Lightspeed Legend have been active in Reykjavík’s Metal scene for about a decade, but only now with their current line up they released their first EP. We liked the songs that could be heard in advance and wanted to know more about the band. Vocalist Ragnar took the time to answer our many questions. We may not have heard anything new about football, but instead heard about Iceland’s “Annual Metal Ball”, how crashing parties can make you a legend and why it is so much fun to play guilty pleasure music for children of the 80ies.
First of all, please introduce yourselves. Who are Lightspeed Legend?
Lightspeed Legend does justice to its name because for years and years it was just a band that people had heard of, but never seen. A legend in the tightly knit network of rock’n rollers in Reykjavík, rumored to be playing the kind of guilty-pleasured music that everyone grew up on and loves (even though they might not admit it) and are too cool to be playing themselves.
For years we’d crash parties and take control of the stereo playing our demos to people eliciting smiles and high-fives, and everytime people would be excited to hear more. So when we finally had our first gig after almost a decade long hiatus, the place was packed to the limit and a lot of people couldn’t get in.
The Lightspeed part of our name I guess one could claim is a pun, because obviously we’re not the fastest band when it comes to our production rate. Before we started playing live again, we spent countless years in our rehearsal space writing new music, perfecting our new sound and hanging out. We were not in a hurry and did things in our own relaxed dude-type style.
Still, having said that, in recent months the ball has been in faster motion and we’re picking up both speed and momentum.
I’ve read in another interview that the band has existed for ten years. Tell me something about the band’s history.
LL was very active on the live scene in Reykjavík in the mid 00s, with a different line-up. Guitarist Baldvin Freyr, the heart and soul of LL, had various musicians filling the line-up for years until he found his squires that make up the band as it is today.
The problem, as it usually is with these kind of bands, was to find a vocalist brave enough to venture beyond the high-C on the singing scale. Vocalist Ragnar came into the picture when the bass player saw him singing covers of Steelheart and the Scorpions in a down-town bar.
You describe your musical style as combining 80ies glam with elements of metal and 8-bit-impact. How did that particular style develop?
Our music is a pure product of our childhood: we grew up on corn-flakes, nintendo 8-bit and we’re born in the eighties. Our fragile child-hood minds were exposed to the music of its time, and in all fairness… the 80’s was a fun time in music where futuristic fun and optimism often over-rode taste.
But there is also another more contemporary dimension to it. All the members also play in other bands, playing almost every type of contemporary metal there is. Guitarist Rúnar comes from a post-hard core back-ground, bassist Þórður is big on technical death metal scene, vocalist Ragnar comes from a progressive rock scene and Benni the drummer has a jazz schooling that he incorporates in various rock bands. So in a sense the band is a product of every rock and metal album that we’ve listened to in our time and love.
How did you come up with the band name – is there a story behind it?
There is a story, or a legend, but one that we can’t share in writing to protect the (not so) innocent.
Who created your band logo? Is there any meaning behind those three dots or are they just a design element?
Stylistically there is an element of “tongue-in-cheek” to our music, but at the same time we’re very seroius about what we do. If we’d dress up in tiger-tights and wear bandanas, we’d cross that delicate line between what’s refered to as “having a gleam in one’s eye”, to the territory of being a pastiche, and the band could be put of as taking the piss. We wear our normal hoodies on stage, basically just the way we are, and we wanted to reflect the same simplicity in the logo. Not to steer the listener on beforehand. The three dots in the logo are merely there because they look good, and in a sense that makes sense because the music we play is stuff that we love and think sounds good. There’s not really any deeper meaning to it: sometimes it’s just about doing stuff that makes you feel good. When we compose and rehearse, someone will occationally add a cool twist to a riff or a melody and everyone will smile and go “Oh, yeah”. And that is what it is about for us!
As I understand, all of you play in other bands as well. How do you make your schedules work out? What are the good/bad sides of playing in several bands?
