What are you ... Waiting For? - Interview with Noizy.gr (Greece)

They come from frozen Iceland, but their music is warm and in almost entropic way balances between melodic pop and delicate rock touches. Most of you probably will not know them, but Kiriyama Family is already one of Iceland’s most popular musical formats. With their second album, “Waiting For …”, they want to open their wings to the world musical stand, having already scheduled concerts in England, USA and Canada. It should be noted that the children funded the recording of the album by the crowdfunding method, even exceeding the required amount. Their main composer, Kalli Bjarnarson, opens his heart at Noizy and gives the first interview in a Greek medium on behalf of the band.

What are you … Waiting For?

What was your main motivation to start playing music and making Kiriyama Family? 
When we started playing music, Víðir, Jóhann and I participated in a band playing grunge and indie rock. In the process, however, we wanted to play music that was more pop oriented. So we left the band and formed the Kiriyama Family in 2008. At first we were just three of us and we wrote music in Jóhann’s garage with a Yamaha D-21 synthesizer, a computer, a bass and a guitar. Soon we realized that we wanted to be able to play with “live” drums, so we contacted Bassi and Gummi came a little later. This was our first line up. A year after the release of our first album, Jóhann left the band and we had to fill the gap. Bassi then recorded with Aragrui and thought the singer (Hulda) would fit perfectly as a guest in one of our songs. Indeed it was ideally suited and then there was no return! He started to rehearse and was incorporated into the group. After a while we joined forces with Bjarnialso to fill another gap, since we put a lot of synth in our music and is a musician we wanted to have with us.
What inspires you the most?
To listen to other artists’ music is our basic inspiration for the songs we are composing. We all have different tastes and so the result is usually a combination of different musical genres.Although there are still many sources of inspiration, what can give us impetus is a sound from the synthesizer or a rhythm when we jam. Also a good film can give us inspiration from the moment we all see many movies and TV programs. Even a walk in a playground, playing a frizzle and throwing rings has often given us stimuli that go into our music. Basically it is about going outside the studio and making our blood flow.
Why did you choose English verse in your songs rather than your mother tongue?
I spent my childhood in Sweden and at that time I was watching many cartoons and shows on MTV and so I improved my English quite a bit. So when I moved to Iceland, my Icelandic was not that good. I did not feel that I knew the language so well that I was writing in a way that exactly reflects my thoughts. So I started to write in English because it seemed totally natural to me and it was effortless. Today I could write lyrics in Icelandic, but I feel more comfortable with English. And of course we want to understand a lot more people, for example the Greeks.
How different is it to have female vocals in relation to your first album that you have a man’s voice?
Music gains a lot from female vocals, in relation to the sound dynamics, and we have all heard many female voices over the years. I believe he gives more information and offers a variety of choices and fresh ideas on the other side of the music spectrum. Hulda is a stunning singer with great dynamics that covers a wide range of tones she can catch. It’s a blessing to write music for such a voice. He also plays many instruments and on our next album he will offer us more musical ideas.
What are your goals for the future?
The main goal is to play our music in as many places as possible in the world. Of course, we always aim to evolve music but also as a group, as a family, if I can put it this way. We’ve already started writing music, so it’s not going to be long before we make our next album.
Do you know a Greek band? Would you like to play live in Greece?
Unfortunately, we have not heard Greek music at all, as far as we can remember. It’s a band named Keep Shelly in Athens, but it’s got to be from the US (it’s Greek). But now we have to expand our research! Of course we want to have the opportunity to play live in Greece. Some of us have come to your country and would love to come back.

Bláeygar sálir í svellkaldri sveiflu "Blue Eyed Soul in Cool Swing" - Ras 2 (Iceland)

Kiriyama Family´s second album is down to the groove and gives the ,,blue eyed soul music” from the 80s its regards. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen reviews the album which is the album of the week at Rás 2. What is ,,blue eyed soul music”? The description was cooked up in the 80s to describe the interested and the passion, often from white male, on the steaming hot black soul music. Hall & Otes is an excellent referenced to that, Bowie used this method/genre on Young Americans etc. The method though got first interesting when the Brits took it up in their arms. Bands like Scritti Politi and ABC, with roots from the punk and experimental music, flirted with the method with a great power. The touch of soul music came along with great bands (Prefab Sprout), average bands (Deacon Blue) and awful bands (Wet Wet Wet). This genre however mostly disappeared when the 90s came along but nostalgia comes regularly, I think of the Norwegian quality band Montée when it comes to that. The same goes with Kiriyama Family. Bearded, tattooed and full on white men from Iceland that do not figure that out and play like they are on stage with Sade in London 1986. The female singer Hulda Krístin Kolbrúnardóttir corrects the testosterone party, not sure though if she has blue eyes but her hair certainly is! Anywho, this is the soundscape of the album. Soulful, groovy popp the references all the above and even similar to Icelandic popp; Fjörefni, Ljósin í bænum for example. The tone is set in the first song ,,About you”, the keyboard underlines the era and also the other instruments when I think about it. The singer, Karl M. Bjarnarson, sings with the appropriate feeling and Hulda supports with a class. She leads the next song ,,Lightyears Away”, which is in a similar mood. The highlights of the album I would say is ,,Innocence” and ,,Push Further”, well written songs with highly strong choruses. ,,While you wait” is a some kind of 90s practice, with the distingue Phil Collins reverb drum sound. You could say that this album is an album of the instruments. It is a great pleasure to listen to the interplay and specially the drummer, Bassi Ólafsson, who has an incredible runs on this album. The only thing you can critic is that sum of those songs are ,,underwritten” if you could say. ,,Anywhere but here” runs fluently with out leaving a special mark behind and some of the writings could have been with more edge to it. Overall this album runs through smoothly, it is a comfortable music without being cheap. Kiriyama Family can be really satisfied with the outcome and can look with an optimistic blue eye to the future.

