Something In The Water: Iceland According to Cheek Mountain Thief
The Kimi Records curated Reykjavik Music Mess saw the first live performance from cheery folksters Cheek Mountain Thief. After witnessing it, Artrocker's Nathan Westley caught up with Mike Lindsey to discuss the Icelandic Music scene and how it differs from the UK’s.
ARTROCKER: What made you decide to leave England and head over to Iceland? Where did the idea for the Cheek Mountain Thief project come from and how was it inspired by your surroundings?
MIKE: Well, Tunng (my other band) played at Airwaves in 2010. Airwaves is a festival in Reykjavik held in October and while we were there I was staying with an Icelandic girl that I had met 4 years previously but we had lost touch... I guess you could say we reconnected, so much so that I went to visit her in December that year and we took a trip to Husavik, her home town in the far
north of Iceland, a small fishing village home to 2000 people. It was there that I fell in love with the place, the people and the culture of Iceland, so I decided to spend two months in Husavik in March 2011 to write a record. Two months turned into a year and now me and Harpa are getting married. Man I love this place.
The name Cheek Mountain Thief comes from the mountains in Husavik called Kinna Fjall which means Cheek mountains, these were my view everyday while I was writing and recording the album. I came to the Cheek mountains with nothing: no songs or much recording equipment. I borrowed equipment, inspiration and talent from the local community hence Cheek Mountain Thief.
Does the music scene differ much from that in the UK? From the outside there doesn't seem to be a fashion led scene or sound that the bands are all aiming to be part of.
I think there is definitely a scene but certainly not a pretentious or particularly "fashion" led one. There are a lot of musicians here and pretty much all of them are amazing… it’s ridiculous! There are many musicians that play in a few different bands: the drummer from Sin Fang for example is in about 10 bands and sometimes they are all playing the same night! There is a kind of sound and it’s one that is hard to define… there is of course the twisted folk kinda stuff that is done amazingly well but they seem to be musical pioneers in kinda acid rock, wonky electronica and cute brass pop... and it’s all cool without trying to be cool.
Due to the small scene, are musicians much more helpful to one another? Do they adopt an "all in this together" type attitude?
Yes very much so, everyone seems so up for getting involved here…it’s really refreshing. It feels like if somebody has an idea for a project then it can be up and running in a week with a full blown band… they’re fully positive and active… there is a lot of respect for artists and musicians here…
Despite having a population of just little over 300,000, Iceland seems to produce more musicians then many other countries far greater than its size - why do you think this is?
There´s something in the water!!
Is there a good live scene in the country?
They could do with some better live venues around the country and in Reykjavik but live music is everywhere, there is always a live band playing somewhere - even in the countryside. The "country dance" is a kinda drinking party held in community centres all over the country... always with a live band playing every tune ever written, they play 6 hour sets... good times!!
Does the countries remoteness have an effect? If so, what are the positives and negatives?
People stick together and help each other out, and the remoteness gives a huge patriotic buzz about the place... You see the same people, going out to the pub and it can feel like a proper family affair. I haven’t discovered the downside yet. Right now the sun is shining 24 hours a day, but the winter is coming...
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