Retro Stefson keeps Reykjavik dancing
Uni Stefánsson from Iceland's Retro Stefson chats to Wolf in Reykjavik ahead of their European tour, their music is to be played loud and danced to furiously.
Retro Stefson is definitely dance music but I would never describe the style of our music, I would just let people listen to it.
The scene in Iceland is very big actually, we have a lot of cool festivals like Iceland Airwaves and it’s always getting a bit more professional every year.
But in Reykjavik you have bands playing every weekend and that's really just our playground to practice just at all the venues around town.
We played here for maybe four-five years before getting really recognised. I mean people knew of us from the start because we’re a really small country, but to make a living out of it you have to play a lot.
It had been groups like Bjork and Sigur Ros that have led the way, in some cases people start to listen to us just because they’ve looked up ‘Icelandic Music,’ because they liked what they heard before. When you see groups like that go out and do so well you want to follow in their footsteps.
I would never say there’s a distinct sound to Icelandic music, but what has influenced us the most is dance music. We like electronic music a lot, world music, house, disco, bands like Talking Heads and Michael Jackson.
The name of the band came about because my father’s name is Stefan, and we’re all sons of Stefansson and Retro was just a word that was cool at the time.
When we play abroad usually people are quite surprised by our sound but then they just start to dance. I like playing in Germany a lot because people know our songs and then I like playing in Iceland and doing hometown gigs. It’s definitely a favourite when we headline in Iceland and we get all of our family and friends. We play at a lot of different places and sometimes it all just melts together.
Iceland Airwaves started as a small festival in an airport hanger of a domestic airport then it grew bigger every year and it's now in its 10th/11th year. A lot of bands have launched their careers there.
The dream festival to play would probably on some beach in South America where everyone knows your songs and everyone dances like crazy as the sun sets.
hen it came to making the video for Glow (below) I actually pitched a different song to the director, he made this idea for the clip and I said well actually I have another song it’s actually going to fit better with the script.
It’s a study on the old kiosk shops in Iceland that have now all gone bankrupt because the bigger supermarkets have taken over. You have a lot of bankrupt shop fronts and a lot of old trademarks that you recognise. So it’s all about the consumer society, then me and my brother are just cycling through it with ice-cream. It’s something all kids can recognise and connect to.
With the clip for Kimba it was the opposite process, we made up the concept to suit the song. We made up a Kimba dance competition so we had the girls there who had just won the European Championship in group gymnastics.
Iceland is recovering from the economic crisis. Everyone who deserves to be paid is getting money now, the flow is back between ticket sales and music gigs. For example we always had huge artists come and play in Iceland, just before the crisis we had 12 artists in one year, like Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton. A year later we had none. This coming summer we finally have big acts again.
It’s crucial for someone from such a small country like us to relocate and share our music in bigger markets such as the UK, Germany and the U.S. Our percussionist has already moved to London to study drama there.
Right after this we’re on a European tour, then home for one week and then again on tour in Eastern Europe. But really we want to play in Australia so hook us up!
Retro Stefson's latest and greatest, She Said it Number One in Iceland at the time of writing! Watch the clip, here.
Words: Laura Phillips