In our regular feature, we ask artists and musicians, whose work entails traveling the world, about some of the favorite places they’ve discovered. This time, we join the Icelandic 8-piece synthpop group, who play EB Festival in Montenegro tomorrow (tickets still available!).
When your band’s lineup consists of eight members, you better have the musical panache to get promoters to shell out those travel fees. Thankfully for Retro Stefson, they bring more than just numbers to the stage. Their innate sense of fun is apparent in their bouncy electronic pop, which touches on a multitude of genres and time-vibes. ’90s house and ’80s disco are both present, as is neo-reggae and Afrobeat, all tied together in a way that not only makes sense to the ears, but makes dance for the feet too—several of their tracks have charted at #1 in their native Iceland, in fact. In a state of constant evolution, the group have been making music together in various forms since elementary school. Nearly ten years, two albums and countless shows later, they’ve had plenty of opportunities to experience life on the road and all the the pleasures (and discomforts) that such frenzied travel brings. Retro Stefson will soon be taking the stage at this year’s Electronic Beats Festival Montenegro, along with two of the UK’s finest, Disclosure and Mount Kimbie. Before that, however, we joined them for a look at some of the most memorable locations they’ve seen in their busy touring schedule.
Recep Usta Köfteci – Moabit, Berlin
The whole band lived next door for half a year. Our first day in our new home, we met a couple of Icelandic friends by total coincidence. They took us straight to this Turkish restaurant; it’s got a lot of regulars and a family-friendly atmosphere. We went there several times a week and sometimes several times a day, since it’s open 24/7. When we realized they also do home delivery we decided to slow down a bit on our consumption of delicious Turkish food. I recommend number 12 or Spezial Köfte.
Lucky Records – Reykjavík, Iceland
This is an independent record store with a huge selection of vinyl and loads of new Icelandic music. This year they relocated to a bigger spot close to the main street Laugarvegur. It’s got a nice and cozy atmosphere and good listening stations. A must-visit for music lovers and cratediggers.
Hótel Laugarhóll – Bjarnarfjörður, Iceland
Here is where I’ve written most of my music for the past three years. My family runs it, and the band has had practice sessions there in the total darkness of the Westfjords in winter. I try to go there every few months; there is a natural pool with hot water from the ground as well as an man-made pool that was built more than 60 years ago. In the summer it’s packed with guests from all over the world, and in the winter there’s usually very few people. Maybe just a few musicians and ghosts.
Honorable mention: Hotel Michelberger – Berlin.
Harpa – Reykjavík, Iceland
It’s a great music hall in downtown Reykjavík. It was built during difficult times economically in Iceland—not everyone agreed on whether it should even be built. But the truth is, it raises the bar for professionalism in the country’s music business. I want to perform there for the rest of my life.
Favorite tourist attraction
Græni Hatturinn – Akureyri, Iceland
This is actually a concert venue as well, but in the north of Iceland. It is probably the most professional venue in Iceland of its size, and the booking is great. The regulars also have a great tradition of showing up way before the doors open to form a nice little queue, which doesn’t happen anywhere else around here. I’ve always wondered how great it would be to stumble upon this place if I was a tourist in Iceland. ˜