The schedule is always a problem to every musician in Iceland, regardless of music or style. After all the Icelandic trade-mark is for the musicians to be all over the map in different bands. This is ultimately what makes the scene here so interesting and the reason why so many exciting mixtures arise in Iceland. There is also this sense of comraderie to the scene where people help each other out and are rarely jealous of each others success, so everybody has their mind set on helping each other out and making everything, including schedules, work out. Pre-Eistnaflug times are busy times for the rockers, since almost every heavy band around will be playing there. And this is when the comraderie becomes extra evident.
As musicians we rub of of each other, stylistically and technically, and so having multiple bands helps you to learn and evolve as artists.
Your first EP Beautiful Vice was just released. So far, the songs Beautiful Vice and Rule the world can be heard on Soundcloud. Both great tracks by the way. How would you describe the EP as a whole?
The EP is a sampler of what we’ve been doing all these years when we were writing songs and drinking beer in the confinements of our rehearsal-space. We’ve written more than a hundred songs (!) and so we ended up picking out six to display the the wide range of material that we have.
Can you tell me a little bit about your songwriting process? Does each one of you have a specific role in this, e.g. one person writes the lyrics and someone else writes music and you bring it together in the end, or is everything teamwork?
LL is utimately the brain-child of guitarist Baldvin Freyr, so everything starts with a riff or a song idea coming from him. And then we put the pieces together, usually over beer and cigarettes in our own little studio situated in our basement located reharsal space. We record the ideas straight into pro-tools (a popular music recording software) and we usually work out the songs in the computer until we have a complete piece that we’re happy with. That’s when we take the material to the other side of the glass window separating the control room from the recording room, and start jamming the songs. At this stage new ideas come to mind and the songs evolve further.
Everybody pitches in with ideas about arrangements, melodies etc. It’s like shaping clay, where everybody are engaged, but Baldvin Freyr supplies the raw material.
Where do you get your inspiration for songs?
From music that we love that puts a smile on our faces. We spend an inordinate time at the rehearsal space hanging out and listening to good music. The listening part to us is as important as the composing part. To move other people, you must first be moved yourself by good music, and then you channel that good feeling through your own ideas.
In early July you are playing at Eistnaflug metal festival. What should we expect if we were to see Lightspeed Legend there?
We have a friend flying over from the States just to see us, so expect a big biker in the room sporting tattoos and a bandana. Furthermore you can expect to hear the EP Beautiful Vice in its entirety, the same way it sounds on the recording. There are are no overdubs on the EP that we can’t perform live, so the album rendition is very close to what you’ll hear live.
And, oh, yeah, expect a good time! Our slot is on Friday night of the festival and we open up to Celestine and Momentum, two great classic Icelandic metal bands, so it will be a musical feast for sure!
Is there anything special about Eistnaflug that cannot be found anywhere else? What are you looking forward to?
Eistnaflug is a typical metal festival in the sense that it is full of weird looking and utterly peacful and good hearted people coming to have a good time. But there’s more! Since Iceland is such a small nation, Eistnaflug incoroporates almost every serious metal band existing in Iceland, and so the festival has an air of an “Annual Metal Ball” – the place where all the musicians meet and celebrate. It’s like an October Fest, or a Harvest Festival for the music scene. And so the brother and sister hood is just hands down amazing! I think it is safe to say that Eistnaflug is truly unique in this sense.
Generally, what would a perfect show be like for you (venue, audience, performance)?
We love an intelligible audience that is still not too smart for their own good. Meaning that while we are serious about our music, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re just having a good time, and so should the audience. As far as venues go, if the players are good, then a band can rock any type of venue, big or small, well or ill-equipped. Often the really small and shaggy rock places have a more intimate charm which helps you really connect to the audience. Bigger venues offer more in ways of light and sound quality, but being elevated on a big stage creates a distance, and so it is important to us that the vocalist stage dives a few times and sings a couple of the stanzas on the floor immersed in the audience.
Do you have a weird /absurd story to tell, e.g. about mishaps at a gig/tour?
