An organically grown, highly addictive electro-pop outfit from Iceland, FM Belfast have been capturing the imaginations and swaying the bodies of constantly growing audiences throughout the world since they first appeared on the notoriously vibrant Icelandic music scene in 2006.
Some backstory: Couple Árni and Lóa formed the band in late 2005, to record a Christmas present song for their friends. Their friends loved what they heard, and the track started making the rounds in Reykjavík. That summer, the two performed their début concert, in a cave in the Faeroe Islands. Their next gig saw them whipping an unwitting crowd into a frenzy at Iceland Airwaves 2006 with the help of two new members, Árni Vilhjálmsson and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason (you might know him from the very excellent múm).
Now fully formed (sidenote: although a four-piece at most times, FM Belfast will sometimes count as many as forty members on stage, situation permitting), the band tirelessly honed its craft, performing live at every opportunity while writing and recording what was to become their début.
A collaboration with Trentemøller’s Kasper Bjørke, a 12” entitled ‘Back and Spine’, garnered some early mentions in the international media, as well as countless spins on dancefloors the world round.
With no official release to their name, the band’s fanbase had grown so large and loud by 2008 that the promoters of the renowned Iceland Airwaves music festival were persuaded to bump them to headliner status by popular demand. Around the time of the festival, FM Belfast finally released their long-awaited d début, ‘How To Make Friends’ locally via their own World Champion Records, to great critical and commercial acclaim.
‘How To Make Friends’ would go on to sell tens of thousands of copies in the following years as it gained international distribution and release, with publications like Clash (“A serious proposition”), Mixmag (“Electro album of the month”), Q (“A frothy pleasure”) and Gay Times (“Tell them we sent you”) all awarding it top marks.
‘How To Make Friends’ certainly made FM Belfast a few friends, and then some. In 2010 alone, the band appeared at over fifty music festivals all over Europe (they were the second most booked act appearing at Eurosonic 2010, following XX), sometimes appearing to crowds of over 20,000. And that’s not counting their countless club gigs and shows in that time.
FM Belfast perhaps best displayed the generous and loving spirit the band has become known for with a project they ventured upon in 2009. Vowing to document and showcase the scene they partake in every day, the band along with filmmaker Árni Sveinsson threw a concert in Árni and Lóa’s back yard where some of their best friends (and Iceland’s top bands) performed over the course of two days.
They shot all the performances and interviewed the performers, editing the results into a full-length documentary detailing some of Iceland’s best and brightest bands of the day. The film premiered in the fall of 2010 and is currently making the rounds of film festivals worldwide. Catch it if you can. www.backyardthefilm.com
Now. This ‘OFFICIAL FM BELFAST BIO’ has started feeling almost boastful and boring, what with recounting all the achievements and favorable reviews the band has garnered (does anyone ever use the word ‘garnered’ outside of official band bios anyway? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?) in its short lifespan.
It’s starting to feel a little like I, your trusty biographer, am trying to convince you to start liking FM Belfast. Like I am trying to sell you a product. But FM Belfast are not a product and they need not be sold. As witnessed by their beginnings,
FM Belfast is a labour of love, a present to be bestowed upon their friends and anyone else willing to give it a listen. You should give it a listen.
Now on the verge of releasing their greatly anticipated sophomore LP, ‘I Don’t Want To Sleep’ (out this spring via Kimi Records in Iceland and Morr Music internationally), FM Belfast seem ready to put the entire world at their feet, or better yet, to make friends with it.
And after all this: what does the music sound like? It is in its core melodic, electronic pop music. Yet it is damn near impossible to convey just how uplifting FM Belfast are, how much energy and joy they channel into a given audience, and how much ambition and sweat they put into their recorded efforts. I don’t really think they fit into any particular genre, in fact I think that they’ve made up their own genre, based on how young Árni Rúnar perceived music growing up in the eighties, back when he was first hearing the hits of that time filtered through bedroom doors and over the FM waves when he was supposed to be asleep. Adventurous, miraculous, raucous and exciting, open to the future and somehow, shiny – that’s FM Belfast.