Ragnheiður Eiríksdóttir a.k.a. Heiða Eiríks, the singer-guitarist of the band Hellvar, opens her personal tour diary for the ROK readers. The diary was written on the road during the Highway to Hellvar Tour in February 2015.
When ROK asked me to do a tour diary of the UK-trip Hellvar did in February I thought it would be a piece of cake. I love writing, and for many years now I have kept a diary in some form of a blog, before in Icelandic and now recently in English. In my mind I pictured myself waking up smiling and sneaking off to the bakery and eating my tasty breakfast, whilst sipping my delicious tea and writing down all the exciting things that happened to Hellvar every day. Well, real live rarely matches one’s imagination so it wasn’t quite as smooth as that. I did manage the odd times at a café, a couple of mornings early on in the process, but after a while it was just a question of getting enough rest and saving enough energy to have the power needed to perform decently that night. We didn’t even have a show every night, but twice we had 3 in a row. I obviously need to gig more, to get to the level where bands do 10 gigs in a row and are ok with it. For me I do 3 in a row and I can feel it, 4 and I have to take a break. I could probably do 20 in a row if I were just playing guitar though, but I always forget about the world off-stage when I’m on-stage and just push and push and scream, and then I have to shut up to give my voice a break between battles. Writing this now, back in Iceland, it feels weird. „What‘s the big deal, Heiða?”, I ask myself. “It‘s just singing. Just go up there and sing, and then it‘s done, and repeat the process for as long as necessary.” I wish it were that simple, but in my head it‘s not. I think it’s about giving out enough energy for myself so the gig feels real enough. Like I said, it’s weird. Here is what I wrote in the order it was written down, but there were many adventures that didn’t really make it into the diary. Sometimes I just went to bed. Sometimes I just wanted to be alone with a book.
12.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #1
From 5 am to 5 pm we were either in a plane or in a car. We arrived at Gatwick around noon, Andri, Bogi, Elvar and Heiða, and we found our instruments in one piece, thank you very much! We waited for Alexandra, coming in from Stockholm, and when everyone had pissed and smoked and drank coffee and eaten and smoked and had more coffee, we left for the first part of the road trip… Café Costa and Marks and Spencer’s are to England what McDonalds is to the U.S.A: All over the highway to Hellvar.
13.02. 2015 Hellvar-UK, #2
Woke at 9, did a radio-interview over the phone. Walked around Kettering, got strings and a David Bowie-songbook with chords. Everybody looks nice and friendly and there is a market in the center and a lot of magic in the air. Northamptonshire is blowing me away with beauty and peace. We ate at a nice café up the road, and then went to a rehearsal-studio, got back, I went swimming and got laughed at for showering naked. I guess the English don’t want to see any nudity even if that means people washing over their bathing suit, and dressing in cubicles. Oh, well. I am so over worrying about what people think of me, even in the shower room of the swimming pool. We had Indian food for dinner, went to a very lively pub in which we will play a week from now. Laughed a lot, and then I went home the first of the Hellvars, of course. Rest of them are out there now with all of Kettering doing some crazy things, and I’m quite happy being back at the house. Super charged day. Now I need a rest.
14.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #3
Very varied mix of things today. After I slept in a little bit I went to the trainstation to buy tickets for London next week. I sat down at the trainstation’s café and wrote some poems. Had a sandwich, and as I was a good girl and finished my sandwich I had a right to some dessert (MaltEaster in the shape of a bunny rabbit, v.g.). I walked up to the old catholic church, and went in to get some proper goth-atmo. Must have worked because the first thing I saw when leaving the church was a small group of modern time goths, with very weird and nice music coming out of bad speakers attached to someone’s phone. I tried following the group a bit to see where they would go, but I thought they spotted me so I went into the local art gallery instead. Saw an exhibition on Selfies, modern and old painting ones. Great one, very well curated and both informative and entertaining. Got back, changed the strings in my guitar, van came to pick us up. Loaded the van up, drove to Northampton, capital of goth in England, Bauhaus are from there. Loaded into the Labour Club, soundchecked, ate Chinese, played, breathed a bit, sold merchandize and spoke to people. Packed things back together, drove back and here I am.
