When I ask Icelandic musicians why they haven’t been to Poland yet, they usually answer me find booking agency for us and then we will come to Poland. So now there is another sparkle of hope. I would like to introduce you Soundvík, a small booking agency mostly focused on promoting Icelandic artists in Poland and rest of Central Europe, but also bringing artists from other countries to show them around and let them to get inspired by Iceland and make collaborations. I met up with Rafał Szczerbowski, the founder of Soundvík, in Reykjavík at some white night and we discussed his project in the middle of party with music from Island of Fire and Ice.
What is the story behind you and Iceland actually?
It’s really conventional. When I was 13, I heard Hyperballad by Björk for the first time. It caught me because it was totally different from that crappy music of 90s. It was probably in 1997, Björk released Homogenic then. At that time there was still a really limited access to the Internet in Poland. I remember that I used a really short cable between a corridor and my room, at night, when my parents were sleeping. I would just make my own night researches into Iceland and later I’d hide phone bills, when I received them. I hope my parents forgot about that. I checked out everything about Iceland, Björk, other artists, history, culture etc. I recorded on VHS videos, which were on air on VH1 or French MCM. I had my first possibility to come to Iceland in 2006. I spent here 3 weeks. I went to gigs by Björk, Sigur Rós and all other Icelandic stars during one big show. I was amazed! I remember also a great performance by GusGus in a famous venue called NASA, which no longer exists. It happened during winter, so the sun didn’t appear much. I spent a lot of time walking around Reykjavík and the neighbourhood, I lost myself again and again and but still I was really fascinated with Iceland. The second time I arrived in 2008 for 1,5 month, then in 2010 for Iceland Airwaves Festival and finally in 2011 I decided to come here for 3 months. My 3 months have turned out to be 2 years and I don’t plan any change of place in the future.
When was the idea of Soundvík born? During your first visit, at Iceland Airwaves…?
No. The idea of promoting Icelandic music in Poland and also Polish music in Iceland was born during the first tour with Myrra Rós, when we came to Poland. It was after the tour, which turned out to be quite successful because of attendance. Myrra was impressed with the tour organisation, Polish audience and told her friends from music business a lot about that. At that time I thought it’s probably something that I’m good at and I would really like to do. I would like to organise tours, promote bands, especially bands I enjoy and I would like to make them more popular in Poland. It’s the same with interesting Polish artists, who deserve being introduced to Icelandic audience. Maybe it’s worth to make some Polish-Icelandic collaboration.
Was the tour with Myrra Rós your first experience of this kind or did you organise anything earlier?
Earlier I organised rather dj’s parties with Icelandic or some indie music, which also drew people in, and work on a few Polish festivals. Actually, the tour with Myrra Rós showed me how difficult, but at the same time, how unbelievably exciting it could be. I booked it and did everything I could, worked for almost 8 hours a day on this tour.
Now you are launching your booking agency with the first band from Poland – Domowe Melodie.
The tour of Domowe Melodie is organised mostly by Dawid [Stabik], editor of muzykaislandzka.pl. I cannot give myself any more credit. Honestly, I only helped him by giving tips from my experience. After those few tours I know much more about places, technical, organising, financial stuff etc. I hope I was useful.
A tour of Icelandic musicians is always a very expensive enterprise due to the fact that the island is isolated and they need to transport the equipment by plane. Do you think that an average young Icelandic band can afford to have such a promotion abroad? Is it relatively easy or not really?
The transport of musiciands and equipment from Iceland is not the easiest and usually is also stressful due to various problems. But on the other hand, Iceland puts emphasis on culture, so with good luck and good explaination it’s possible to reach one of various grants, which help artists in the promotion abroad. Sometimes you can also write and try to reach some sponsors among airlines. Honestly, plenty of tours are matter of creativity. Of figuring out how to get to Poland in the cheapest way. We had a few difficulties while we travelled with Myrra from Island through Copenhagen and then by train to Malmo, after night at airport, an argue with RyanAir staff and finally we had flight to Gdańsk, where the tour started. Somehow everything works.
I’d never before been deep into listening to Hjaltalín, but after the release of the new album, I’m absolutely in love with them. I really like Emilíana Torrini. Especially for the album Fisherman’s Women, on which with a small amount of instruments and light acoustic sound she was able to create something unbelievably magical. Of course, I still really enjoy listening to Björk. Whatever she does, she still goes forward. She doesn’t always succeed, but every time I can find something, what is fascinating for me. I hope Samaris will show something more soon. I enjoy Berndsen’s spirit of the 80’s and I‘m looking forward to his new album. For having fun I love FM Belfast, and recently I’ve been even trying to convince myself to Retro Stefson, although it was hard for me earlier. Also Ólöf Arnalds, Kimono, My Summer as a Salvation Solder, Sykur, Sin Fang, Borko, Pétur Ben, NOLO, Agent Fresco and a few others.
Your biggest music or organisational challenge.
For me, Xenia Kriisin tour was a big challenge, because it was unusually spontaneous. Some of gigs were made just from day to day or booked 2 weeks before, which I honestly think is unacceptable in this business because there’s some time committed for event promotion. However, we had a great time. People who came to the concerts fell in love with Xenia and I think we will still work together. Now we’re looking for a label in Poland. For her as well as for some other artists…
Do you think that Icelandic artists know some Polish bands?
I have the impression that Icelandic artists… I cannot tell they’re too lazy to get to know Polish artists, but probably they would prefer that somebody delivered them Polish artists on a plate. That’s why I would like to introduce interesting Polish artists in Iceland and maybe Icelanders could create something together with them. I’ve been planning for some time a project of joining Polish and Icelandic artists on some compilation. I’m sure Icelanders will like in close future what I’ve prepared for them.
What plans for the future does Soundvík have, except for the mentioned compilation?
I have a plan of tour with Berndsen mentioned earlier. And also with American-Icelandic Low Roar. In October Myrra Rós will come to Poland. I’ll try to convince Elín Ey, who makes now a career with her sisters in Sísý Ey, to join Myrra. I would also like to start cooperation with some Polish artists and I´m working on it right now. If anything will be confirmed in 100%, then I´ll let you know.
Then we keep our fingers crossed.
Thank you for the interview.