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Kælan Mikla: The Icelandic post-punk trio shining an icy light on their home country

Making their return to the UK this month with five live dates, Kælan Mikla explore the darkness and light of Iceland's rich history.

March 09 2023, 16.48pm

Growing up around the capital region of Iceland, the members of brooding post-punk trio Kælan Mikla were raised with warnings of elves in the wilderness waiting to kidnap them, and mermaids swimming within the seas that encircled the island. 

Making their return to the United Kingdom this month - supporting legendary Finnish artist Ville Valo across five live dates - each performance from the hotly-tipped band explores the reality of life within their home country. Drawing upon the rich culture and natural beauty of their Iceland, as well as the stories these landscapes have inspired, they make music that serves as a powerful ode to their heritage. 

“Iceland is very mysterious and beautiful, and its dark history makes it even more beautiful in a way. Those same things are reflected in our music because it sounds beautiful, but it's also very dangerous,” says vocalist Laufey Soffía.

“Kælan Mikla means The Lady of the Cold, and it's from a Finnish cartoon called Moomins. She’s a woman who brings the winter, and she's really beautiful, but she's also the most dangerous character. If you look into your eyes, you'll freeze to death,” bassist Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrýsdóttir adds.

“A lot of people suffer from depression, and Icelandic people are very manic"

“With the three of us coming together as Kælan Mikla, we look at that as our alter ego. We create this femme fatale character, which is how we cope with our mental health issues and depression. Together we are strong.” 

Two core strands make up Kælan Mikla’s DNA. A deep affinity with Iceland, its history and mythology, folklore and practice; and feminism. Completed by synth player Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir, the three members of Kælan Mikla first met at Reykjavík’s Menntaskóli við Hamrahlíð college and founded a band in 2013 as an entry to a slam poetry contest at their local library.

(Credit: Einar Jarl)


After being crowned winners of the contest, and adding synths to their roster in 2015, Kælan Mikla was officially born. A sonic vessel inspired by nature where visceral emotion is expelled through spine-chilling screams, programmed drums, and cinematic layers of synth. 

“We wrote a lot of poetry as teenagers, and I still see our lyrics more as poems than just lyrics. It’s all very emotional, and we incorporate mental issues into our lyrics because Iceland is very tough in the wintertime,” Laufey explains.

“A lot of people suffer from depression, and Icelandic people are very manic. In the wintertime, we only see the sun for a couple of hours if we're lucky. So, it's dark the whole time. It's hard to get through sometimes and everyone gets really depressed. When the summer comes, the sun never goes down, and then people go overboard partying. There’s no in between.”

“When you're in Central Europe, you can just take a train or get into a car and drive somewhere else if you want to get away, but we can't get away,” Margrét adds.

“We're just stuck on this tiny island in the middle of the cold ocean.” 

“If you sink, you’re human, and if you float, then you’re a witch"

As teenagers, the three members of Kælan Mikla dreamed of nothing more than getting away from that tiny island, but since they began touring the world, they have uncovered a deeper appreciation for their home country that has inspired their art.

Having caught the attention of The Cure’s Robert Smith, who has personally invited the trio to perform at multiple festivals he’s curated, Kælan Mikla’s enchanting, sweeping soundscapes capture the picturesque vision of Iceland many are familiar with. The vivid Northern Lights, beautiful snow dusted landscapes, and the tranquillity born from its sparse population, the trio assert that Iceland is a snow paradise – but there are many elements of the country that are often misunderstood. 

The band’s 2018 album, Nótt eftir nótt, was inspired by their home country’s complicated legacy with witchcraft. A nation for which celebrations of stark beauty can mask sites of historical pain, the trio’s visits to Drekkingarhylur, or “the drowning pool”, had a profound impact on their perspective of their heritage.

“Iceland has its own history of magic and witchcraft which is very intriguing and beautiful. Drekkingarhylur is a place in Thingvellir National Park where they would drown women who they thought were witches,” Margrét explains.

“If you sink, you’re human, and if you float then you’re a witch. They’d always sink, but obviously by that point there was no way out. They were dead,” Laufey adds.

“It’s overwhelming to think about the things that happened there not so long ago, and scary to think that if we were around at that time, we would not be alive. They would have drowned us.”

(Credit: Einar Jarl)


“Everything we write is in Icelandic, so we want to be able to express ourselves to people in other ways"

That collision of power and vulnerability can be felt within the band’s latest album, Undir Köldum Norðurljósum, and as they look towards a 2023 filled with new music and live shows across the globe, it now informs everything they set their minds to.

With each show serving as a new piece of ritualistic performance art, casting spells on their audiences and summoning The Lady of the Cold, the trio are constantly searching for new ways to celebrate the wonder and mystery of Iceland.

Singing in their mother tongue, the majority of audience members who witness Kælan Mikla’s live set will be unlikely to comprehend the true meaning of their lyrics. With just 350,000 Icelandic speakers worldwide, the band’s decision to utilise the language comes from a desire to express themselves as clearly as possible, but is also enabling them to conjure up an immersive world of their own creation.  

“Everything we write is in Icelandic, so we want to be able to express ourselves to people in other ways. We put a lot of theatrics into our live performances, and we want to affect all of your senses,” Laufey finishes.

“We have live visuals to accompany every song that captures its feeling, and when we make music videos, we always work closely with a director to make it ours,” Margrét adds. 

“We want people to feel what we’re saying, even though they may not understand us. It makes me so happy when people come up to us after a show and tell us that our music affected them emotionally. We want people to step into the world of Kælan Mikla and experience it with us.”

Tour dates:

Friday 10 March 2023 - Bristol, O2 Academy 
Saturday 11 March 2023 - Nottingham, Rock City
Monday 13 March 2023 - Glasgow, The Garage
Tuesday 14 March 2023 - Manchester, O2 Ritz
Wednesday 15 March 2023 - London, O2 Forum Kentish Town

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