Showcase: Grúska Babúska
Published on August 5th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Grúska Babúska were recommended to us by the mighty Tunng in our recent interview, so we decided to check out their “out-of-space wonky, electronic, synth, melodic, acoustic and twisted Icelandic fairy tale sound” for ourselves.
Suffice it to say, we were impressed with what we heard and wanted to find out more about them. That’s why we fired them over super-inimitable Showcase Q&A, their answers to which – provided by one quarter of the band Harpa Fönn Sigurjónsdóttir – you are advised to sift through while having a ruddy good listen to the following…
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
Hmmm… I think it’s a bit difficult to describe our music. We are four in the band – all from very different backgrounds, both socially and musically. We are amateur, grassroots and professional musicians, as well as electronic, jazzy, folk and classical…and that can naturally both have advantages and disadvantages ;)
We use a lot of vocal harmonies, different melodic synth lines and electronic beats but flavour it with classical guitar, piano, flute, ukulele, drums and percussion. Because of these differences, all of us just had to let go of our usual style – our usual rules – our usual box and comfort zone, and go with what just came and flow with it… :)
And that’s just amazing and feels so genuine and free! So that’s what our music is, perhaps. Something that just came out from a group of four Icelandic, very oddly different girls…
Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?
We are based in Reykjavík, Iceland. We recorded our last album all by ourselves on my Minimac with GarageBand and in my living room… That was turned into a studio for three months, which gave the next door neighbour a lot of fun! But soon we re-recorded some and produced everything in a project studio here in downtown Reykjavík using Pro Tools and Ableton live.
We then mixed the album in Greenhouse Studios, which is an amazing studio here in Iceland, owned by Valgeir Sigurðsson. The album was then mastered in the UK.
Are you signed to a label? If so, how did you come to their attention?
Yes. We are signed to the UK label Static Caravan, and also to the Icelandic online label Synthadelia Records (here in Iceland that is). You should check both these labels out! They are really cool and both focus on wonky music and different releases.
When we had pre-mastered ten of our songs, we put it on a CD and sent to labels all over Europe – labels that we knew to be independent and emerging. One of the labels we approached in this way was Static Caravan and Geoff’s (the owner’s) first thought was: “Hmmm…I don’t know where to place this…but I somehow really like it!” And when we told Geoff more about the release, that we wanted to release the music on a usb-babuskha-doll, he totally got it and we teamed up.
Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like…)
Yes there is. We went to a cabin here in Iceland in March and April with a lot of percussion, synths, a guitar and a mic, and recorded some ideas that we are now turning into a full album. We are going to a studio here in Iceland called Hljóðheimar to pre-record and work on the songs. The new songs are turning out to be more melancholic somehow, more electronic, and perhaps more serious and less poppy…but we are still having a lot of fun, which is the most important thing and trying not to get too serious…
Hmmm…we don’t know why the direction is shifting a bit, but maybe the long Icelandic winter had this effect on the new music ;) But we are still following the same vibe from the old songs. We are still breaking the rules and making music from the heart. It’s all super exciting!
Where can we hear your music online?
Just check out Synthadelia Records. You can also google Grúska Babúska and it will turn up with free streaming of the album. Or order the usb-babuskha-doll from Static Caravan’s website. The babuskha doll can also be bought in record shops here in Iceland.
Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?
Definitely the mini tour we had in London… Ohh yeah, that was amazing! We played the Windmill in Brixton, The Dublin Castle and the Boogaloo – all very different venues and we earned some dear friends and fans from all over the world, from death metal rockers in Dublin Castle, to wonky folk bands playing with us at the Windmill.
We have also played some very exciting gigs in Iceland, one in a former fish factory, during one of the biggest snow-storms here in Reykjavík – by candle light and lovely people all wearing scarfs, hats and Icelandic sweaters. Also Iceland Airwaves (annual music festival in Reykjavík) last year was pretty awesome, as always.
Our next couple of gigs will maybe be the most exciting, though – as on August 31st we will put up a show in the very interesting and wonky house and compound of the eccentric infamous Icelandic film maker Hrafn Gunnlaugsson, and this fall we will be performing acoustically in a cave nearby Reykjavík.
Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)
Ooops… I’ve already kind of answered that question… :) But we are also playing the Melodica Acoustic Festival here in Iceland in August, and we are also going to release a B-side of the babuskha usb stick in September/October. It will be an online release with the four songs that did not make it on the “album”.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Yes, sooo many. But what comes first up in mind now is the Icelandic musician DJ Flugvél og Geimskip. She is our hero and we’ve been lucky enough to perform with her, and hope to do again in the nearby future! Also, the Icelandic prog rock band Caterpillarman are worth a big shout-out, as well as Kria Brekkan, Amiina, Pascal Pinion, Sin Fang, Cheek Mountain Thief, Goodbye Leopold (they are amazing! singing lyrics backwards), and Low Roar’s new project is sounding amazing, as well as Mikael Lind. (ok. I will stop now… :))
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Hmmm… Only five! Well, Neil Young definitely. And Björk (obviously;)). The Beatles, Iron and Wine and Faith No More (or can I say everything by Mike Patton?) and the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk I would love to bring along for a little dance raving every now and then.
Harpa Fönn Sigurjónsdóttir, thank you.