Dauðyflin is an intense and caustic hardcore band from Iceland with releases out on Iron Lung, Erste Theke Tonträger and Paradísarborgarplötur. In their short lifespan they’ve managed to make some of the most enjoyably difficult-to-listen-to music currently going, which is definitely something to applaud. All members of the band took the time out to answer some of my dub questions, for which I am infinitely grateful. The guilty parties are:
Okay, let’s start with the stock zine stuff: could you please tell us a bit about the band – how, where, when and why did the band get together?
Júlíana: Me, Fannar and Alexandra had been in a couple of bands together before and we wanted to start another one so we brought in Dísa, who we knew was likeminded and could play bass.
What was the original thinking behind the band? Did you work out a specific game plan, or just start making noise and see how things turned out?
Fannar: I think the original idea was just make a band that people could mosh and pogo to, and to have anti-social, violent, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
Dísa: Yes, we knew we wanted to play something kind of heavy and fast and then things just evolved from there. I don’t think we had a specific game plan in mind, we just wanted to play music together.
How (if at all) has the band’s outlook and approach to making music changed over the past couple of years? Have these been conscious shifts, or organic ones?
Júlíana: I think the shifts have been mostly organic. They might have somewhat to do with us getting slightly better at playing together and me learning to play guitar.
There’s something weird about Dauðyflin’s music: there’s a lot going on and it all sounds crazed and thoroughly chaotic, but at the same time there seems to be a lot of focus. How do you go about constructing a song, and what would you say the essential ingredients of Dauðyflin’s sound are?
Fannar: We usually just start with a riff that someone brought to practice or stumbled on while just messing around between songs or whatever. Then we just kinda build on that. We’re not super focused on riffs being one way or the other, but we have a way of riffing and drumming and a sound that makes most of what we come up with fit into a sort of cohesive whole I guess.
Dísa: We usually just start out with a riff or two and then build the basic structure of the song from that. Then the layers get added on as we go until we think it sounds good and makes sense as a whole. The essential ingredients are basically just a lot of distortion and feedback, I think.
Fannar: Sometimes we’ll write riffs just by singing something that sounds like it’s from a 50s horror or sci-fi movie, like something that should be a cheesy organ or theremin line, and make a riff from that. Those are some of our best riffs.
To go with the wild music, I always think your artwork is brilliantly idiosyncratic: you use a lot of the punk tropes we might expect (Skulls! Knives! Vomit! Sigils!) but there’s a weird, sideways approach to them – like Nick Blinko designed it for the most warped children’s TV show imaginable. Who comes up with the artwork, and what’s the thinking behind it? Was it your aim to be different, and stand out from all the similar-looking punk records we flip through in the distro box?
Fannar: Me and Júlíana collaborated on the first two releases and then I’ve done the last two. Personally, I just want the artwork to represent the music. I want people to be able to have a basic understanding of what’s on the record just by looking at the cover. It took a couple of releases to sort of figure out what that meant, but I think we got it with the LP and the ‘Dauþiflin’ EP.
Júlíana: The artwork reflects a lot of the aesthetic we are obsessed with, inspired by horror movies and weird cartoons. Me and Fannar can spend hours watching weird YouTube videos and cartoons.
Alexandra: We also wanted to have this juxtaposition of violent imagery and colours people associate with femininity.
What’s going on in Iceland at the moment? Are things healthy in terms of bands / venues / audiences? What kind of crowd do Dauðyflin bring in?
Fannar: Things are pretty okay I guess. We have one small DIY venue downtown and a couple of bars that put on shows. There’s always a lot of music in Reykjavík and there’s a handful of hardcore bands. Almost everyone who is into hardcore in Iceland seems to come at it more from metal than punk, so we don’t really fit in anywhere. We’re maybe not really a heavy band but we’re still aggressive and fucked up. So I’m not really sure we bring in anybody, to be honest. But people seem to like us when we play.
I was lucky enough to go to Reykjavik a couple of years ago, and was struck by how utterly different the Icelandic landscape is – it’s like nowhere else I’ve been. Similarly, the sense of history is very vivid, the island is isolated and the language is very distinct (and very old – I seem to remember reading that the written language had remained largely the same, so that schoolchildren could effectively read the Eddas?). What I guess I’m winding up to here is me wondering whether this might create any sense of ‘apartness’ that you’re conscious of? The Icelandic music that comes my way (ROHT, Nornahetta, Bjork…) often seems pretty singular, but I don’t know if it’s just that I’m predisposed to digging out odd sounds…
Alexandra: I guess being a few hundred thousand people on a tiny island, the odds of finding music that’s different are higher than your average city. It’s easier to find something weird and special because it stands out.
