Through countless formative live performances and the crafting of a collection of superior pop songs, ultra-talented Icelandic octet Retro Stefson have mastered the art of moving a crowd to the brink of sheer ecstasy - and keeping it there for as long as they wish.
Armed with an immediate and charismatic stage presence along with a highly impressive arsenal of songs, Retro Stefson always border on the right side of pop; the side that’s creative, cool and constantly pushing the envelope. They regularly sell out their native Iceland’s largest concert halls and top the local charts, all the while converting hordes of overseas fans with tours in Europe and beyond.
… and they’ve only just begun!
Founded by a tightly knit group of grade school friends with the explicit purpose of gaining free admittance to a local youth talent show, Retro Stefson quickly turned into a full time obsession not only for the band’s members, but for their constantly expanding fan base.
“My friends and I wanted to attend the annual talent competition,” explains tall, dark and handsome bandleader, guitarist and vocalist Unnsteinn Manúel, “and our youth club instructors Bóas from Reykjavík! and Árni of FM Belfast suggested we form a band and compete, that way we’d get tickets. It wasn’t a bad idea. We then used simple economics to construct the band. I got all my best friends that sort of knew how to play instruments and goaded them to join. And then I got my brother Logi on bass. We lost the contest, but we did get our tickets. And then we just kept going…”
The band honed its skills, and quickly went from captivating their school friends to mesmerising large audiences. They became strikingly youthful and energetic leaders of the Reykjavík music scene, playing a style of music that’s immediately identifiable and yet uniquely their own. “We used to tell people we played ‘Retro-Latin-Surf-Soul-Powerpop’ and I guess that’s as good a name as any for what we do. But it keeps changing. We are all very obsessed with music and like to push ourselves, creatively and performance-wise.”
The group’s first ‘official’ performance happened, of course, at the Iceland Airwaves festival, when they were far too young to legally attend. They played to a group of curious festivalgoers and Icelandic scene figureheads who’d already grown hip to their fresh sound.
Homeland releases “Montaña” and “Kimbawe” sold thousands of copies and spawned bona fide Icelandic radio hits, which further increased Retro Stefson’s presence on the local scene, and gained them slots at all the main Europe and North American showcase festivals.
Brimming with confidence and experience, their momentum did not go unnoticed; after being courted by several labels, the band released “Kimbawe” in Europe through Vertigo Germany in Spring 2011, also bursting onto the European continent’s clubs and festivals with their assured live show.
Even with this impressive story behind them, Retro Stefson have only just begun. The band’s strict work ethic has kept them busy as ever with both band and extracurricular activities. Bassist Logi Pedró posts remixes of his favourite hip hops and R’n’B tracks on Retro Stefson’s SoundCloud when he’s not honing his chops as DJ in Reykjavík’s popular clubs, while percussionist Haraldur Ari Stefánsson starred in a feature film “Órói”, to rave reviews. Meanwhile, the band are writing and recording a new batch of genre-busting songs, already scoring a hit with the mesmerizing “Qween”, which racked up an impressive 15,000 plays in its first day online.
All these accomplishments, sold out shows and hit records aside, Retro Stefson have remained nice, grounded and humble people that still play their songs with the kind of vigour and joy that will remind you why you liked music in the first place.