Saturday night in Vandalia, Ohio is an unexpected place to find a bit of the Icelandic music scene, but this past Saturday defied expectations. The Icelandic group Berndsen, fronted by its namesake David Berndsen introduced a lively crowd to a new sound and a memorable performance as they continue on their East Coast US tour before returning just over 3000 miles for the 20th Anniversary of the Iceland Airwaves music festival. Frontman David did a post-show interview with our correspondent Katrina Fraley and discussed how life on the road and touring the US has been and what’s next for the bold synth inspired rock band.
As I traveled to Oscar’s sports bar, nestled in a strip mall between a vape shop and gun store just north of Dayton, it seemed all too appropriate that blustery winds whipped at my vehicle. It reminded me quite a bit of driving around Iceland and hours later when speaking with frontman David Berndsen, he noted the same. “In a way I feel like I’m in a small town of Iceland... I just feel like at home, I guess.” My anticipation was high as I drove along listening to Berndsen’s Alter Ego, his third record released earlier this month. This being a more adult contemporary record, I wasn’t sure how it would translate into his famously energetic live shows. The Icelandic musician has described in previous interviews how this recent release takes a shift musically from his first two albums, notable for their high energy and upbeat synth driven rock. I was curious as to what lead to this departure? Berndsen reflected upon this question, fingering loose tobacco as he sat next to me, before tucking it into his cheek while leaning back, “This was the album I wanted to be an artist... like I feel it’s very artistic and…. I spent so much time on it it almost drove me crazy.”
While Alter Ego offers a more relaxing audible journey, Berndsen’s live show keeps the party going with heavy amounts of his first two releases, Planet Earth and Lover in the Dark. “We’ve been trying to figure out how we should do songs from the third album because it’s very different from the first two...it’s like more relaxed, ambient, like slower tempo, than our live show. But I wanted to do something different from the first two albums.” Touring with Berndsen and operating massive amounts of synth gear is producer and partner, Hermigervill, who Berndsen became friends with while studying audio engineering in Holland. “Our education was very well utilized,” he remarked on how the pair’s friendship was born out of adoration for synth music and engineering. “He was all into the synthesizer parts….so we just started to jam and I said, ‘hey we should just do an album.’”
Exciting things lie on the horizon for Berndsen and company, who will be making a return to Iceland Airwaves this year in November before traveling to the US for SXSW in the Spring. “It’s a chance we need to take to see if maybe something comes out of it,” he added regarding the acceptance into the US festival, providing wider exposure for indie artists, with a desire to do more than just an East Coast US tour. But perhaps without Airwaves, Berndsen might not be in the US at all at this point. “It’s a big opportunity for us to be here, because the reason we are here is there was one person who came to Airwaves, saw us play an off venue and he said you have to come and play my birthday party... and his name is Al and now he’s our manager.” Al has become more than just the US tour manager, however, and audiences along the east coast have been graced with his incorporation into the live act, truly a sight to behold.
For those not attending Airwaves festival, Berndsen will be making a stop in Cincinnati at Northside Tavern on Tuesday October 23, 2018 playing along with local favorites,Founding Fathers. It is a show not to be missed, as I suspect that the bands trajectory is about to go even further out of this world, just like their synthy infusion of party anthems suggest.
Where: Northside Tavern
When: Tuesday, October 23, 8 pm
How Much: Free