By Rebecca Louder / Photo by Þórir Ingvarsson
There are twenty guitars, nine synthesizers and one bass guitar between the five members of the Kiriyama Family. The group hail from all parts of Iceland – and one member from Sweden! – but three of them had been playing in bands together for well over a decade. It was in college that they went from friends to family, after performing together in a musical play conducted by band member Bassi Ólafsson. In 2009, after making a series of demos on Flateyri and one member returned from studying abroad, they finally got the ball rolling on the band. Their self-titled debut album was released in early 2012 and was quickly met with warm reception from fans and critics alike. We caught up with Bassi to get the skinny on these brothers from other mothers.
Most of you have known each other and been playing music together for a long time. How is the dynamic between you as a group?
Jóhann, Víðir and Karl have been playing together since the early 2000s, and I have been active in various bands and doing session work for years and years. Obviously, I am a couple of years older. We’re tight. The band runs like a well lubricated machine. Occasionally we fight, like brothers, but in the end of the day a good wedgie is all it takes to set things straight. Seriously though, “a family” is the best word to describe this thing we have going on.
What did you grow up listening to that has shaped the music you make?
Each one of us grew up listening to different music, from metal to the Beatles. In the last four years our tastes have merged and nowadays we share a very similar taste though everyone has their own preferences. While growing up as musicians we tried different stuff, bringing individual elements to this band and somehow creating our own sound from whatever we knew, be it progressive rock, 80s and 70s soft pop or hints of jazz. We have a few favourite bands we all like and surely hope our listeners have also caught on. They are Chairlift, Miike Snow, Blonde Redhead, and Little Dragon.
The release of your first album basically had the band hitting the ground running. How are you feeling about the reaction you’ve received?
We had no idea what to expect. This album is quite self-indulgent. We’re basically doing what we felt like at each moment in the recording process, not thinking at all if anyone would like it. However we decided to approach the promotion quite professionally (in our minds at least), in order to show people we were serious about this. Landing a contract with Record Records certainly didn’t hurt. We’ve heard nothing but good things ever since it came out. We were pleasantly surprised with the reaction.
The style of music you created for this album is quite distinct and bombastic. Do you feel you’ve settled on a sound?
Experimentation and doing what we feel like is the core of our being. We could not dream of settling on “a sound”. Of course I guess there will always be a thin red line throughout our creative work that will somehow define us but tomorrow we might feel like doing something completely different. This excites us!
What is your ideal concert setting? What are you planning for your show at Airwaves? It’s a big fat secret! When we first started out and were talking concepts we never settled on a mood really. In some time, when we’ve expanded our repertoire we dream of being able to satisfy every different kind of concertgoer. From a lo-fi session at Kaffibarinn to a stadium setup in “Whereevermacaster”. Our live show is quite dynamic. We tend to start out with a bang and get people moving, slow it down for some goose-bumps and then end it with an even bigger bang! That’s all we can say at this moment.
You’re almost certain to be playing alongside several bands at the same time. Tell us WHY festival goers should decide to see you instead of the other?
If you liked the album you will be prepared to die happy having seen us live. Cocky, right? This is what we hear from our listeners. Don’t blame us, the customer is always right! Otherwise, you should try to also see Mammút, for sure. Also, Moses Hightower and Retro Stefson.