On Wednesday, August 3rd, to close out a brief end-of-summer tour across upstate New York, the Icelandic band Hellvar stopped by Bushwick, Brooklyn to perform at Goodbye Blue Monday.
Hellvar was first formed in 2004, when Icelanders Heiða Eiriksdottir and Elvar Saevarsson, who were in Berlin, started playing music together to help pay off student loans. What started out as drum machines and electric guitars has now evolved into electric guitars and real drums! Yes, the recently-released second album, Stop That Noise, features an actual drummer and also possesses superior production quality over the first album.
That evening in Bushwick, the band took the stage well after their original 8:15pm set time, perhaps due to some delays caused by the heavy rain outside. Lead vocalist, guitarist, and ball of energy Heiða greeted me at the door with a cigarette perched in her hand, so we had some time to discuss the band’s tour, including the recent unplugged performance on WGXC 90.7FM (Battlefield Earth Radio Show). When I asked her about the best part(s) of the tour for the band, Heiða responded, “The best part for me was to play both acoustic and electronic to a varied crowd. People really appreciated both the music and the lyrics. Many times, someone approached me afterwards to compliment me on the lyrics, something that never happens in Iceland. Either the Icelanders are not good at understanding English, or they just don’t give a shit!”
Despite the bad weather, the turnout for the Goodbye Blue Monday show was quite good. There was a substantial table of fans and friends, and most other tables were occupied. Even though this band of five had to cram themselves so closely together on that tiny stage, their set was so tight and well rehearsed that it quickly became apparent that the group knows each other very well.
When asked about the band’s impressions of the gig, Heiða would later tell me, “When we went on, everything just clicked as if by magic. A small venue makes a big difference for both the band and the ambiance. Everything sounded tight and the strangeness of all the crazy objects that were hanging everywhere just made it all weirder and better. We got a wonderful response after that gig, and we could’t have asked for a better last gig at this tour.”
The vibrant flame of Hellvar is definitely Heiða, a musician who lives up to the dream of being a musician by giving it her all on the stage. All the while throughout that performance, she whipped her hair around and contorted her face to get every bit of voice and feeling out of her…. all of which registered as truly admirable and passionate in my mind. Towards the end of their set, with all guitarists doing a simultaneous hard strumming on the floor (many onlookers had their mouths gaping open at this), I began to wonder why they hadn’t charged at least a small cover for people to watch their performance. Good bands like these (from Iceland) should never be free in a foreign country.
In the near future, the band will be changing their bass-player and preparing for Iceland Airwaves at the end of October. As Heiða said, “I think this autumn is gonna be one big concert-party-craziness for us, and we can’t wait!”