Retro Stefson & The Kingdom Of KimbabweRetro Stefson started out as a project in middle school in 2006 and has since then become Iceland’s top live acts. They made their public debut at the 2006 Iceland Airwaves festival, then 14, 15 and 16 years old. Since then the band has played a big part in the Reykjavik and Iceland music scene, playing regularly all around the city. Their first record "Montaña" was released in Iceland in the autumn of 2008. They have sold over 2000 copies and have received thrilling reviews. Their second album "Kimbabwe" is out now on Kimi Records.
The band has toured intensely in Iceland over the last couple of years which has made them really successful. Their first single “Senseni” has been the party boomer all over the Island since its release. The band has performed at the Icelandic Airwaves festival 3 times and last year’s performance with FM Belfast was the festival’s absolute “climax”. They played at 2009 By:Larm where they got really good vibes from all over the place.
Retro Stefson is a pop band but not by any means a typical one. Retro Stefson’s music has been described in multiple ways, the words surf, latin, jazz, afro and pop up most frequently – with the members hailing from various countries it’s no wonder the influences are so many – but let’s not get tangled up in genres. The main thing is that the music is fun, youthful and refreshing.
IMX talk to Uni, aka Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson
So we hear you signed a major label deal - congratulations! Who did you charm and how?
Hi, yeah that's right, thanx. The story will be told after a couple of years :)
Aw. Ok. But did your well received shows at Eurosonic have anything to do with it, or was the deal in the bag by then?
No, it was in the bag :)
Is it true you'll be moving abroad? To where?
Yes we're moving to the mainland, for easier touring and broadening of the mind.
You have a tour beginning imminently don't you?
Yes we're kind of touring, but it won't be a proper hardcore tour because now we live in the mainland, so the flying and driving won't be too much to begin with. For concert dates it's probably the best to check out our facebook page (Retro Stefson @ Facebook) or our booking agency.
Rewinding a bit - when and where were RS formed?
Nice, it was formed in Austurbæjarskóli, January 2006. We had been schoolmates for ten years before forming the band. Actually it was Bóas from Reykjavík! and Árni+1 from FM Belfast that encouraged us to form the band.
Where does the name come from?
When I was 16 I thought words like vintage and retro were cool. We had a "Retro-ball" (e. retro-schooldance) in our school, but at the same time we had a band practice in another room. And Stefson is an abbrevation of Stefánsson a surname which nearly half of the band has.
How many are you these days? And how many nationalities are involved?
We are seven and have been seven for the last few years. Nationalities are overrated but my mother comes from Angola, and our pianist's father is a Norwegian synth-guru.
What can you tell us about the new record, Kimbabwe - it's an intriguing title!
It's an album that we went (nearly) all the way with production-wise so we experimented with a loads of things in the studio. In my songwriting I've been stuck with the four-to-the-floor bassdrum for the last couple of years. And lyrically we are still doing a lot of gibberish but I'm quite proud of the lyrics for "Velvakandasveinn" no one really understands it all but my friends understand the most importand parts. It refers to some stories from college. The name Kimbabwe comes from my brother Logi. He said in an interview after our bar (Karamba) closed, that now he'll leave the country and move to Kimbabwe. And the name stuck with us.
The new video is pretty dope - who shot that and will there be more?
Thank you! It's directed by Árni Sveins and the DoP is called Ási. There will absolutely be more, i'd like to do more live-videos Backyard-style!
How does the new record differ from your debut?
It's different sound-wise, some people would say much better sounding. But I would say cleaner sounding, and that's nice if you want to turn it up in the club. The kick drum is also fatter and there's some metal involved.
Since you're now en route to becoming rich and famous, have you seen a notable increase in groupies?
The Gerpla-girls in the Kimba video have blinded our sorry eyes from groupies for ever and ever. They are so beautiful!
True! If the album sells well would you consider building Iceland's first castle and living in it forever and making music?
We will build a tropical island called Kimbabwe hopefully somewhere in Faxaflói or Breiðafjörður. Have a nice studio and an annual Kimbabwe-festival!
What are the biggest challenges for such a sprawling band? Who writes the music? How do you cope with small stages?
Wow I nearly don't know what sprawling means. I just know it from the Arcade Fire songs! But we like bigger stages more, like festival size. The most important thing though is the crowd. If the crowd is willing the size of the stage doesn't really matter too much.
Who's the best stage diver in the group?
My brother is quite prominent as well as Haraldur, but Tobba the synth-queen is the most beautiful stage diver.
What are your main ambitions for 2011 (although it sounds like a lot of them have already been fulfilled)?
For me personally it's to calm down, listen to more house music and be a better person. I guess my ambitions will have an effect on the ambitions of the whole band. But most of all we just wan't to have fun.
If you could tour with any other Icelandic band right now who would it be?
We'd like to tour with FM Belfast and do some double shows (where there's no pause between the sets). I'd also like to do a tour with Agent Fresco, then we would do a metal version of our set. A Retro Stefson and Who Knew tour would be nice and sweaty as well. When I'm middle aged I'd like to tour world-music festivals with Hjálmar.
Retro Stefson's Website
Iceland Music Export (IMX)