15.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #4
Indeed a lazy Sunday, off-day. Only time I went out today was to go to a real English Sunday roast in a real English family. It was wonderful. I read a bit, listened to a bit of radio, had a bath and dozed around the flat. Tomorrow we rehearse and then on Tuesday there is a gig in Leicester.
16.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #5
Monday, Monday. Not a bad Monday at all. Woke up to go out for a walk at 9 in the morning. Had made a promise to myself, after having stayed inside all Sunday, to explore more of Kettering, and to find a café I could call my hangout, and where there would be excellent coffee and good vibes to write. Found it, it is called Cortados, and has Spanish influences in the menu, good coffee, nice tea-selection and great people. Love my new hangout, actually went there twice today. In between those two times I went to rehearse with Hellvar. We added 4 songs to the mix. Now I’m all done with this Monday, gonna read a book. See you in Leicester tomorrow night!
17.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #6
Leicester on a Tuesday-night is not the busiest night of the week, so we didn’t really get a lot of people to our gig. We did get a leatherclad punk in, though, who loved Hellvar so much he bought one of each cd’s we had to sell. He is also flying to Iceland on the 31st of July, so now he knows somebody there. I’m gonna teach him Icelandic. Good gig, all in all, nice sound. Went this morning and got a tattoo!!! Then took the train to London and am now sitting with Elvar and our friend Frack in his flat in Crystal Palace. Jam session tonight, gig tomorrow in Fulham, London.
19.02. 2015 Hellvar-UK, #7
Woke up this morning in London, which is always a pleasant feeling. Yesterday was somehow a very strange day for me, strangely packed, with a new tattoo and a train ride and London transport and dinner on the run. A jam session in the evening and a ride home in the London-by-night, special Franck-sightseeing-car was the icing on the cake, so bed and rest was extremely called for. Band on the run, indeed. 10 am I woke to do yoga, and try and correct my bad back, and then had killer breakfast, made odd brass instrument recordings with Franck and Elvar, and then I went out for a walk around Crystal Palace, leaving the guys behind to explore yet unharvested sonic fields. Found a café where I am writing this but I need to get back to Franck’s soon to go to Fulham. Tonight we play at the Southern Belle, very excited about that. (update, added much later): London gig was fun but also very surreal. No real PA was installed, as theirs had broken down the previous day and they were expecting a new one the next day. Lucky us, so we just turned our monitors ourwards and put them up to max and the vocals very really interesting that way. Also, inside the bar was a huge Karaoke room with a window, and that room was full to the brim while our gig was going on with just a couple of handfuls of people watching us. I could perform our songs on stage and watch other people singing Karaoke at the same time. I really liked that, it was an outworldly feeling. A world inside a world inside a world. I will never forget this gig in my lifetime.
21.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #8
Train-ride from London to Bedford was a trip! Listened to an album called “Ecstasy”, a solo-album by Lou Reed that is absolutely fantastic, and goes down very well in a train. Bedford turned out to be quite the rock ‘n’ roll town. We got a great soundcheck, great soundwoman who masterfully organized things, and we ended up hearing everything on stage and having a rocking powerful sound out, which was so fulfilling after yesterday’s PA-problem. This helped to make it an excellent show, and even the regulars at Danny‘s Bar were happy. Sold a few cd’s and T-shirts, had many nice conversations, laughed a lot. Drove home in Steve’s van listening to Dub side of the moon, a great discovery. Tonight Hellvar rocks out in Kettering‘s The Old Market Inn.
