got the best groove, which I think is evident when you listen to the album. Also, for the first time, we worked with a professional, a guy called Eberg who has himself been in the spotlight as musician recently, as a kind of digital troubadour. Working with him proved to be extremely productive, he had never recorded a live rock band like us and he undoubtedly learned a whole lot from this, and we learned a lot from him as well about creating sound as well as generating noise.
The album itself is just one hit after another. If you look closely it's one continuous story from beginning to end. It's about a young man who escapes unharmed from a horrible car accident. He starts believing he's immortal and slowly loses grip on reality, until in the last song he finally gets a reality check. The album was not intended to be a concept album, but we nevertheless like telling a continuous tale throughout it.
TLD: How is this album different from your previous ones?
We put a lot more effort into this one, the sound quality is far better, it's a lot more "live" than anything we've done before. The other albums are great also, there are only hits on them as well, but we recorded them ourselves in the drummer's garage, and to tell the truth we didn't care much about the quality of the recordings, we just wanted them to sound raw. When we recorded the first EP, we thought the sound was far too bad but for some reason people recognised that this was good quality pop music and bought the EP and came to concerts. This new album is different in that the raw element is now in the way the songs are written, but not in the recording itself.
TLD: Is this first EP available for purchase somewhere?
Nope. Perhaps on Ebay. But both the LP's are available and well worth it.
TLD: What's with the name, Jan Mayen?
Jan Mayen is a small island far north in the Atlantic ocean. It's smaller, colder and less populated than Iceland, kinda more Icelandic than Iceland is. We thought this was an excellent name, and then we also wanted to be a link in the chain of bands who call themselves after places, like Europe, Asia, America, Boston, Chicago etc.
TLD: What does the future hold for Jan Mayen?
Next we'll just play as much as we can. We play a lot of concerts in Reykjavik, and we always get a good crowd there. We're also gonna tour around the country and play in whatever crummy place we can find and carry our reputation far and wide. Of course we're also heading to London to play at Reykjavik Nights in London.
TLD: Have you toured abroad so far?
We've toured a little, mostly in Scandinavia, but we're just whetting our appetite in that regard. We've played in London once, then John Kennedy at Xfm asked us to come and play a song on his radio show and also play at an Exposure night in the Marquee. It was fun, but this time it will be even more fun.
TLD: How do you feel about playing Reykjavik Nights and what can the British audience expect from you?
We're thrilled to the max. We get a chance to reach a much wider audience which is great, the most fun thing we do is play concerts and win the crowd over. At the core Jan Mayen is a live band, and best enjoyed as such. The audience will get a fistful of fun and groove straight in the face. It won't matter if people are jumping around and slamming, or just nodding and smiling, Jan Mayen will always acquire a place in peoples heart's and have them begging for more.