Gróa | A Conversation with the Icelandic Band Before Their US Debut

Just in time for their US debut in NYC tonight

Written by

Liam Kozak

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Since their meteoric arrival, Icelandic trio Gròa have been making waves around the world. The Reykjavík-raised trinity, comprised of sisters Karòlína Einars Maríudóttir (Karò; vocals, guitar, synth), Hrafnhildur Einars Maríudóttir (Hrabba; drums, vocals) and their childhood friend Fríða Björg Pétursdóttir (bass and vocals), throw elements of post-punk, noise rock and art-pop into a cauldron for their concoction–a sound that is both explosive and masterfully orchestrated. And those waves they’ve been making are coming to shore in America tonight. 

Performing at the Reykjavík Presents: Iceland Airwaves Off-Venue show tonight, held at New York City-staple Pianos, they’ll be playing alongside experimental pop artist gugusar as part of the touring festival Taste of Iceland, an event meant to showcase the best of Icelandic culture. With how much success they’ve had in recent years–emerging out of the grassroots DIY Post-dreifing scene in Reykjavík, opening for DJ sets at shows for Pussy Riot, Bjork and Wilco, and signing to US label FOUND, we wanted to sit down and chat with them ahead of their highly-anticipated US debut.

How did Gròa come together as a band?

Karò: We started to play together–and we were just like 12 or 13 or something–but not as a band. Just to have something to do in Iceland, I think. And then we formed the band in 2017.

Fríða: But we had been playing together after school, like a hobby, just as friends. We had my garage, which was dirty and messy and not soundproofed at all, and we were like always jamming there. But then we kind of started writing and decided we would want to show people what we were playing and make a band out of it I guess.  

I read that you’re all classically trained in piano. Would you say that education affects your creative process?

Hrabba: I think for me, I've always been playing music and I've also been making music myself, so it doesn’t make me afraid of doing new things, you know? 

Karò: I think for me, I studied the classical piano for like 10 years or something–I just quit. It's not that long ago that I stopped and I think it was, for me, it was like I wanted to do something else than this strict community. Still, I loved it. I love piano music in a way, but I wanted to try [music] in another way, I think. Mm-hmm. 

Fríða: Yeah. Just doing it for yourself. 

Hrabba: It wasn't healing for myself to just practice [piano] and then be taking some tests. 

Karò: It just wasn’t the right environment for expression.

Fríða: I think it's true what Hrabba was talking about.  I think it was very freeing for us to leave, to go where there’s like no rules and we can just do whatever we want  

A lot of artists who speak a different first language than English decide to write music in English to make it more accessible. I admire your decision not to do that. How intentional of a decision is that for you, and can you describe the importance of the Icelandic language in your music? 

Karò: Inspiration about our song writing comes a lot from our personal lives, people around us, and talk between us, and the words in Icelandic are more personal for me. Also I improv lyrics live and it comes more naturally to try something out in Icelandic.

Hrabba: Yeah, I think for us with the language it's more like what fits the song and what feels the most comfortable for us. Because sometimes it's less personal to have something in English because it's not our first language.  

Fríða: I love the lyrics we make, but sometimes I wish that, like, there were a little bit more people that lived in Iceland. Like if Iceland was as big as maybe Spain or something, because there are so few people that can understand our lyrics.

Your US debut is coming up in NYC at Pianos for the Icelandic Airwaves Off-Venue show. You just signed with the US label FOUND. What does that mean to you? 

Karò: It's exciting. Very exciting. ‘Cause we've never tried that side of the music world in a way. We've just been like, super, connected to the Icelandic scene and just doing it there. It’s exciting to throw everything out in a way. 

Fríða: It’s super, super exciting and nice to also be part of the FOUND community of artists–the ones that are signed are very nice. I’m very excited to work more with FOUND. About New York, I always get super excited in a new country or a new place. For like four or five years before we started playing out of Iceland, we were always playing at the same places for the same people. So, at least for me, it gives me a feeling where I want to make an experience for new people and see how they react to us. 

Hrabba: I think it's so cool that we’re gonna’ play New York. Just, in my mind, it has always been something growing up that I really wanted to do. It’s New York City.

Fríða: The city that never sleeps.  

Hoping that they’re well-rested for tonight’s show. If you’re in New York tonight, definitely swing by Pianos and check them out, it’ll be an experience you won’t forget–and certainly one they won’t forget. 

All photos courtesy of Gabriel Backman Waltersson

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gróa, iceland, Music