Dísa: I think it’s unavoidable to have a sense of isolation when you live on a small island in the middle of the ocean, especially with such a small population. Of course it’s easier now to get in touch with people in other countries and hear new music through the internet but you have to make a conscious effort to do so. It’s not like in more populous places where something is going on all the time and you can just stumble on a show or something like that.
This is a far more crass, and a far less philosophical question: your country is insanely expensive, so how does the average Icelander (who, say, works in an office or a shoe shop or whatever) manage to survive? Does it mean you’re able to throw your money around like royalty when you visit other countries?
Júlíana: I think most people just work A LOT. I myself have two jobs and usually not a lot of money left at the end of the month.
Alexandra: About throwing money around like royalty – it used to be like that. I remember being 17 in the US travelling with a friend and doing a lot of ridiculous shit and throwing money around like it was nothing. But the economic collapse in 2008 really changed things here.
You’ve toured the US and the UK – what were those tours like, and how (if at all) did the experiences change you as people or as a band? What, for better or for worse, were the most memorable moments on those tours?
Júlíana: Well the first thing that comes to mind is that on the UK tour we rented a car that was wayyy to small. We were seven in a tiny car, us, the band ROHT and our driver Jake, all cramped together in a car about the size of a Yaris with two extra seats in the back, PLUS all our gear. We felt like we were in a clown car, it was difficult but probably brought us closer together.
Dísa: I think the best thing about touring was finding out that we could spend so much time together and still not end up hating each other by the end. Our U.S. tour was 31 days and most of them we spent about 7-11 hours in the van. It can be hard at times but I only wanted to kill someone a couple of times, which is probably a personal record for me.
Alexandra: We have some pretty weird stories from our US tour but the one that stands out for me is when this guy came to our show in Columbus, Ohio. He came because he thought he was my dad. He also thought he might Sadie’s (from G.L.O.S.S.) dad. He drove for five hours or something for this show but was kindly asked to leave, which he did but I was stressed and little bit scared the rest of our tour.
Fannar: There was so much weird shit that happened on that US tour. Some woman called the cops on us when we were trying to get gas and then chased after us in her car all the way to the next town where there were like three cop cars that seemed to be waiting for us. One of them followed us onto the highway and pulled us over for some bullshit reason. That tour was so much fun though. We played a show in a public park in the middle of the night in Denver after a Lumpy and the Dumpers / Warm Bodies show. All these people came out who seemed to be still pumped after the Lumpy set so, even though we played first, people just started dancing as soon as we started playing. We played this weird lot next to some train tracks in New Orleans, we played on a pedestrian bridge in Austin, a dog peed in my eye in Tucson. I was standing. With my big glasses on. It was fucked up.
Other than your first tape you’ve released records through non-domestic labels. How did you get involved with Iron Lung and Erste Theke Tonträger?
Fannar: Erste Theke Tonträger got in touch almost as soon as we put out the demo. I’m not sure how Iron Lung found out about us, but they got in touch like six months later. It’s not easy getting heard when you live on a tiny island so we’re really grateful to both labels for helping us out.
What do you all do outside of the band? What kind of things do you do to fill your non-Dauðyflin time?
Alexandra: I’m on a tech and engineer pre-university course, play roller derby and have a part time job. When I actually have free time I usually lie on my couch in my underwear, watching sci-fi or playing video games.
Fannar: Me, Júlíana, and Alexandra also play in a post-punk band called Börn and I have a d-beat band, called D7Y, with both members of ROHT. I don’t have a job, I get disability benefits, but I do a little illustration work from time to time but most of my non-punk time is spent on animation.
Júlíana: I sell tickets at a theatre and work at a preschool. When I’m not working I like to drink beer or go swimming. And sleeping. I like sleeping.
Dísa: I also work at a preschool, it’s an integrated school but I mostly work with students who are on the autism spectrum. In my free time I like to watch Netflix, pet my cats and play video games. It might not sound very exciting but I’m only one baby away from completing the 100 baby challenge on the Sims 4 so at least I have that going for me.
What’s next for Dauðyflin? What do you have in the pipeline, and what would you ultimately like to achieve with the band?
Dísa: Right now we’re writing songs for an EP we plan on releasing this year, hopefully in the summer. We are also playing Byllepest Hardcore Weekend in Oslo on June 20th-23rd. I don’t think we have any ultimate goals for the band besides just continue what we have been doing – writing songs, releasing records, playing shows and just having fun. Oh and also smashing the patriarchy.