24.02.2015 Hellvar-UK, #9
What happened since Bedford last Friday? Well, so many things actually. Let me try to state the main ones: We drove up to Corby on Saturday-morning to do an interview on the Steve Rigsby show, which went very well. Met the owner of the cool record store in Kettering up there, Ross is his name, decided to pay his store a visit and that was fun. Elvar and me ate a gourmet veggie-burger at the Kino-bar and then we soundchecked in The Old Market Inn. We took a small breather and then almost all of Kettering showed up for our gig. Wow, we are so thankful. Great fun on Saturday. We did little on Sunday, but still managed to try a Sauna bath, first one on this tour, mmmm. Ate fish for Sunday dinner at a pub, actually not that great, but ok, and then went to bed early. Now I just got home from Northampton University, where me and Elvar first had an excellent interview with really cool people, where they only played Icelandic music (Sigur Rós, Sólstafir, Of Monsters and men, Prins Póló and Fræbbblarnir to name a few, all chosen by the hosts). When the interview was finished we soundchecked and got a small break to eat and then it was showtime. Again, very happy and grateful, good people showed up, and a brilliant band called The Supersonics played with us. Bus-ride back with Bjarni, our driver and a true viking, was fun and educational as always. Now I’m gonna sleep. Gute Nacht!
27.02. 2015 Hellvar-UK, #10
Today is Friday and tonight we play the next to last gig on this tour, and it is in Kislingbury, just outside of Northampton, in a bar called The Olde Red Lion. It is supposed to be something more than just a regular pub-experience. Nice people, nice food and cool atmo. Therefore I am going to wear my dress. I have brought 1 dress and 3 jeans with me, and a handful of T-shirts and I take turn wearing them, but the dress I save for special occasions. Touring is so much more about trying to put on clothes that don‘t stink too badly on stage than it is ever about sounding right. Half the time there are bad monitors and if they happen to be good then the sound-engineer might not know how to work them right. I caught a cold in the rain and wind yesterday, while Elvar and me walked for 40+ minutes to get to an interview in the outskirts of Cambridge. Yesterday‘s singing was therefore softer than usual, not really doing any of my normal headbanging and rock stunts I pull on-stage. We sound very shoe-gazey when I’ve got a cold. Tonight, with the dress, I’ll do as much as I can, and then squeeze whatever‘s left in me out on Saturday. It’s gonna be a lot of fun tonight and tomorrw night. It‘s like when you are climbing a mountain and at some point you know you will reach the peak without falling or giving up. Today I am there. Yesterday I was not yet seeing the peak.
04.03.2015 Hellvar-UK, #11
I’m not gonna lie to you. This tour was hard but it is also very hard to be back in Iceland. On the other hand it was easy to do the same thing over and over again: Wake, get ready, drive, set up, soundcheck, play, load van, drive, sleep. But it is also easy to know what the day‘s schedule is, no surprises in the daily routine in Iceland. So being on tour is hard and easy and so is not being on tour anymore. Two of my favorite gigs on the tour were the last two: At The Olde Red Lion in Kislingbury, outside Northampton, and at The Ship Inn in Oundle. Kislingbury gig had very nice people, great food, really cool looking venue, all in all pretty much everything we wanted and therefore it was so much fun. Oundle gig was the last one and I just turned mad. I knew there was no gig for a while after so I just exploded. I am actually still putting the pieces of myself together. I might have lost a nose and an eye. We even improvised an encore-song for the audience who asked for more but we were out of material. I lost a few kilos on this tour, probably mostly in sweat on stage! Best things about being back in Iceland: My son, my cat, my bed, the water, my vinyls and the swimming pools. Worst things by far: Fucking weather and shitty darkness in the morning. That’s all.
Thanks for reading this tour diary of Hellvar. Hope it gives you an idea on how tour life is for a band that has no money. We are very grateful for having people who want to help us get our music out there: Pete McAlinden who managed this tour, Chris McAlinden who did two round trips from Kettering to London with all our gear as well as so much more, the van-drivers Bjarni and Steve who drove us to heaven and hell(var), Ade Brown and the other radio people who interviewed us and played Hellvar all the time, and the people of the bands we played with, Spucktute, We Animals, The Supersonics and Idle Influx: You are great, we are grateful!
- Ragnheiður Eiríksdóttir