A few months ago I’ve found an interesting name in the line-up note to one of Icelandic music festivals. There was also a short info saying that Hot Eskimos plays jazz arrangements of the best songs from the Icelandic music history. I’ve dicided to take a close look at this unusual trio and I haven’t been disappointed. Hot Eskimos are true-born jazzmans. Karl Olgeirsson, Kristinn Snær Agnarsson and Jón Rafnsson are looking at the world through jazz music, they also know Icelandic music history, therefore their album „Songs from the top of the world” is unique. I’ve talked to Karl, who plays piano in the Hot Eskimos.
Karl: We’re fine :-)
Bartek: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you guys met and when did you started playing as Hot Eskimos?
Karl: We had all worked together before, in pairs, two and two but never as a group. As it happened we all seemed to have gotten the same idea of doing jazz arrangements of Icelandic music at the same time. So it was really like it was meant to be. We got together for the first time in 2010 and started plotting.
Bartek: Have you thought about Hot Eskimos more like a cover-project or maybe a regular jazz trio with your own compositions?
Karl: It’s definitely a regular jazz trio that happened to do these kind of covers on it’s first album. I think there will be more albums with other kinds of repertoire.
Bartek: 13 songs chosen from the 40 years of Icelandic music history. What was the key you’ve used to choose these songs?
Karl: The idea was to select songs that few would think of as jazz material. And seemed to have little in common. But would be interesting for a broad audience so we decided on including a fair selection of international known artists from Iceland as well.
Bartek: What reviews did you get for the album? Do you know what was the reaction of the artists who originally played these songs?
Karl: We’ve gotten great reviews. One critic said he didn’t know how many of our album he had sent to his friends abroad. That made us happy! I think most of the original artists were glad we were doing this. Some were ecstatic. No-one that we have heard of was unhappy about it.
Bartek: And it seems like you have a good sense of humour and a distance to your music. Let’s see… the name of the band, cover photo…
Karl: We like to keep it fun. We are not that serious as a group. Don’t get us wrong, we get a great kick out of playing the music, it’s an emotional rush. But it’s much more fun when you’re not too serious, when you allow yourself to put silly quotes in the solos and stuff like that. The name is of course a play on an old stereo typical image of Iceland. And the cover photo is so cool. The cover designer, Rut Ing, showed us the photo on our first meeting, she had shot it (the photo) just a few days before. And we jumped on it!
Bartek: You’ve look thorugh the most significant bands and artists in Iceland. In your opinion what is the most characteristic thing about the music from Iceland?
Karl: I sincerely belief that the landscape and your environment affects your music in a big way, even in these times of the internet. And as new music waves washes over the world they blend in with the local ingredients. I think that the Icelandic color is rough, gray and offgreen, cold and sturdy, almost clumsy at times. But it comes with a lot of sincerity and honesty, to the point of naivety and no pretense.
Bartek: Have you noticed any new interesting bands on the Icelandic music scene? Who would you reccomend for Polish audience?
Karl: There is such a growth in the Icelandic music scene these days. There is Seabear, Of Monsters and men to name a few and the latest upcoming name would be Ásgeir Trausti. He’s someone to watch.
Bartek: What about concerts? Do you have any touring plans? Maybe you will play live in Poland in the near future?
Karl: We are planning on being more active live. We have our sights on some countries in the near future. We would absolutely love to come to Poland and play.
Bartek: Thank you for the interview! We wish you all the best and hope to see you live soon!
Karl: Thanks for the chat Bartek, and thanks for the coffee :-)
I’ve written about Hot Eskimos album before – you can read it here (polish lang.). You can also order CD, writting at Jón’s e-mail, which you can find on his website. I know, that guys are doing their best to make their album available in Europe, so it might be in the distribution soon.
Hot Eskimos – Animal Arithmetic (Jónsi)
Hot Eskimos – Jungle Drum (Emiliana Torrini)
Hot Eskimos – Can’t Walk Away (Herbert Guðmundsson)
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