Album Review by Tonlist.De (Germany)

You won’t believe it, but finally we can talk about springtime. Sitting lakeside in the evening, shorts and t-shirt and a beer, what else? Maybe a fitting piece of music, fluffy and lightly? Well, we can help you out! And you can trust us, it’s a recommendation you better take into account: exactly in a week today, the nowadays six-headed Kiriyama Family will release their second record “Waiting for…” and we’ve been lucky to take a glimpse at the album beforehand to tell you about its greatness

Most people here in Germany most likely never heard a single word about those guys – and very important: girl –
so far. Even if you should be a little more into Icelandic music. But back home in Iceland, they already caused quite a stir with their self-named debut back in 2012. The song “Weekends” made it to the top spots of the Icelandic airplays. And both their new singles “Innocence” and “Chemistry” achieved the same. But first things first.

Four years is a considerably long time in popular music between to releases. And in fact, there have been some major changes within Kiriyama Family in the meantime. Keyboarder Bjarni Ævar Árnason and vocalist Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardottir joined the four core members Karl Bjarnarson (vocals, guitar, bass and keys), Guđmudur Jónsson (guitar, bass and keys), Viđir Björnsson (guitar, bass and keys) and Bassi Ólafsson (drums and percussion). Right during the making of the album, but early enough to put their mark on it to some degree and define the new Kiriyama Family style: an even more straight-ahead sparkling 80s synthie pop than on the predecessor, which somehow commuted between synthie-indietronic (“Sneaky Boots” or “Time out”) but also pure indie rock (“the amazing “Portobello”) without really deciding for one direction. Of course, you can’t accuse Kiriyama Family of inconclusiveness cause they performed extremely well in both directions.

But now it’s time for synthies and keys! And right ahead, the opener “About you” leads the way for the first half of the nine songs record. Foggy sounds swirl from the off to clear up for the first catchy melody, driven by damn groovy drums until Karl jumps in to sing about love and desire, just as the doctor orders: ” “I wanna be the one / who sets fire to your heart”. And like a spark in the dark, Huldas voice shows up for the first time, silently in the background and you receive a first impression of what’s still to come. You don’t have to wait for (attention, play of words!) a long time. “Light years away” has a similar start from the off like “About you”, funky as hell thanks to Bassi’s amazingly tight and rhythmic drumming. But then it’s all Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardottir’s song and I promise you goosebumps. Her voice certainly is one of the most talented and impressive ones in Iceland. Silent and sensitive is as easy a task for her as sonorous and powerful. Next one, “Apart” slows down a little bit then, in fact break ups usually are not the most euphoric moments in life: “All I can say is that we’re meant to be apart / And all I can do is hope that you don’t catch my heart off guard”. But then it’s time for the first single and all that pain and grief is gone. “Innocence” is what you call the perfect pop song: catchy beat, great vocals, euphoric chorus and a finish that will make you burst from joy and Hulda’s brilliant voice. There are a lot of heights on “Waiting for…” but “Innocence” might be the highest of them all, though the second single “Chemistry” immeadiately prompts the same feelings. “Push further” then rings the bell for a slightly different second part of the album, with songs less rhapsodical but more reflective dominating until the final track “Waiting for your love”. Also the lyrics are more pondering and serious. “While you wait” even is a cheesy and monolithic instrumental 80s power ballad.

So despite their stronger focus on synthie sounds, Kiriyama Family still shows nice variation on “Waiting for…”. Certainly, one of the main reasons is also the rotating lead vocal. Both, Hulda and Karl, are amazing singers without a doubt and both put their very personal stamp on. “Waiting for…” is infectiously catchy, especially during the first songs, but not a bit simple or trivial: the songwriting is way too funky and groovy during the first half as it is toughtful in the second part. And as a matter of course, all six are fantastic musicians who perfectly know how to play their instruments and together really develop “Chemistry” (another play of words, sorry). We can only hope for Hulda, Karl, Guđmudur, Viđir, Bassi and Bjarni to show up in Germany, too, to promote their amazing second album. We’re “Waiting for…” (end of plays of words now, promised)!

The album will be released soon: 1st of June. Keep your eyes and ears open!

