ROK had a chat with Jeff Obermeyer!
Hello Jeff! Please introduce yourself…
My name is Jeff Obermeyer, and I’m 40-something-year-old guy who lives in Seattle, Washington with my wife Holly and our dog Trigger. When I’m not listening to Icelandic music (and sometimes when I am), I’m a business analyst for an insurance company.
Why do you like Icelandic music so much?
The Icelandic scene is something that you feel like you can completely wrap your arms around, as if you can fully understand everything coming out of there. In recent years that hasn’t been the case as much, as there’s so much music pouring out of Iceland that it’s hard to keep up. The other fantastic thing is seeing how genre-bending the musicians are – you’ll see a guy playing in a black metal band one night and doing an ambient techno set the next. Ultimately it feels freer and less commercial than what we have in the US.
When did you visit Iceland for the first time? What was the occasion?
Holly and I first visited Iceland in 2005. We decided that we were doing well enough financially that we wanted to start traveling more, and picked Iceland because it seemed both exotic and relatively easy to visit. We rented a car, used Reykjavik as our home base did a bunch of day trips over the course of a week, and fell in love with the country.
What was your first contact with Icelandic music? When?
Holly caught the Icelandic music bug before I did. We’re super fortunate to have a legitimate independent radio station like KEXP based here in Seattle, and that’s how Holly first heard Mugison and learned about Iceland Airwaves. When it came to planning a vacation for 2009 I suggested we go to Airwaves because I knew she wanted to see the festival… and I just really wanted to go back to Icealnd! We mentioned it to our friend Norberto and he wanted to go too, and the three of us have gone together to every Airwaves since 2009 (and we’re booked again for 2017), adding a few other friends along the way. It was that first Airwaves that hooked me.
What were/are your projects concerning Icelandic music?
It’s primarily my blog, Life in the Vinyl Lane (http://www.seattlehockey.net/blog). I decided to start a blog around the same time I got into vinyl, and my first album review was about Þeyr’s “Mjötviður Mær”. Over a thousand posts later my most frequent category tag is still “Iceland”. I also write sometimes for ROK – Icelandic Music Review.
My other “project” is trying to keep the Reykjavik record stores in business and the economy going by constantly sending them my money!
What was the best live-gig by an Icelandic musician?
Oh man, this is beyond impossible after eight Airwaves! I could give you a dozen, but I’ll only cheat a little and give you two. GusGus closed our first Airwaves in 2009 at NASA, and I’d basically never heard any electronic music before in my life. That was probably the first live show that ever truly blew my mind. And the next year at the same venue, once again in the closing slot, FM Belfast performed what was unquestionably the most fun show I’ve ever been to. I’ve been chasing those feelings ever since.
Name some of your all time favourite Icelandic bands, albums, songs, videos?
Again, where does one even start? How about I give you my Top 5 Favorite Icelandic Albums?
- GusGus – Arabian Horse
- Quarashi – Jinx
- Agent Fresco – A Long Time Listening
- Legend – Fearless
- Ghostigital – Division of Culture and Tourism
There are so many other great ones, but those albums are top-to-bottom amazing.
Do you have a favourite hang-out/spot(s) in Reykjavik?
My favorite places in Reykjavik are Lucky Records for record shopping and general camaraderie, Café Babalu for hanging out with friends and enjoying coffee and cake, and Slippbarrinn for drinks and snacks. There’s some great people watching at the Saturday flea market too.
Having favourite spot(s) outside Reykjavik perhaps?
Jökulsárlón is a ridiculously long drive, but what a reward when you get there. Stykkishólmur is a great town north of Reykjavik, and the drive there is barren and beautiful. And while it’s a bit cliché we’ve enjoyed many an Airwaves Sunday soaking at the Blue Lagoon while enjoying morning beers.
Any favourite food or drinks?
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the first thing I buy every single trip to Reykjavik, even if I’m just in the airport on a layover, is Kókómjólk. Beyond that, there are a few things we’re guaranteed to get every visit: Pakistani food from Shalimar, the “Deal of the Century” at Hamborgarabúllan, and pizza from Eldsmiðjan.
Do you want to share us you future plans?
We’ll be back at Airwaves again for 2017, and we’d like to hold a super-secret-off-venue one night in our rental apartment when we’re there in 2018, because that will be our 10th Airwaves!
Some final words?
Go to Airwaves. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Just go!