Icelandic Folk Hero Júníus Meyvant Talks Floating Harmonies

Icelandic Folk Hero Júníus Meyvant Talks Floating Harmonies

Meyvant opens up about the making of his latest record, loving Kendrick Lamar, and bringing his act stateside.

Meyvant opens up about the making of his latest record, loving Kendrick Lamar, and bringing his act stateside.

Text: E.R. PULGAR

Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson, better known as Júníus Meyvant, has made a name for himself in his native Iceland: his ethereal debut record, an ethereal freak folk record tinged with funk horns appropriately titled Floating Harmonies, has accrued over 5 million streams on Spotify and earned him a slot at this year's Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle. Currently wrapping up a European tour and gearing up to return to the U.S. for two shows, VMAN spoke to Meyvant about the Icelandic music scene, his latest record, and how he goes about making bright music that diverges from the freak folk mold.

Can you tell me about Floating Harmonies?

It's like. 60s and 70s meets what is happening right now, a mixture of funk and soul. "Sulk," maybe? [laugh]

[laugh] Like dreary, sad folk music?

No, no! Its much more upbeat, not your typical Icelandic foggy darkness with elves thing. It's more like a California- New York thing, sonically.

It's interesting that you're from Iceland and are influenced by music that's from here.

Everybody knows who the Beatles and Bob Dylan and every major artist. My influence is mainly from the 40s to the 70s. That's my thing.

 I wanted to ask you because I wasn't super clear if you were like just folk music or if you consider yourself maybe freak folk, something like Devendra Banhart. 

I'm a little bit of everything. Funny you should speak about Devendra, because I really like Noah [Georgeson], his producer.

Devendra's Producer?

Yeah! I want to work with him. We're trying to get in touch with him to work with him on the next album. We'll see what happens. I don't know... Who really knows?

Have you already started planning for the next album?

Yeah! I have a lot of stuff going on. We're always on the move.

What's the most personal song on Floating Harmonies?

Probably "Sandbox." It's based on a family member who's been to prison three times. But as far as personal songs go, I haven't really ever done a personal song about me. Maybe one day. 

Is that something that you'd want to do?

If it if it happens it will happen, you know? Most of the time, I just like to play with words and see what fits together. In every song, it's me somewhere in the song. When you're playing somebody else, it's you playing somebody else.

Could you tell me about the music scene in Iceland?

Basically, there are 60 bands there, because you have the same person in the other 10. [laugh] The Icelandic scene is just a few guys. It's really good; I think it's getting more hip-hop.

Interesting.

The guys are imitating Drake and Kendrick Lamar a lot.

Have you heard DAMN.?

I really like it! I love what they're doing, but I don't like people imitating them. I think it doesn't fit well.

Are you based in Reykjavik or your native Westman Islands.

I'm based in Reykjavik, but I'm trying to buy a house over in the Westman Islands. I'm based in Reykjavik, and it's really nice, but it' really expensive to live there. It's like living in New York; it just doesn't make any sense. I can buy a house on the Westman Islands for the price of a small one room apartment in Reykjavik, which is why I'm moving there. I write my own material, and I get really good musicians to work with me, so I can live everywhere in Iceland and just go to Reykyavik to record and take the best people with me on tour. 

And you're on tour right now, no?

Yeah! We were there for a week, but only played New York and L.A. When I'm touring, it's usually around three weeks playing every day. I've been touring Europe a lot, but I haven't played there. This is the second time I'm in the U.S. playing a show for me; I went to Seattle like two years ago, but nothing more in between in the U.S.

Where did you play when you came to New York?

I always forget everything...just this small place in Manhattan.It's called Rockwood Music Hall.

 I know Rockwood! Did you play the intimate stage with the tables?

No! There was a small balcony and it has little tables. It was at capacity, so about200 people or so, but the place was packed. It was a good thing, a very beautiful thing.

Congratulations! That's really big!

Thank you! It's very nice. We recently got a booking agent here, and it's expensive for us to tour the U.S. It's much cheaper to tour Europe, but in time if you don't stop good things happen.

Stream Floating Harmonies below, and check out Júníus Meyvant's tour dates on his website.

 

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