Kimi Records is an indie record label from Iceland. They’ve put out many of the best and brightest bands to emerge from the fertile Reykjavík scene, including releases by FM Belfast, Sin Fang, Retro Stefson and Hjaltalín. We spoke to label founded Baldvin Esra about starting up and staying true in the ever-changing independent music landscape.
Give us a brief history of your Kimi; how did you get started?
Kimi Records was started in 2007 when I sold a flat for a small profit and spend it all on starting a label, which was pretty dumb, but nice. Since then we have been busy with releasing all kinds of Icelandic alternative music and organising shows, festivals and tours. We also had a store called Havarí (currently looking for a new location).
Do you work mostly on your home turf, or is export bigger for you?
Mostly home turf – we export a little but that’s just for fun mainly. Tourists that come to Iceland also buy a lot of music. So maybe that’s a sort of export.
Have you had any bands on at Ja Ja Ja in London? If so, how was it for you?
Do you see any unique styles and approaches, trends or unifying qualities in the music coming out of the Nordic countries?
I think there is not any one thing that all or most Scandinavian music and musicians possess that differs them from other music and musicians. Except maybe that it is Scandinavian. Iceland really does not consider itself as a part of Scandinavia, though we sometimes do not correct people when they say so. What is unifying for Icelandic music is that it has its own mentality and approach in many ways, maybe generated from the fact that it is an island in the middle of the Atlantic.
How do you find your bands? Do you listen to demos or does it come organically through friends and buzz and word of mouth?
Demos, buzz, friends of friends and etc. There is no rule and should not be.
Recorded music is mid-transition between formats at the minute – do you think there’s a time when Kimi will stop selling physical objects? Where do you see us on that timeline?
I think we will never stop doing that. Unless it is perfectly acceptable to get a download for Christmas or birthdays, which is currently pretty lame. Music is not just for private use, it is also a social thing. And we do need to keep some part of our social life away from binary codes.
What do you find to be the biggest challenges and pleasures in running an indie label?
The biggest challenges are the ordinary things in running a company, like money and book-keeping. And the fun parts are all the music, the people, the shows and the travel.
What other indie labels do you admire or listen to yourself, in Iceland or overseas?
That is quite a tough one at this moment. I’ve been swamped in work these past two months and hardly listened to anything beside the stuff we are working on. But through the years I’ve been following some labels more closely than others, and to name a few I would say: Morr Music, Touch, Drag City, Thrill Jockey, DFA, Matador, Merge, Sub Pop, Arts & Crafts, Polyvinyl, Secretly Canadian, XL Recordings, Warp, Full Time Hobby, Crunchy Frog, Hybris and many more.
What have you guys got coming up? Anything we can expect to see hitting UK shores soon?
Recently we released Snorri Helgason’s ‘Winter Sun in Iceland’ and the new Reykjavik! is about to be ready and we will have a special pre-release edition available on 13th of October. And then we are releasing the film ‘Backyard’ on October 14t which we produced with some good friends of ours. Morr Music will handle the release in the UK. NOLO are also finalising their first LP, called ‘NOLOGI’. We are looking for label collaborators in the UK for the releases of NOLO, Snorri Helgason and Reykjavík!
What are your favourite non-Kimi bands coming out of the Nordic countries right now? Anything new caught your ear?
Iceage is nice, and I have always been a huge fan of The Knife. Also When Saints go Machine from Denmark and K-X-P from Finland. I hosted an off-venue at Airwaves: Dungen from Sweden and Honningbarna from Norway played. Both great.
Can we get a an MP3 mixture for our readers, and could you talk us through the tracks?
Yes you can… I’m too tired to write a track by track though. You can quote me on that.