sunnudagur, ágúst 24, 2008
Mammút In the Spotlight @ IMX
Katrína Mogensen (vocals/keyboard/trumpet); Vilborg Ása Dýradottir (bass guitar); Alexandra Baldursdottir (guitar), Arnar Pétursson (guitar), Andri Bjartur Jakobsson (drums/percussion). Hailing from Reykjavik, Iceland, this three girl/two boy team - aged between 18 and 20 – formed in 2004. Three months later they won the annual battle of the bands (Músiktilraunir) competition - the springboard for some of the most promising bands and artists in Iceland.
Since then Mammút have been playing gigs all over Iceland and Europe, including supports with Belgian art rockers dEUS, to great response. Their music has developed into something quite unique; distinctive vocals and angular guitars held together by brilliant melodic bass and innovative drums.
In the last year Mammút have attracted international attention from Rolling Stone journalist Dave Fricke who called them "a really good band", Music Week (UK) who named them as "a band to watch for the future", and the respected http://www.playlouder.com/ website, which described the band as "Incredible".
Mammút's eponymous debut album was released in Iceland in spring 2006 on Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) the label founded by The Sugarcubes and one-time home to Björk and Sigur Rós, to critical acclaim and an Icelandic alternative radio Number One with the single Þorkell.
In the last three years Mammút have played at the annual Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavík, In The City, Manchester, and SXSW (2007). The band’s new album is called Karkari; it includes 11 feisty new songs and is released with 5 different covers in Iceland. It will be released on August 22nd via Iceland’s newest record label, Record Records.
When did you all meet, and what made you decide to form a band?
Arnar, Andri and Kata had been playing together for a short while and Kata had been practicing with Alexandra and Gunna (the former bassist) as well. Then in December 2003 we all played together in a singing contest and won. That was the very first time Arnar and Andri met Alexandra and Gunna. There was an instant connection between us all and there wasn't really any discussion about starting a band, it was just the natural thing to do.
What does “Mammút” mean?
Mammút is the huge elephant lookalike creature which roamed the earth a few years ago, maybe even many. It's just the Icelandic word for "Mammoth". What were the direct benefits of winning the Icelandic Battle Of The Bands? Was it really a powerful stepping stone for Mammut or could you have gotten where you are without it?
It was a total surprise for us. We'd only been playing together for three months at the time and we thought of it like a good gig for us, a chance to play in front of a large crowd. Of course we wanted to win but we never thought that would actually happen. There are a lot of benefits in winning BOTB, it's probably the best thing that happens to a band, at least in Iceland. First of all you get a lot of attention in the media and such and second you get to use Sigur Rós's recording studio (Sundlaugin). We also got a really big and cool poster! We're not sure that we would still be playing if we hadn't won BOTB. We wouldn't probably be releasing our second album now. Winning BOTB is such a great boost, we recommend it to everyone! WIN BOTB!
Your debut landed in 2006 – how would you describe it to those who haven’t heard it?
If we'd have to describe it in just one word it would be “raw”. It's a live album and we didn't really add anything to it afterwards, just the singing. The songs are very simple, no solos or anything like that. It's a very honest album, we were only 16 to 18 when we made it and it's got a bit of a naive touch, but the songs are very catchy as well!
And your new record, Karkari – how would you describe that?
Our new record, Karkari, is completely different from our first. First of all it's not a live album and that changes everything. The song writing is a lot more developed, but simple as well. We think less is more when it comes to music.
More specifically - what aspects of Karkari set it apart from your debut?
We worked a lot harder on Karkari then our debut. The debut was made in kind of a rush but this one was different. We did a lot more thinking and the songs changed quite a lot in the studio. Suddenly the songs we weren't sure we wanted on the album became our best ones!
The album was produced by Axel ‘Flex’ Árnason – did he work on your debut too or was this the first time?
We didn't have a producer on our debut so yes, this was our first time working together.
What did he bring to the table, so to speak?
Simply he just became the 6th member of the band. He brought ideas to table, ideas about making the songs better and his ideas were great most of the time! He went through the whole process with us, from developing the songs and the sound, to eating junk food and cracking jokes with us.
Where was the album recorded and when?
It was recorded in studio Geimsteinn, located in Keflavík, Iceland in May 2008.
The first single Svefnsýkt is a pretty heavy piece of work – how has it been going down?
It's been amazingly popular in Iceland this summer. It was #1 on the hit list at the radio station "X-ið 977" for 3 weeks and stayed in the top 10 for 14 weeks. We are really happy about this.
Mammút - Svefnsykt
You've put this album out through Record Records - why the switch from Smekkleysa?
Record Records is a new record company and they offered us a much better deal than Smekkleysa did for our first album. We also believe Record Records will do a much better promotion for us. Smekkleysa didn't promote us at all, though it was part of the contract!
A lot of your work is funky as well as punky – is this an accurate reflection of your tastes and influences in general?
We do not really think about which kind of music we're making or influences. We just show up at practices and play what ever we think sounds good. We've never decided a genre or anything like that, we don't see the point of that. It's just music!
You’ve been playing a few festivals recently – SXSW, Airwaves, In The City – how have these experiences been?
They've been great! It's just so much fun to go abroad and play for a totally different crowd. It's such a privilege as well to be able to travel with your band and see the world. We're hoping to do a lot of this in the future.
What live/tour plans do you have for the near future?
The next thing to do is to have an album release concert in Iceland. Then playing at Iceland Airwaves and then, hopefully, going abroad and play all over the world!
Mammút @ Gaukurinn (October 2007)
Iceland Music Export (IMX) @ www.icelandmusic.is