For Sindri Eldon, it isn’t the case that there is no place like home, so much as there being no such thing as home. At an age when other children were learning to ride bikes and swapping comic books, this now twenty-something resident of Reykjavik, Iceland, was being ferried around the world by his mother – known to all as Icelandic icon Bjork – and father, both of whom played in a touring band.
“In a way,” he says, “hotel rooms and airports feel like home to me more than home in the conventional sense of the term does. It’s my natural environment, I guess.”
But if you were to regard the above information and infer that for Sindri Eldon the life of a bandleader, musician, recording artist and live performer was as natural and inevitable as a succession to the throne, you would be wrong. Ever contrary, when Sindri did finally come off the road in order to live in Reykjavik as a teenager he decided the last thing in the world he wanted to do was join a band. This, though, was only a temporary injunction, and soon enough the now no longer wandering adolescent decided that he did fancy making music after all. It was just his reason for doing so that was a bit, well, unreasonable.
“Some friends of mine formed a band and they wouldn’t let me join,” he says. “They didn’t need another guy. I couldn’t play an instrument, anyway – but then again, neither could they! So I formed my own group, just to spite them.”
And here it all began. Sindri Eldon’s first real band were known as DESIDIA, a union that recorded an album that to this day is still awaiting release. Following this, Sindri jettisoned all notions of being an equal partner in go-nowhere bands and instead forged his own path as a solo artist. Each year he would record and release demos made at Christmas, all the while struggling with the limitations of recording budgets as well as his own relative technical inexperience. The terrain was uphill.
“It was all very lo-fi,” Sindri laughs today. “But the thing was that it wasn’t meant to be deliberately lo-fi, it wasn’t like some kind of calculated act, it was just the best I could do with the technology to hand. I was trying to make the songs as good as they could possibly sound, it’s just that the way that they sounded was lo-fi.”
But this was about to change. Much to his delight, Sindri Eldon (along with backing band The Ways) were noticed by the prestigious UK independent label One Little Indian, who are set to release his debut solo album, Bitter & Resentful, early this year.
It was around this point that things began to sharpen into focus. Selecting 11 songs that had already once been recorded in the past – the earliest of which was written aged just 17 – as well as two brand-new compositions, Sindri Eldon retired to the recording studio to make an album that he describes as being “a very difficult labour,” not only that but one that was longer than the gestation period of an elephant.
“I learned a lot making this album,” he says. “I’ve spent 10 years making really under-produced music, so I thought it was time to try making something ridiculously overproduced. So I spent hours and hours and hours laying on track after track after track, and just making the most bloated fucking overproduced, over-slick monster of an album that you could possibly imagine. It was like Def Leppard!
“I can only explain this in the context of having spent years and years and years making low-fi music, so this was the alternative to that. Now that I’ve done something that’s incredibly overproduced, at least now I know what it’s like.”
With its captivating sense of melody, its inventive and economical arrangements, and its commanding yet often cute sense of song-structure, Bitter & Resentful is an album set to lighten the mood of even the darkest winter night. But this is more than vanilla music for a distracted generation, as song titles such as Song Of Frustration In The Face Of Resolute Fidelity and I Have Earned The Right To Be A Failure make clear. Even more defiantly, Bitter & Resentful’s opening track runs its sentiment straight up the flag-pole and asks the listener to salute with the title America – An Ode.
“There are a lot of people in Iceland who are leftist conspiracy nuts and who really hate America,” says the song’s author. “So I wanted to sort of stick it to those people. I also wanted to remind people that we are greatly indebted to America culturally, and that the music I make wouldn’t exist without American culture. I know you have these highbrow intellectuals who all sneer, ‘Really? What culture comes from America?’ But there is a culture. Take a band like The Replacements, from Minneapolis. They really bring with them this sense of being from a lonely city in winter and there being this one bar that you struggle to get to in the middle of a snowstorm, or something. There’s a lot of richness there.”
Sindri Eldon knows all about a country that is mythologised by others. He himself lives in one. With the help of such bands as The Sugarcubes, Sigur Ros and Minus, Iceland has long been admired as a place of groundbreaking culture and a land of liberal values. Once again, refusing to tow the party line, Sindri gives this notion the shortest of shrift.
“I’m sort of a self-loathing Icelander in a lot of ways,” he says, before adding that “also, I’m so fucking sick of Iceland. I hate it, for so many reasons.
“It’s the civilisation in Iceland, if you can call it that, that I mind, that annoys me. It seems on the surface to be a very open minded progressive place, but most of the people here are actually quite conservative and small-minded, and are very ignorant. Our politics are totally dominated by very annoying people. And there’s just not a lot that this place has to offer. If someone moved here they would exhaust all the options for things to do in a very short time. It’s just a very limited place in every conceivable way.
“You know, I usually get asked what other Icelandic bands and musicians I like, and the answer is that I don’t know. I don’t really feel a lot of kinship with Icelandic musicians because they seem to celebrate the fact that they make Icelandic music, and I’ve always looked outside of Iceland for inspiration and like-minded people.”
This is hardly a surprise from a man who as a boy learned that he was a Citizen of the Planet, rather than a permanent resident of a barren country that smells like farts. “Every few years I get the itch to move,” he says, and by the time listeners hear Bitter & Resentful Sindri Eldon will have moved to Seattle to live with his American wife. As for other plans set to appear on the docket, the songwriter and bandleader seems less sure.
“The thing that I really enjoy doing most is recording,” he says. “That’s my passion, really. I wouldn’t mind touring, but I don’t like it well enough to do it on my own. I’d really need someone to do it for me, like a booking agent, or even a label.”
If this all sounds somewhat vague, then this is simply how Sindri Eldon has designed it. But the songs contained on Bitter & Resentful prove that this is an artist capable of leaving a permanent mark on the imaginations of those who hear his music.