Light-footed Pop in 19th Century Style Leotards: Retro Stefson


Pop culture is obsessed with its own past and retro is this obsession‘s pop-cultural manifestation. These days, pop and retro seem to be interchangeable terms. A band name like Retro Stefson could therefore well be read as a lip service to pop, and listening to the young Icelandic septet only substantiates this expectation. “Kimba”, the first single to their second album “Kimbabwe” starts off with a bass-line that could easily stem from a cheap 70s detective film until piano and vocals set in and are soon accompanied by drums, guitars, keytar and jingles. Restraint surely isn‘t a feature of this ensemble, which attends on its listeners a grand total of three vocalists, two guitar players, two keyboard players, two percussionists, a bass player and a drummer. But despite the heavy orchestration their sound is extremely light-footed and much happier than that of other Icelandic big bands such as Hjaltalín.

Their playfulness might be down to the young age of the band-members, ranging 19 to 21, but their joy of playing should not be mistaken for lack of experience. Their first gig ever was a performance in 2006 at famous Iceland Airwaves festival, which will see them return this year. Two years later they released their debut album Montaña on Icelandic label Kimi Records. A couple of songs from Montaña can also be found on “Kimbabwe” – with this latest release the band is definitively planning to make it big!

Senseni (FM Belfast RMX) by retrostefson

Although fostered by Iceland‘s other prosperous happy-pop export FM Belfast, Retro Stefson do not employ synthesisers and eurotrash fits but crisp piano sounds, cracking guitars and a rash of polyphonic singing. Still their songs sound of schoolyard games and holiday trips rather than sugarcoating and fairy dust. The French chorus in “Medallion” bears testimony of this as much as the cover to “Kimbabwe”, which shows the seven teenagers who look like they were casted for an integration campaign posing in the backdrop of a school theatre play on rafts wearing 19th century style candy striped leotards. It is hard to think of a nicer and more appropriate emblem to Retro Stefson‘s music than this picture.
But no matter what, Retro Stefson‘s manifold sound is hard to be described and depicted, so you‘d be well advised to hear for yourself – for instance at Festsaal Kreuzberg on December 3 or on the band‘s Myspace page.

Velvakandasveinn by retrostefson