VOLCANOVA: Interview mit Þorsteinn Árnason
VOLCANOVA: Stoner Rock aus Island
VOLCANOVA haben am 21. August 2020 ihr Debüt-Album „Radical Waves“ herausgebracht, das mir richtig gut gefallen hat – auch wenn Stoner Rock sonst nicht so meine Musik ist. (Die Review könnt ihr HIER lesen.)
Neugierig darauf geworden, wer hinter der Band steckt, wie die Jungs sich gefunden und dann den Stoner Rock in VOLCANOVA-Manier entwickelt haben, habe ich ihrem Bassisten Þorsteinn Árnason ein paar Fragen gestellt.
Father and BLACK SABBATH
I associate Stoner Rock with FU MANCHU, KYUSS, California, 80s -Psychedelic Rock, marijuana, jam sessions in the desert, etc. but rather less with Iceland. How did you come to play this music? Where or through whom did you get to know this kind of music?
I guess you could say that I´ve been listening to stoner/doom since I was a little kid with Black Sabbath on vinyl with my father, although I had no idea at the time that I was listening to some very important pioneers.
But I remember really getting my foot into the stoner rock around 10-12 years ago, I saw Brain Police play here in Iceland along with Brant Bjork and The Bros and that was the first time for me seeing Brain Police and it was pretty spectacular, especially to see Brant Bjork of course. After that I started getting into bands like Clutch, The Sword, Fu Manchu and so on although I had been listening to bands like Mastodon and Gojira. But at the time I remember I was more into prog metal, but not so much now. Then I started a band in my hometown in 2009 and we played some kind of stoner metal.
You come from different parts of Iceland. How / where did you get to know each other? Do you all live in Reykjavík by now? Where do you rehearse?
Sammi [Samúel Ásgeirsson (Vocals, Gitarre)] had seen me and Dagur [Dagur Atlason (Drums)] play with our previous bands and he knew that both of us were moving to Reykjavík, there were some changes going on with the band so he contacted us and asked us if we would be interested in joining the band. So me and Sammi really didn’t know each other when we joined the band, but me and Dagur were good friends.
And yes, we all live in Reykjavík now and we rehearse at our practice room in Reykjavík which we call “Helvíti” or “Hell”. So when we want to write some good tunes we go to hell.
“When we want to write some good tunes, we go to hell.”
Who came up with the idea for the band name?
It came up in class a long time ago when they were teaching Sammi about the Icelandic landscape and natural disasters.
You have been playing together for a few years and have played a number of shows (among others) with SÓLSTAFIR, THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, ELDER. So you had quite a few songs ready. Why did your fans have to wait for an album until a few days ago?
Although the band was formed in 2014, me and Dagur didn´t join the band until autumn days of 2017. So you can say in a way, that a new band was formed with an old name. We started writing songs straight away and played our first show around 4 or 5 months later. At our first shows, we did play one or two old songs from the previous version of the band and one of them ended up on “Radical Waves” which is “Mountain”.
A little less than a year later after we first met or in August 2018, we entered the studio to record “Radical Waves” which was fully composed at the time. We took almost another year to record it, mostly because of work, school and so on and to find time with our producer. After the album was finished, we started label hunting, because it was never really in the picture to release it by ourselves, so that took another year. So three years later after we first met, we finally got to release “Radical Waves”.
How did you come to The Sign Records? Did you write new songs for „Radical Waves“ or did you use the songs that were already tried and tested?
After we finished the album, we went searching for labels and The Sign was one of the label that showed interest in us and we really liked what they were doing and liked some of the bands on the label, so here we are. Like said earlier, only one old song ended up on the album which is “Mountain”, other than that, there were only new songs on it written by us from 2017 to 2018.
Reactions to “Radical Waves”
Your album “Radical Waves” was released on August 21, 2020. How have the reactions been so far?
The reactions have been unbelievable and quite beyond our expectations. We´ve had an endless amount of amazing reviews and we´ve sold quite a few, so we couldn´t be happier or ask for more.
A look at your Facebook page and the videos show that, seemingly, fun plays an important role for you. Or am I wrong about that?
You are definitely not wrong about that, that has always been a theme for all the three of us after we first got together, to not take things too seriously and I think it doesn’t only come through from our lyrics, our music and videos, but also from our live performances.
The album is a quirky mix of partying, serious topics, fun and death. Where do the ideas/the lyrics come from? How does the song-writing work for you? Is everyone involved?
Yes, being all involved is a very big and important part of our composing procedure. But as for the song-writing, there is no exact formula for how it goes. Sometimes the songs come out of nowhere just from jamming on some riffs in the rehearsal room, sometimes one of us comes with a complete song and often one of us comes to rehearsal with some riffs from home, then we jam on them together and if we like what we´re hearing, we take it to the next stage of writing and that’s where composition comes in, where we all take part in, whether it’s coming up with new riffs or gluing together two or more riffs. Usually the singing melody comes last and sometimes we´ve been jamming on some songs for a long time before the singing is added. But when it’s added it´s usually just one of us that comes up with some melodies and then it’s usually up to that one to write lyrics but it can vary, sometimes we write the lyrics and the melodies together.
The Devil likes Sushi
Who came up with the idea for the videos? (Especially “Sushi Sam”?)
Dagur came up with the idea for the Sushi Sam video, he also wrote the lyrics, so the concept about Lucifer roaming earth in a human form and that he has to eat sushi to maintain that form comes completely from Dagur. As for the “Super Duper Van video”, we had some rough ideas but most of the script is written by the producer, Gotti, who made both videos.