Album Review by Stacja Islandia (Poland)

Kiriyama Family is an electro indie pop band from Reykjavik. Some of its members have known each other since childhood and have been playing together since 2008. But the band was born only in 2012. On the plus side, I will add that the name of the project was taken from Kōshun Takami’s novel Battle Royale.

The Icelandic debut album, titled simply ” Kiriyama Family “, which was released in 2013 was very warmly received by listeners, also met with a wave of positive recognition from music critics. Everyone was fascinated by the lightness and freedom that band musicians showed in the field of pop and electronic music experiments. It is also worth noting that almost all of the then-five artists were talented multi-instrumentalists. Hence the team often changed roles in the occupied positions with instruments. Such a state of affairs introduced into the music of the Icelanders allowed for much greater possibilities, and consequently also a greater variety of composition and arrangement.

In the year 2014, there were certain personnel changes in the ranks of the band, in addition Kiriayama Family has expanded its composition with an additional person – the singer.

Current members of Kiriayama Family :

Karl M. Bjarnarson – vocals, guitar, bass and synthesizers
Víðir Björnsson – guitar, bass and synthesizers
Guðmundur Geir Jónsson – guitar, bass and synthesizers
Hulda Kristín Kolbrúnardóttir – vocals
Bassi Ólafsson – drums and drums (and recording and mix)
Bjarni Ævar Árnason – synthesizers

And in this composition of Kiriyama Family , four years after releasing their debut album, they present us with their latest release entitled ” Waiting For … “. The release of the album took place on June 1, 2017.

On his new longplay, the band has put together nine songs inspired by a wide range of musical genres, resulting in a coherent, indie dream pop and soul, retained in the retro aesthetics of the unrealistic sounds of the 80’s synthesizer. What comes to mind in such a sophisticated music Kiriyama Family is its extraordinary space and lightness, gentle breeze of freshness and naturalness. Everything seems to be carefully thought out and arranged. The musicians also managed to create a unique, shocking and infectious feeling on their record. Also the sound of ” Waiting For … ” is excellent. It feels smooth and delicate. The individual compositions gleam beautifully woven arrangements, capture a pleasant smooth mood, Catchy melodies and perceptible groov at every turn. Applause for the instrumentalists. First of all, for the choice of the great sounds and rhythms, which combined into a whole gave a nice result. It’s just a well-behaved, sincere and atmospheric album that adds a lot of fun. But the two singers are equally well respected – Karl and Huldy’s voices sing together in wonder and they just complement each other nicely. Their vocal lines drip with sensuality and sweetly caress our ears. Although free and lyrical songs dominate, it is no excuse for Kiriyama Family music . It’s just a well-behaved, sincere and atmospheric album that adds a lot of fun. But the two singers are equally well respected – Karl and Huldy’s voices sing together in wonder and they just complement each other nicely. Their vocal lines drip with sensuality and sweetly caress our ears. Although free and lyrical songs dominate, it is no excuse for Kiriyama Family music . It’s just a well-behaved, sincere and atmospheric album that adds a lot of fun. But the two singers are equally well respected – Karl and Huldy’s voices sing together in wonder and they just complement each other nicely. Their vocal lines drip with sensuality and sweetly caress our ears. Although free and lyrical songs dominate, it is no excuse for Kiriyama Family music .

Kiriyama Family has certainly lost nothing of its originality. Boldly can say that he even gained. Each composition from ” Waiting For … ” is a confirmation of the composers’ maturity, arranging and performing musicians, and the uniqueness of this band and their music. Enjoy your vacation, rest, relax and listen to ” Waiting For … “.

Waiting For Album Review by Opus Zine (USA)

Despite it’s remoteness and small, homogenous population, Iceland’s musical output contains a considerable amount of diversity, e.g., Björk’s experimental electronic pop, Sigur Rós’ sweeping grandeur, Ólafur Arnalds and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s elegant modern classical, Sólstafir’s blistering post-metal, and so on.

Compared to all of those artists, however, Kiriyama Family’s soulful, retro pop can seem a bit… conventional. But then you actually start listening to Waiting For… and several things become readily evident.

First, the Family knows their way around solid hooks and grooves, something that’s immediately noticeable on the album’s first singles (e.g., “About You,” “Apart”). Second, the album’s production is topnotch, resulting in a lush, enjoyable listen. A lot occurs in these songs, but everything is balanced, from the snappy percussion to the ’80s-influenced Radio Dept.-esque synth-work. Finally, the album’s highlight is the fiery vocals of newcomer Hulda Kolbrúnardóttir, whose sensual voice is great at both harmonizing (“Apart”) and taking the lead (“Light Years Away”), and positively soars on “Innocence.”

Perhaps cheekily, Kiriyama Family describes their music as a blend of “yacht rock, dream pop, and Jean Claude Van Damme movie soundtrack.” That description might induce some eye-rolling, but it’s fairly apropos. There’s a definite and airily retro sense to these songs (e.g., “Chemistry”), but they also have just enough quirkiness and energy to keep them from feeling like slavish exercises in nostalgia.

Put simply, Waiting For… is ample proof that Iceland’s music scene is as fertile and vital as ever.