Q&A: Fufanu’s Kaktus Einarson
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site at any point over its almost 7 year history — an eternity and a half in the blogosphere, really — you’d probably recognize that I’ve written about and championed an increasingly diverse set of artists across the glove, writing and performing in a wildly eclectic array of genres, sub-genres and styles. And over the past few months, I’ve written quite a bit about the Reykjavik, Iceland-based indie rock/post-punk trio Fufanu. Currently comprised of founding members Kaktus Einarsson (vocals, guitar), whose father Einar was a member of The Sugarcaubes and Guðlaugur “Gulli” Einarsson (guitar, programming) (no relation, by the way) along with newest member, Erling Bang (drums) can trace their origins to when the band’s founding members met while at school. According to the band’s founding duo, Katkus had glanced at Gulli’s iTunes and noticed that they had listened to a lot of the same techno and electronic music. And after quickly bonding over mutual interests, the duo went into a studio and began writing and recording electronic music under the name Captain Fufanu. Within a month of their formation, Kaktus Einarsson and Gulli Einarsson had started playing shows in and around Reykjavik.
Building on a growing local and national profile, the duo went into the studio to record what would be their full-length debut as Captain Fufanu; but in a strange twist of fate, the studio where Kaktus Einarsson and Gulli Einarsson had recorded the album was burgled. And as a result, the album was presumed stolen and lost. While many bands would be devastated by losing their work in such a fashion — or desperately trying to recall an album’s worth of material from memory, the band’s founding duo decided that it was the perfect time to reinvent their sound and themselves, as they were beginning to develop a growing technical and musical prowess. Interestingly, around the time that this was happening, Kaktus Einarsson was in London working on Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots and touring with the late and legendary Bobby Womack when Kaktus began writing lyrics. And simultaneously Gulli had started to create a craft a completely revised sound, which according to Kaktus managed to convey exactly what he had been thinking and feeling. They then paired Kaktus’ brooding and ironically detached vocals with live instrumentation — guitars and drums — and with their new sound, renamed themselves Fufanu.
Fufanu’s first live set with their new aesthetic and material was at 2014’s Iceland Airwaves and they quickly became one of the most talked about bands of the entire festival. Right after the festival, the band’s founding duo went into the studio to record their full-length debut A Few More Days To Go. And with the release of their debut effort, the then-duo saw a rapidly growing national and international profile as they toured with a number of internationally renowned acts including including The Vaccines, as well as playing at some of the region’s largest festivals, including the JaJaJa Festival. Interestingly, the band’s latest effort Sports finds the band going through some significant changes — Kaktus and Gulli recruited Erling “Elli” Bang (drums) to further flesh their sound out, while the newly constituted trio refining their material’s sound and thematic concerns.
Over the past three months or so, the band has released two singles off their sophomore effort — the album’s title track “Sports,” retained the synth-driven sound and motorik-like groove, seemingly influenced by Can, Neu! Joy Division and early ’80s Peter Gabriel paired with live instrumentation. “Liability,”the album’s second continues with a similar vein but with a slow-burning, moody vibe; but interestingly enough, both singles while possessing a murky and deliberately enigmatic air, point at the soul-crushing mundanity and drudgery of daily life and the broiling frustration and resentment of someone who’s desperate to tear themselves away, to break three — and not being sure of how to do so.
In this Q&A, the first of 2017 and the first in some time, I spoke with Fufanu’s frontman Kaktus Einarsson about a number of subjects including Reykjavik’s music scene, Icelandic acts we here in the States and elsewhere should be listening to right this very minute, what inspired the change of sonic direction from a purely EDM-based sound to their electronic rock-based sound, their recent UK tour and much more. Check it out below.
WRH: I’ve run my blog, The Joy of Violent Movement for almost 7 years and in that time, I’ve had a dedicated interest in covering a variety of artists across the globe. The bulk of my readers are based across the States and Canada. Can you tell a little about your hometown of Reykjavik that we wouldn’t know? What’s the music scene like?
Kaktus Einarson: Reykjavík is small but wants to be a large city most of the time. Good food, lively bars, schizophrenic weather and a music scene that all foreigners are so obsessed about but the Icelanders don’t feel that there’s anything special happening. Couple of concert venues and a lot of different projects that are formed by the same bag of people.
WRH: Junius Meyvant, (who I’ve also written about) along with yourself have received attention across the EU and elsewhere; but are there any artists in Iceland, who should be receiving attention that haven’t yet?
KE: Most of our Icelandic friends are musicians, some have received international attention, but there are few names that should definitely be heard by more ears. Names like Kuldaboli, Andi, and Konsulat.
WRH: How would you describe your sound?
KE: Future Rock – the music that we want to listen to.
WRH: Who are your influences?
KE: There is no actual influence list for Fufanu, we would have to try to find out why we are who we are by answering that. But if I try to give you some idea there is of course a lot of electronic music influences, Kraftwerk would be the biggest name there. Jazz, world music, rock and hip hop are just as equal. But then musical gear, synths and effects and those kind of things influence us a lot to experiment with the sounds.
WRH: Who are you listening to right now?
WRH: Kaktus, your father was once a member of The Sugarcubes. Has he given you any advice on being a touring musician or maneuvering the industry?
KE: Yes, but I’m not sharing those secrets with you.
WRH: When you started the band, it was more of an electronic music effort and over some time your sound morphed to what it is now. What influenced the change in sonic direction? How did it change your songwriting approach?
KE: It was literally just us experimenting more with the soundscape that brought us were we are today. For us we’re just doing music with the skills that we’ve gained through the years and seeking for new ways of bending those skills to push us further in experimentation.
WRH: Kaktus, was there ever a moment in which you may have felt trepidation over taking up vocal duties for the first time?
KE: No, nothing like that. Of course it’s more personal and you think about what words you are sharing with the world… but for me it was just adding a new dimension to the music, going from the instrumental music to what it is today.
WRH: I understand that you recently completed a tour of the U.K. to support your new album Sports. How did it go? Any plans for Stateside touring?
KE: It went well, first time doing the new music on a tour run… that was great! Before this tour we had just done single of shows here and there with the new music. We are coming to Boston later this week for a show and then Chicago in the end of April. Some plans for more US and Canadian gigs in the autumn as well. We are coming.
WRH: How does Sports differ from your first album, Few More Days to Go?
KE: It’s just a much more grown up album. We toured Few More Days to Go very much, so the band grew together and we knew way better what we wanted to do. It’s more focused and we had more control of how we wanted to use the soundscape.
WRH: How much of the lyrics of the album inspired by the events and situations of your lives or those of people you know?
KE: Every word in all of them.
WRH: The videos for album singles “Sports” and “Liability” employ a high school/collegiate sports theme, in which the members of the band and others are competing in track and field, soccer, basketball, boxing, karate and a few other things; but the competition is given a surreal, abstract act, as though everyone was thrown into a Samuel Beckett play. It also ties into the album cover art. Was this done on purpose? How did the video treatments come about?
KE: Of course it was done on purpose, the album is called Sports and that is the theme we chose to work around. We have been involved with all our videos up to date, it starts with an idea, we find someone great to work on it with us and the next thing we know is that we have a video ready.
WRH: What’s next for you guys?
KE: We have some touring ahead of us but at the moment we are settling into our studio again to make some new music.