We were bit of an odd band, since we’re not following trends or riding any stylistic wave. And so we enjoy seeing how the people listening are very divided in their opinion. They either love our style or they don’t, and there is rarely anything in between. Either people are deeply admiring our unadulterated mix of sounds and hail our guts to mess around with guilty pleasure territory. Anyone who has ever played air-guitar to a rock solo as a kid, and is proud of the same fact, will usually like hearing and seeing us. Then there are people who plainly don’t like this particular style, and the occasional puritans who are focusing on the rules and do’s and don’ts of metal. And I’m only talking about listeners here. As I explained before, the musicians in Iceland themselves are all chameleons playing different styles in different bands and are wholly open minded. But among the listeners there will always be some puritans, and that is cool too. Puritans are the people who claim that everything by Metallica sucks after Cliff Burton died, etc. But hey, metal would’nt be fun if opinions didn’t divide every now and then!
We competed in the Wacken Metal Battle in Iceland this spring, and while most bands were more clearly defined in ways of genre, we obviously were the odd-ball. While most people, and especially the other bands, really enjoyed our set, that was not the case with everyone on the jury. A local guy called Bogi Bjarnason had a seat in the 20 people strong jury, and had the lack of decency to be drunk during the meet-and-greet session after the show. He professed in front of everybody that our set was the most boring 25 minutes of his entire life. And I guess that is his problem. We in Lightspeed Legend all had a good laugh about it.
If you could freely choose a band to tour with, who would it be, and why?
That is a hard one, but the band In Flames comes to mind. Although our style differs from theirs, they have this mixture between heavy and melodic that we dig, and their shows are all about the good times!
Are you full time musicians or do you – like so many – need other jobs to support yourselves? If so, what do all of you do in “real life” when you are not making music?
Most of us hold normal blue collar jobs to make ends meet. Some of us study, and one member does music full time.
Which backgrounds do you come from? Have you always made music or do you come from different careers?
We’ve all been in bands as long as we can remember. We’re a typcial band-kind-of-band. So along side our normal lives there has always been the life in the rehearsal space.
Was it a particular incident or song that inspired you to become musicians?
For each member it would be a different band, but there are some common nominators. I think Kiss is a band that possibly has some kind of record when it has come to inspire subsequent generations to become musicians. Van Halen is a big influence, and we have a poster of Europe sitting in the toilet in the rehearsal space, which speaks volumes.
You are independent musicians at the moment. Do you prefer staying independent or are you looking for a record company?
The word “label” is a good name for record companies because it explains exactly what they do. They label and sell music, and since we’re a harder band to pin down, we might not be a label kind of band at first glance. There’s been a strong 70s retro wave going on in recent years, but 80’s glam is still a bit of a faux pas in the western world. In Japan you’ve got Visual Kei, but their emphasis is almost more on the make-up than the actual fact that they play 80s influenced music. But, hey, who knows, these things always change, and fortunately, at the core, great music is always going to be great music, so anything can happen. We’re not loosing sleep over it, but then we would not mind having a record contract either, in case anyone willing to sign such a band as ours is reading this interview.
What are your goals, dreams, what do you want to achieve with your music?
We play to amuse ourselves. Had we wanted to be huge, we’d play a more defined type of rock, either contemporary or old school.
When we have a good writing session or a rehearsal we walk out of the rehearsal space feeling like we’re on top of the world. At that exact moment we feel like we’re the best band in the world – and every musician knows this feeling. So to put it simply, that is our goal, our dream, and we’re living it.
Is there any invention/ innovation you would still need in your life, and why?
I was about to say beer can/cup-holders for musical stands, but then I remembered that we have those already…
What are your plans in the (near) future?
Like I mentioned earlier, we have more than a hundred demos sitting in the computer, so in the near future we’ll set out to record our first full length album. It won’t be as erradic as Beautiful Vice but more of an entity I guess. We are already in love with the new material and can’t wait to play it to the world. In the mean time we’ll crash parties in Reykjavík and impose our new demos on the patrons of rock and metal.
Last but not least: Is there any question that you have never been asked in an interview, but always wanted to answer? Here’s your chance!
“Do you tattoo the logos of bands that you love to your butt-cheeks?”
More information can be found here:
EP Beautiful Vice on Bandcamp: https://lightspeedlegend.bandcamp.com/album/beautiful-vice-ep
Photos: M. Alexander Weber