Do you have a favourite song on the album? You are the bass player for VOLCANOVA. You once said that you were originally a guitarist, but the band needed a bass player and so you took on that part. Have you come to terms with this position in the meantime or would you rather take on the guitar part?
I think my favorite one from the album is M.O.O.D. Mainly because it’s so heavy and intense and it touches on a sensitive and a personal matter. It was written by Dagur and it’s so perfectly composed in my opinion and I always enjoy it so much playing it live mainly because of its heaviness and intensity like said earlier.
As for now, I´m just pretty cool with playing the bass and the reason could well be that I really just suck at the guitar since I almost entirely quit playing it when I started playing the bass around 18 years ago. But I really just enjoy the bass as an instrument and I always find it charming to have the freedom to dance around the guitar with some nice bass lines.Release-show had to be postponed due to Covid-19
In September you wanted to play at the Hard Rock Cafe in Reykjavík. The show has been postponed to October. Does this have to do with the Covid-19 situation? What has changed for you personally and for the band and how do you deal with it? How is the pandemic affecting the music scene in Iceland?
Yes we had to postpone it because of Covid. We had a little Covid free window this summer here in Iceland and we were pretty optimistic about that gig in September but then they opened the borders for tourists and everything went sideways again. But the situation is under control after they tightened the borders again. So hopefully we can celebrate Radical Waves on Hard Rock on October 17th.
As for me personally, it hasn’t affected me that much. I have a steady job and so on. As for the band, fortunately we got to play a few good gigs this summer, but it has not been the same, it’s annoying not being able to plan other gigs and so on and being forced to postpone gigs. But we managed to keep busy during the lockdown, we recorded some demos and did some stream gigs. But it has affected others a lot more. Everyone in the music scene is affected, especially the ones that depend on the income that comes from live music: artists, sound engineers, light techs, venues and so on and I know a lot of people that are struggling and it’s just really really bad and I feel for every single one of them. And that is of course the case all around the world.
Nothing to do but hope for the best and stay positive and really hope that the government will do something for this super important part of our society.
Dreams: on tour with MASTODON or QOTSA
When the whole situation returns to relative normalcy: do you want to go on tour?
That is our goal although it’s hard to see when that can happen compared to the situation. We´ve already started to look at some dates for next year but you never know how the situation will be. But of course when it’s all over we just want to get out there and play as much as we can, that has always been our goal.
Which band would you like to play a show with or go on tour with?
We are ready to go on tour with almost every band in the world or artist, although we do have a few exciting names in the hat for next year that could well happen. Although the dream tour would be with MASTODON or QOTSA, just to name something. It has also been mentioned to do a tour with our good friends in THE VINTAGE CARAVAN but nothing has been planned and hopefully we can make that happen someday. They have been doing such great things and we really look up to them, both as musicians and also for being just fantastic human beings and good friends, so that would definitely be something that we would be up for.
I have the impression that Icelandic bands are basically always asked to what extent or in what respect the (rough, bizarre, dark) landscape of Iceland has shaped their music. (And I’m just wondering if you’ve ever asked KYUSS how far the landscape or the climate influenced their music. And what they could have answered.) Which aspects of the Icelandic landscape or the climate did you include in the music? Or is the connection only to the volcanoes?
Well that’s quite right, we do get that question a lot and I guess it’s understandable in a way, the landscape here is fantastic and I think being isolated on an Island with this beautiful nature and landscape comes into the picture as well. I’m not sure that VOLCANOVA is intentionally influenced by the landscape or the climate although dark and cold winters might have influenced something in our songwriting.
But you never know, maybe we are influenced every day all day by the midnight sun and the mountains surrounding us or the cold and dark winter nights without knowing it. Looking at the whole picture, I really just think that our music is more influenced by ourselves as individuals and how we fit our ideas together to form our music rather than being influenced by the landscape, but then again, you could also say that the nature and the climate might affect one or two of us more than the other, so I guess you could also say that in a way the band might be influenced by the Icelandic climate and nature.
But that has never been like a big thing for us to try to express that in our music and I think our only connection to volcanoes is the name. VOLCANOVA means new volcano and of course it’s fitting to our environment, since this little island is made out of fire and ice.
Life is a party – and then you die
Did you ever think: Hey, why don’t we write our lyrics in Icelandic as well? Or does that not fit to Stoner Rock?
That actually never crossed our minds I think. I guess you could fit Icelandic lyrics or every language for that matter to every genre but in our case, and since we’re also aiming for foreign market i´m not sure how people would react to it although we´ve had some Icelandic bands that have been very successful outside of Iceland that sing in Icelandic, SÓLSTAFIR for example. Icelandic can also be very tricky and it can be a fine line between writing really good and beautiful lyrics and on the other hand to write horrible lyrics, so sometimes I really just find it easier to write lyrics in English, I also think it would just sound strange but you never know I guess.
What are your next plans?
If everything works out, we will do our release concert on october 17th and then we have a few other gigs planned for the rest of the year. Otherwise we will keep on planning next year and hopefully we can do a good tour or two to follow up on Radical Waves.
Is there anything you would tell our readers to take along?
Just remember dear reader, that life´s a party and then you die!
Mehr Infos zu VOLCANOVA
- volcanova radical waves cover: Palmer Turner Overdrive
- volcanova: Palmer Turner Overdrive
- volcanova interview: Palmer Turner Overdrive