Hot take: the spirit of punk will always belong to the youth. Not to say you can’t still be punk as you grow older, but there’s something about that visceral reaction to that world that just carries more weight and impact when the torch is carried by the upcoming generation who’s dealing with the last generation’s bullshit. Case in point, Icelandic trio GRÓA.
When GRÓA performed at the Kex Hostel at the 2019 Iceland Airwaves, they brought a fiery, delightfully aggressive energy to the stage unlike any of the other performs. The teenage musicians have quickly made an impact on their local scene, dropping two records that’d fit in nicely in the heyday of SST Records and grimiest of Los Angeles venues. Check out the video to see for yourself.
While they all learned instruments like classical piano while growing up, none of the members played the instruments they currently wield in GRÓA before starting the band. In talking with the band, they had no specific revelatory moment for why they decided to pick up the guitar, bass, and drums. Nor did they have a specific vision in mind. They just grabbed their new instruments and punk just happened to come out.
The band quickly broke through after performing at the local Músíktilraunir battle of the bands, which also happened to be their first-ever performance. They kept the momentum from there with the release of their self-titled debut in 2018 and their second LP, Í glimmerheimi in 2019. Quickly they embedded themselves in Iceland’s grassroots DIY scene, linking up with local collective post-dreifing. Vocalist and guitarist Karólina Einarsdóttir describes the DIY scene in Iceland as a way “to do what you want to do to get the platform to do what you're thinking.”
“In the grassroots scene there's a lot of planning some concerts, just anywhere,” adds drummer Hrafnhildur Einarsdóttir. “In some someone's house or a fancy concert place, just wherever. If people are excited for a concert, just find a way to hold them wherever it is.”
Partially, they emphasize, this is due to necessity. All being in their teens, they find it difficult to find venues in Reykjavik accessible to all-ages music.
“It's been one of our biggest problems,” Karólina Einarsdóttir says. “The past year, it's been like you need to be 20 to go in every place you can play. But I'm 17 years old and a lot of my friends are under 20.”
In some cases, the band says they are allowed to perform but their friends and fans their age aren’t allowed inside. Working with post-dreifing the band continues to find alternative venues, like basement venues and even gardens, where they can make their music more accessible to other youth.
While GRÓA has quickly drawn praise in Reykjavik, some of it they’re not so keen on. The band says they were often being told how “brave” they were for performing as an all-female band. It’s something they take issue with on multiple levels.
“It's just the attention we have gotten is just weird… are angry because of it. Like everyone says 'you're brave' before we talk. It sucks, it's so weird,” Karólina says.
“And also just because they are assuming all genders,” Hrafnhildur adds. “Just because they think we're girls, we are brave because we are standing on stage.”
“ Before we formed the band we never thought about whether we were boys or girls or something. We just wanted to play,” continues Karólina.
The band says they also started to see how differently they were treated as women as opposed to men in the scenes, whether it be in interviews or at their concerts. For the most part, the group says they try to ignore the noise and focus on playing music. However, it does impact them on some level artistically.
“Of course, it affects us at some point. It's somehow just made us a lot more aggressive band, I think,” says Hrafnhildur. “I sometimes just try to not pay too much attention to it because of course, we need more girls and women in music, especially like the hardcore scene.”
When the band’s on stage, all that noise gets pushed to the side so they can make some actual noise. For the band, their live shows are about the communal experience. It’s an emotional release for them, but also a chance for the audience to do the same.”
“I really want to create like the environment [where] people get the feeling that it doesn't really matter what you're doing,” Karólina says. “No one really does care about what you're doing. But if you like it yourself, it's always going to be great. And just the people who want to join you will join you. There will always be some people in the back rooms [who say], 'Ugh, that's disgusting' or something. But that just makes it more fun.”
Watch the Icelandic band's performance from Kex Hostel Iceland Airwaves 2019 and read an exclusive interview .
Watch the band's performance from Iceland Airwaves 2019 and read an exclusive interview .
Once again, KEXP returns to the land of fire and ice. Read about the underground music and the actual underground we've experienced in Reykjavik thus far.