Bloodgroup are an electronic-rock band hailing from the tiny town of Egilsstaðir, on the Icelandic East Coast.
Having started out as a largely local concern, the crew – which consists of siblings Hallur, Raggi, Lilja plus Faroese musician Janus and occasionally DJ B-Ruff – have been gaining international notoriety of late with their pop savvy, rock-influenced electronic grooves and ebullient live performances.
Not only have they been causing a major fuss across Iceland, but they’ve also been making a name for themselves at festivals and gigs in London, Berlin and New York. The band recently took their beats and basslines into the studio, emerging with a cracking debut album called “Sticky Situation”.
IMX caught up with band member Hallur to get the low-down…
IMX: So first up, what happens in Egilstaddir? Is there any kind of music scene, or places to party?
Hallur: There isn’t much happening, and nothing we could call a music scene. There are of course some talented people and some bands that have made a fine name for themselves like our friends VAX. It’s a town of only 1600 people so, you know…when I was growing up, there wasn’t much to do other than play guitars and try to form a rock band.
It may sound like an obvious question, but just out of curiosity: does the band name relate to the fact that three of you are siblings?
I understand people would think that, but it has nothing to do with that. Bloodgroup was the name for the project Raggi started with his friend before me (Hallur) and Lilja joined the project and formed the band.
What were the main musical inspirations for forming? Do you tend to listen to mostly international acts or some Icelandic artists too?
I think 50/50 Icelandic and international, but nothing I can directly point out. Björk has inspired us of course. The thing is, we have rock n’ roll kind of backgrounds, so rock music has inspired us a lot.
Who does what in the band?
We write our songs together, in the studio or by bouncing ideas back and forth through the Internet. We produce together too. Most often it’s Hallur, Raggi and Janus. But Lilja has her eyes on things at all times! Janus is the most likely to stagedive; sometimes he uses his head to play the ocapad. Lilja dances a lot on stage, and so does the rest of the band, though we don’t have the same freedom as she has. Benni is the cool one, doing his thing with the turntables. Live, Hallur and Raggi play synthesizers, Janus plays octapad, synthesizers and sings, Lilja sings and Benni does the scratching.
Tell us about your debut album, “Sticky Situation” - where and when was it recorded?
The album was recorded in summerhouses and old community centers on the East-Coast of Iceland. We did all recordings our selves. It was a really fun but hard process. At the time we lived in separate parts of the country so we had to travel a lot. It takes about 8 hours to drive from Reykjavik to Egilsstadir – we went back and forth every weekend for quite a few months.
What kind of ‘concept’ or plan (if any!) did you go into these places with?
We wanted to record the songs that we had been playing live and that made people dance. We wrote most of the songs during practice and really never recorded anything. I don’t think that many electronic bands work like that. There wasn’t much of a plan to be honest, it was just a case of let’s get the album out so we could get the old stuff out of our system - and it feels great, haha! But to be serious we wanted to make a good album to put our name out there and to be able to get to more people.
And how is the album gong down so far?
The album is out here in Iceland and in the Faroe Islands, where Janus comes from, and everything has worked well. It’s been selling even though albums don’t sell in big numbers here, and we have had great reviews in all media. We are just really happy about everything!
From the songs I’ve heard, “Sticky Situation” has a bit in common with Stateside bands like LCD Soundsystem, Radio 4 etc. – do you see yourselves as being connected with that scene, sonically speaking?
Yeah LCD Soundsystem are a great band we have listened to them a lot, and Hot Chip are cool too. I think that in our music you can hear something related to these bands, but we haven’t really thought about it in that way. Our musical soul mates are Skátar, they play kind of experimental indie rock…we love them!
The songs are quite experimental but retain a definite pop edge – is that something you were conscious of? Is making poppy records a goal?
We like to experiment with sounds and structure, but we wanted the album to have some kind of balance, so in a way we were conscious of that. We like for people to be able to dance to our music but also enjoy listening to it. You know, we have always focused on being a live band, and that is reflected in our songs.
Do you still consider yourselves first and foremost a live band?
Yeah, we have always been a live band and it’s our goal to be a good live band. DJ Benni has made a huge difference to the live set. We hope we will have the chance to play all over the world.
Icelandic Music Export (IMX) www.icelandicmusic.is
All photographs by Wim Van Hooste @ Iceland Airwaves 2007