Iceland’s Latest Musical Import: ARSTIDIR
Announces New Album and Debut U.S. Tour Starting in June
Not many bands can lay claim to the kind of dramatic career development that the Icelandic band Árstíðir can. Formed in the wake of the 2008 stock market crash, they found themselves catapulted to the top of the Icelandic music charts within six months of their debut, and then forged ahead with their 2010 tour despite a volcanic eruption that stalled global travel.
In 2012, Árstíðir was the first Icelandic band to ever win the Eiserner Eversteiner European Folk Music Award (in Plauen, Germany) and were scheduled to play the prestigious TFF Rudolstadt festival in July 2013. While on tour in Germany that year, an impromptu performance of “Heyr himna smiður” in the Bürger Bahnhof train station in Wuppertal swept them up in a tidal wave of international attention. Hastily recorded by a friend who posted it to YouTube, the video received more than four million views and sparked global interest in both the band and the Thorkell Sigurbjörnsson’s composition.
By May 2014, they had launched a Kickstarter campaign that quickly raised $70,000 (substantially exceeding the initial $20,000 goal) to finance their third album, Hvel (Spheres). In return for their investment, backers were promised not only a copy of the finished recording, but also gifts ranging from hand knit Icelandic sweaters to vials of volcanic ash from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.
Once fully funded, the band took up residence in Toppstödin, an abandoned coal-fired power plant that had stood empty for two decades before a group of artists and entrepreneurs repurposed it as a creative space. The acoustics in the space provided them with an ideal environment for composing and rehearsing, and regular visits and feedback from album producer and multi-instrumentalist Styrmir Hauksson (Ásgeir, Of Monsters and Men, GusGus) pushed the band to excel at their unique brand of collaborative composition, which involved individual members bringing a seed of an idea to the group after which they worked out the finer points of music, lyrics and arrangement. As soon as they were satisfied with the tracks, the band moved down the road to Orgelsmiðjan, a studio in Reykjavík and home to many of Iceland’s renowned recording artists (Of Monsters and Men and John Grant). The result is a collection of songs which weave both traditional and electronically-inspired instrumental threads together with soaring vocal harmonies, and that critics have described as “beautiful and atmospheric” and “utterly mesmerizing.”
Árstíðir’s music defies genre borders and might best be described as classically influenced indie folk rock. Whether in a train station in Germany, a concert hall in Russia or a bar at home in Reykjavík, theirs is music that mesmerizes audiences and creates a kind of intimacy leading critics to write,“[Hvel] is simply a stunning album, beautifully written and arranged, with a real magical quality to it,” and that live performances “may be the closest I’ve ever come to worship.”
The band members’ wide range of musical backgrounds and experience combined with professional interests ranging from law to literature and engineering to computers, make them unique in their wholly democratic approach to music making and performance. Entwining the elements of sound with lyrics describing heartbreak, longing, memory and a deep connection to the circular oneness of life, they marry organic acoustic traditions and modern electronic arrangements with intricate simplicity and unpretentious skill.
New Release “Hvel” available now
Debut U.S. Tour Dates Start in June
Embarking on their first U.S. tour this summer, Árstíðir will take to the roads in a converted school bus as they cross the entire country between June and August with stops at big media outlets to spread the word such as PRI’s The World, Echoes Livingroom Concerts, Good Day Rochester TV show, NetNebraska, (a radio program that is simulcast on radio, PBS TV and the web). Lots of other stops at local radio along the way to spread the word as well.
The band looks forward to performing their newest compositions and forming new intimate musical connections with both seasoned supporters and green listeners. With their sweeping vocal harmonies backed by lush layered orchestral instrumental arrangements, Árstíðir sings, “Not every thing you feel can be seen but the feeling lasts so long” and hopes that what the audience feels will linger long after the last note is played.
Jun 24 Twins Jazz Fest, Washington, DC
Jun 25 Church of St. Stephen in the Field, Toronto, Canada
Jun 26 Rochester International Jazz Festival, Rochester, NY
Jun 27 Rochester International Jazz Festival, Rochester, NY
Jun 28 Scandinavian Cultural Center, West Newton, MA
Jun 29 Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2, New York, NY
Jul 01 Stone Room Concerts, Falls Church, VA
Jul 03 Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival, Greensburg, PA
Jul 03 Moss Vineyards, Dyke, VA
Jul 05 The Woolard Wigwam, Winston Salem, NC
Jul 06 Blue Plate Special WDVX, Knoxville, TN
Jul 07 Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, Lexington, KY
Jul 08 Pittsburgh Winery, Pittsburgh, PA
Jul 09 Common Ground Music Festival, Lansing, MI
Jul 11 Middleton Performing Arts Center, Middleton, WI
Jul 12 Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis, MN
Jul 14 Madison Presents: Árstíðir, Kansas City, MO
Jul 16 The Gathering Place, Boulder, CO
Jul 17 Colorado Mesa University, Recital Hall, Grand Junction, CO
Jul 18 Boothe Brothers Theater, Spanish Fork, UT
Jul 19 Studio on 4th , Reno, NV
Jul 21 Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR
Jul 22 WOW Hall, Eugene, OR
Jul 23 Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, WA
Jul 24 The Nordic Cultural Center, Portland, OR
Jul 25 Siren’s Song, Eureka, CA
Jul 27 Elbo Room, San Francisco, CA
Jul 29 Studio 519, Redondo Beach, CA
Jul 30 Boardner’s & The B52 Club, Hollywood, CA
Jul 31 Lestat’s West, San Diego, CA
Aug 01 Hotel Congress Tucson, AZ