Straight outta the Reykjavik suburbs (Hafnarfjördur to be precise) come Jakobínarína. Comprised of Gunnar (vocals), Heimir (guitar), Hallberg (guitar), Björgvin (bass), Ágúst (keyboards) and Sigurður (drums), this youthful, wildly energetic six-piece specialize in a highly infectious pop-punk sound that draws on classic rock & roll, surf and 60s garage.
The band captured the imaginations of critics and punters with their enthusiastic live performances across Iceland at a time when most of them were still at school. They have continued to take the world by storm via a recent international tour and their feisty debut album: “The First Crusade”.
Featuring catchy singles like “His Lyrics Are Disastrous”, “This Is An Advertisement” and “Jesus” "Call For Advice”, “The First Crusade” is a brash and beautiful wake-up call for pissed-off adolescents (and grown-ups) the world over…
First up, where does the name Jakobinarina come from?
Hallberg: It’s from the name of one of our old schoolteachers, Jakobina - our bassist had a crush on her. I guess it’s a tribute to, although we haven’t met her. We were just pissing him off.
Your success in the last couple of years has been pretty meteoric – how has it all felt from your perspective?
Hallberg: It’s been fun. We weren’t surprised to be honest, but we also didn’t expect it. It just felt…normal. It hasn’t been so quick from our point of view. Maybe we just always had that confidence, but I also think we were lucky. We got good managers afterwards.
What are the best and worst things about fame so far?
Hallberg: Touring in Europe and America were some of the best things, and getting a deal in America. But it’s all been a lot of fun, from the playing to the recording. Playing with the Kaiser Chiefs was a definite highlight. It was totally different playing in the UK and in Europe. In the UK no one really gives a shit, but the crowds were a bit better in Europe. I think our best shows overall were Berlin and our last one in Belgium. We really won the crowd over at those shows. NYC was also great.
Gunnar: The best thing is seeing all of these beautiful cities. We would have never seen them without being in the band - Paris, NYC, Berlin…all incredible. My favourite is NYC. It’s so unique and a wonderful city.
Did any girls throw their pants at you during your recent tour?
Hallberg: Not yet, but it would be fun.
Gunnar: No. Mmm. Maybe once.
You’ve just released your debut album, “The First Crusade” - where was it recorded and who was involved?
Hallberg: We recorded it once with Ken Thomas [Sigur Ros, Sugarcubes] but halfway through we had a dilemma with our Icelandic label and froze everything for a year. At the beginning of this year we recorded and mixed again, and we’ve toured right up until now. We recently decided to stop touring and come home to write some more songs. We were tired of playing the same songs; some of them are two years old, and we wouldn’t have had fun if we had carried on. But I couldn’t be more happy with the album as it is. It came out perfectly. We couldn’t really imagine how it would be when we were making it, but I love it.
Gunnar: I love the songs for what they are but it’s the music we wrote when we were 16. Looking back, we still stand by them ‘cos they describe really well how you are when you’re 16. I’m still fascinated with the teen angst, all that Marlon Brando and James Dean stuff, and I’m definitely proud of the record.
Who does the songwriting in the band?
Hallberg: Nowadays we all do it together. Everyone does their part.
Gunnar: We have a gang mentality.
What were the main things you wanted to achieve with the album? Was there a plan or an audience in mind?
Hallberg: We just recorded the songs one by one, based on what we liked. Song number six on the album is a surfy track, which we did it because we liked it even though it pretty much breaks the album in half as it’s not like anything else. We really liked that approach. I don’t know if we’ll continue that way but that’s how the first album worked.
Who were you listening to when you wrote or recorded the songs on “The First Crusade”?
Hallberg: When we wrote the oldest songs we listened to a lot to Futureheads, but then we grew out of that and started listening to a lot of 60s music, and stuff like Wu Tang Clan. But we would never try to do something that someone else has already done. When we were mixing the album we listened a lot to “Low” by David Bowie. We especially enjoyed the drums.
What did you discover about yourselves as a band by making the album?
Hallberg: We discovered that we’re not really alike, any of us. That we are all completely different people. It was never boring when we were recording it. It was never work, which is the way it should be. If it’s not fun we shouldn’t be doing it. Sometimes I see other bands playing and think ‘why are they doing it if it’s not fun’. And right now, it’s still a whole lot of fun.
You don't seem to like mediocrity in music very much…
Gunnar: Of course. You don’t wanna write a song and have it be somewhere in the middle. You want to write something radical.
Is life in Hafnarfjördur/Iceland really as bad as parts of the album suggest?
Hallberg: Yeah. Moving away is what we think about every day. There’s nothing else to do. Our friends all think the same thing. Reykjavik is just one street. You go to the same two bars and there’s nothing else. If I could move out I’d go to New York or Berlin.
Gunnar: Iceland isn’t a horrible country, it’s just so small and you know everyone, which can be an advantage and a disadvantage. We are not like other European countries. Here you have to go to a government shop to get alcohol. It’s not as free as other countries. The worst thing is that it’s not that exciting, it’s very small for us, and you can’t explore anything new. If you live in bigger cities you can get more inspiration. I think that’s normal when you’re young - you don’t wanna be in the same place you were brought up.
What's the best thing about living in Iceland?
Hallberg: The people. All the people that hate it are the best people. They are all my friends. I would miss them, but we all wonder why the fuck we live here.
Gunnar: The best thing for me is coming home to see my friends.
How about the new material – have you written much already?
Hallberg: Not a lot. But some of it is really futuristic. It’s not sounding the same as our current album material, but it’s equally as exciting.
Gunnar: I think the next album will be more self-conscious, but that’s OK. We still write what we want to and we still want to experiment. At the moment we’re liking a lot of 80s pop music.
What's next for Jakobinarina now that the album has been released?
Gunnar: Girls and stuff, probably. The first album covers all the things I dreamed about doing when I was younger, but now I’ve had experience in many of those things so we have to move on and get new experiences…
Icelandic Music Export (IMX): www.icelandicmusic.is