AID new grafik

Art is Dead is a new band that announced itself to the world with the song Bad Politics. We met up with Hugi Grðarsson, the band’s vocalist, who told us everything about Art is Dead, including the benefits associated with being a musical savage.


Who are Art is Dead, and what kind of music do you play?

We are Arnar Sigurður Hallgrímsson and Bjarki Fannar Atlason, guitarists both and keyboard players, Martin David Jensen on the drums, Snæbjörn Árnason on the bass and Hugi Garðarsson handles the mic.

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Have you been in any other bands before?

We’re all old rock hounds og punks and have been in Andlát, Shogun, Snafu, Finnegan, Kolka, Lagleysa, Munnridur and Wulfgang, to name a few.

Did Art is Dead immediately form when you met?

We started playing together in 2009 as a rock band. But then I went abroad to study in Denmark and returned three years later and we reformed then. We were experiencing some kind of rock fatigue at the time and decided to start afresh and go for something exotic. We kinda wanted to break free from the “rock regulations” and made ourselves the rule that there simply weren’t any rules and no sound or musical instrument was irrelevant to us, just “pure savagery”. So the outcome is just some kind of “Rock, pop, electro stew and just whatever.” Being an old rocker is ridiculously exciting, really just like

Did you spend a lot of time finding your sound?

Yeah, it took considerable time to rediscover ourselves. We had  couple of old synthesizers that we started to fool around with and we also started to experiment a bit around that. How to use guitras and make them sound like something else entirely.

Isn’t it fun to be in a band where everything goes?

Yeah, it’s rather liberating because back in the day it wasn’t considered kosher if a rock band sported a keyboard player. That wasn’t really masculine. Music today, and just the world in general, has gotten much more liberal and the attitude has turned a bit more “anything goes.”

Does Art is Dead have any major influences?

We’re such totally different types and we listen to different kids of music, but we, like anyone else, are just this kind of “musical sponges” and everything we hear is soaked up and breaks out when we write something new.

You’ve released two songs. Tell us a bit about that.

Our first song is called Bad Politics and came out in February. We were pretty stressed about the response. It has a lot of radically changing parts and we were afraid people wouldn’t find it catchy. We were pleasantly surprised that it took off on many radio stations and even hit the top of the Pepsi Max Chart on Xið 977 leading up to the municipal elections, after braving the chart for seventeen weeks. That was really encouraging and filled us with confidence, and we thought it was at least a small confirmation that we might be doing something sensible.

Our second song is called Razormouth and came out at the end of the summer, and has been gaining a lot of traction. It differs from Bad Politics in the sense that it’s more elctro based.

Are you playing a lot of concerts?

Our first concert was in the yard behind Bar 11 at the Xið 977 and Bar 11 Culture Night show. It went well, but I’ve got to admit that I actually had spot of anxiousness in my stomach about performing with this group for the first time. We stayed up really late the preceding night and Arnar forged together an in-ear system from old effect pedals and all kinds of plastic boxes to ensure we’d hear ourselves properly. Smutty Smiff, the Xið radio DJ, approached us right after the gig and booked Art is Dead to the Frosti Jay Freeman charity concert, but he’s a little boy who’s battling a pretty serious neurological disease. Of course we played that, and also volunteered ourselves to help with the concert preparations, which was a pretty lively rollercoaster ride. Smutty Smiff  is a hell of a mguy and it was nice to get to know him.

Do you enjoy performing live?

Yeah, it’s fun, but for my part it doesn’t matter how often you do it, I´m always a bit stressed out about the concert. Then you enter a bit of an oblivious state while it’s going on, and then you tremble with satisfaction once it’s over. At least if it went well.

Do you have any rehearsal and recording facilities?

Yeah, we spend a couple of nights a week in the beautiful Höfði neighborhood 110 Reykjavík. In a commercial space that we’re overhauling at the moment. For example we’re carpeting the walls and redecorating. So it’s pretty similar to when we were sixteen and were putting egg trays on the walls. But now they’re just red carpets. Snæbjörn works at Hótel Saga and the hotel’s caretaker gave us old red carpets from there, so that’s maybe a step up from the egg trays, hehehe.

Is Art is Dead working on an album?

Well, I remember when Skífan was a huge empire with mega stores right, left and center. But as far as I know, Skífan only exists on a miniature scale today and seems to build it’s business model equally around selling music and video games. People don’t seem to buy a lot of records anymore, which is maybe understandable when it’s so easy to download them through the internet. And I´ll be the first to admit I´m not totally innocent of downloading myself. I bought a new computer the other day and didn’t even notice until I got home that it didn’t even come with a CD drive. But I find it to be a sad development nontheless, and notwithstanding all the wonderful things the internet has provided us with, it’s had some bad effects as well. Nobody gives a shit if Bono or Brad Pitt get ten million dollars less for acting in a movie or releasing an album, but it hits small bands and independent film makers that have little or no money and have big problems funding themseleves, the worst. Long story short, our music is available on Itunes, Spotify and Tó But whether we´ll release an album on a physical format remains to be seen.

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Do you aim to break internationally?

We haven’t set any concrete goals about getting world famous or anything like that, as I think that kind of  push will deter you rather than build you up. It’s unhealthy to always compare oneself to something you’re not, and it ultimately leads to you being driven by an inferiority complex. We do this because we have a calling to create music. It provides us with an outlet, and then it’s undeniably a sort of a sewing circle, heheh.

When did you start singing?

It started when I was a teen jumping on the bed with a broomstick thundering Smells like Teen Spirit. Then I was always crooning something in the shower, and the acoustics in the bathroom was really divine and planted ideas in my head. I joined my first band when I was sixteen, and it took me over a year to dare sing at rehearsals. I always pretended to have to polish the lyrics a bit and promised to come back strong at the next rehearsal. I also dreaded the thought something fierce that I’d maybe sometime have to sing in front of strangers. Becoming a singer happened with a lot of baby steps that I totally blew out of proportion to myself. But being a singer really just revolves around nothing more complicated than just taking the plunge. Then you also have to be sincere and dedicated, otherwise people will never connect with what you have to offer. But for my part nothing ever mattered more than being a musician. It’s the only thing I´ve ever desired to do.

What’s next for Art is Dead?

We’re fooling around a bit with assembling a new song. The next song will have a bit of a different feel to it. Bad Politics and Razormouth have some rather more depressing undertones. Still, I´m not saying the next song is really some kind of joyful pop. Not at all. Then we’re also making videos for Bad Politics and Razormouth, it´ll be exciting to see how they´ll be recieved and if it opens any new doors for us.



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