The Icelandic band Hjaltalín will hit these shores once again this month. Delivering their distinctive sounds to attentive audiences, the band members will no doubt have a few surprises up their sleeves – from song covers to film scores.
It has been 3 years, almost to the day, that Hjaltalín last played in Amsterdam and Brussels. And a lot has been going on since then.
First and foremost, the band has released a third, critically-acclaimed album Enter 4. It seems a less orchestral affair than Terminal (released in 2009), yet it is an emotionally-charged platter. During the process of writing/demo-ing this latest album, lead singer Högni Egilsson suffered a prolonged bipolar episode which impacted on the record that emerged. He has previously commented in an interview, ‘The album is about the beautiful and sorrowful aspects of being a human – but it’s a hopeful album, I think.’
I think so too, having seen the band perform tracks from it in a tiny venue last year during Iceland Airwaves. In the next few days, audiences in Brussels and Amsterdam will get to witness the wondrous spectacle of seeing Hjaltalín up-close when the band reaches the end of its current run of dates, which has seen gigs in Germany following two performances at by:Larm last weekend. Here’s hoping we also get treated to the glorious cover of ‘ Halo’.
Scoring music for film
Tonight, Hjaltalín also plays Luxembourg – but that is a whole different story – as there is another project that has been keeping the band busy in recent times. In May 2012, the film Days of Gray received the backing under a crowd-funded project to get the go-ahead and, in October 2013, it had its world premiere at the Reykjavik Film Festival. Now, what has this got to do with Hjaltalín you may well ask? Well, the band has only gone and scored the music for the film and tonight’s screening is one of only three occasions for the movie to have been seen with the band in attendance, performing the live score (the international premiere took place in January in Gothenburg). Here’s the trailer for the film, which by the way is a modern-day silent movie:
Whilst personally being slightly (OK, a lot) disappointed not to be able to witness this cine-concert spectacle, maybe this lovely interview we had with the band will make up for that. A big thanks to Viktor Orri Árnason (the violin player) for taking time out between gigs to chat to us.
Hello Hjaltalín, how are you? What are you upto?
Hello Carmel, we are great thanks! We just started our tour by playing two gigs at by:Larm and had an interesting time in Norway. Now we’re in Berlin on a short break before continuing our tour in Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of our bass player Gummi at a very hip Berlin restaurant. We told the bartender Gummi’s life story to inspire him to mix us a special birthday drink.
Congratulations on your most recent album Enter 4. It seems a simpler (yet highly emotional) record than the orchestral feast of Terminal. How is it received by audiences when you’ve been touring it?
Thank you. You’re right, the music of Enter 4 is very different from the music we used to play. Compared to Terminal, Enter 4 is heavier, more serious, so I think people react on it in a more emotional way. I think it is the biggest challenge of this album, to create the right atmosphere in order to carry out the meaning of the music.
I was lucky enough to see you performing at the most recent Airwaves, squeezed into the tiny Kaffibarinn. Do you prefer small, intimate gigs or bigger ones?
I always prefer playing the more intimate gigs. But the kick you get out of playing on a big stage for a lot of people is also very pleasant. Actually, I think the room needs to be big enough for the music to expand and be perceived in the right way, but as long as we don’t lose the intimacy.
Rather spookily, it is exactly 3 years to the day that you’ll be playing in Amsterdam (10 March). The film, that you scored the soundtrack for recently Days of Gray, is a little spooky, in a post-apocalyptic kinda way, isn’t it?
Hah, yes sure I guess you could say that. It absolutely has some scary elements to it, but generally speaking it is not a scary movie. It is the world of a little boy and his family that we get to know, and the world of the outsiders represented by a little girl, who does not follow the rules. It’s a sort of adventure for the little boy, that after meeting the outsider he starts to discover the boundaries of the rules he’s been taught.
How did you get involved with the film?
It was in Prague, when we played a concert, that the filmmakers Ani Simon-Kennedy and Cailin Yatsko (of Bicephaly Pictures) saw us playing and got the idea to make a movie to our music. They contacted us later with the whole idea and the movie-script that we then really fell in love with.
How have the performances of the live score at the film festivals been for you? How different is it from playing a regular gig?
It’s a great pleasure to play the live score to the movie. To begin with, we have to follow the tempo and the happenings of the movie, but not the tempo within ourselves. We have to relate to the movie when playing, but less the audience. The movie then takes care of relating to the audience. The setup is also very different, it is more quiet, a lot less beat driven.
Both the film score and your album Enter 4 have been nominated for the Icelandic Music Awards 2013. How does it feel to have albums in not one but two categories?
Actually the band got eight nominations in total, so we’re really excited. Both our albums are nominated for the Album of the Year but for different music genres. That feels absolutely fantastic.
Takk fyrir, & good luck for the awards ceremony on 14 March!
Enter 4 – Released 8 September 2013:
Album available via iTunes.