Interview: Axel Flóvent

Axel Flovent

Axel Flóvent copyright gaz jonesWords: Gary Lambert

Photos: Gaz Jones

As we see so often with our friends, favourite bands and other animals making a career in the music industry in the UK is very hard work.  Bands spend weeks touring around the country to try to get the exposure and fan base necessary to convince record labels that they have what it takes to make it.  But what is it like for a musician from overseas to try to make it?  Take, for example, Axel Flovent.  The hottest talent in Iceland right now but when you are playing and recording in your home nation,  a country with a population that could fit in one and a half Glastonbury festivals, then it is a different world altogether.  We were lucky enough to spend an afternoon in the canal side beer garden of The Old Pint Pot in Salford to talk about music, life and wasps with Axel.  You might not have heard of him yet, but underneath the shyness, there is a talented and serious musician who is ready to be the next Icelandic star.

 

As part of the regular Nordic music event, The Ja Ja Ja Showcase, Axel had arrived in Manchester to do a Sofar Sounds session via Berlin, Hamburg and Bristol and he was in high spirits as to how the tour had gone so far and what lay in store in the next week as the showcase had its last performance.  “Even though there weren’t many people at the gig, I really enjoyed playing in Bristol and hopefully when we get into London it will be the same again”.  It seemed that the atmosphere of a good music place like Bristol and the sound Axel had created had given him a boost.

 

“Whilst we played in Germany with a full four piece band setup, it is only me and my drummer here so we are trying to do things a bit different.  With most ambient music the rhythm comes from electronic drum beats, but we are playing our drums live but with a blanket covering the snare to still get that ambient feel but with a much bigger drum sound.”

 

Axel Flóvent copyright gaz jonesWhilst a genial and sweet lad, Axel has a iron seriousness when it comes to talking with us about his music and how he works upon it.  But it is not really a surprise when you realise that he did not follow the usual path when taking up guitar as a child.  There were no nursery rhymes or traditional folk songs to help him on his way.  “I started playing the guitar when I was nine; and by the age of ten I had started writing my own songs as it was the only thing I wanted to do with the guitar.  I didn’t want to learn other people’s words, my instinct was to play my own music.”

 

The need to grow and expand his sound was there though as he explained “between the ages of thirteen and seventeen I took guitar lessons so that I could learn other ways to play and broaden my own music”.  Experience suggests to me that when teenagers decide to expand their musical horizons it means to throw in a cover of The Last Shadow Puppets instead of Arctic Monkeys.  Axel is different though and his music is the journey and not the destination, “I know what I want to sound like right at this moment, but I am also looking forward to changing my sound down the line”.  This is not going to be a case of indulgence and ego, but rather a man who since childhood has wanted to progress the sound of his guitar and songs.  The focus and charm he displays as he explains this is wonderful.

 

Even though he is overawed by England, “there is just too many people”, he understood that the future will have to lie away from Iceland at least in part.  But the need for the closeness to nature which comes from living in northern Iceland is evident when his seriousness instantaneously melts away when he sees for the first time ever a squirrel.  At that moment the joy and pleasure in his face reminds you that he is only twenty years old on one of his first trips to foreign lands.  “I’ve never seen a squirrel before.  It’s brilliant.” The joy was short lived though as he looks guarded again “I recognise that though” he told us pointing at a nearby wasp with the fear and disdain of someone recently stung.

 

That smoothly brought Axel around to talking about Iceland and its music scene.  Well not smoothly really.  When he said “we don’t have them in Iceland” proudly, I ignored the wasp action and asked “well what do you have over there in terms of a music scene”.  I know, pretty awesome interview skills right…

 

“The music scene in Iceland is good if you’re ambitious and hardworking.  Everybody seems to be ambitious about playing gigs, so it’s pretty cool.  Although it does depend on your genre to be fair.  The scene is mostly electronic.  Some of it is new wave, but it is mostly hardcore electronica.  My style of music does not really fit into the Reykjavik scene so I don’t get to play that much.”

 

Axel Flóvent clcopyright gaz jonesThis reduced opportunity to play gigs has been a life motif for Axel.  Growing up in a village of less than 2,500 is not going to provide a lush harvest of venues or many audiences to play for.  This hometown trouble is Iceland in microcosm.  “Within Iceland and especially in the north where I am from there are not many venues.  You have to choose your gigs wisely and spread yourself around as you do not want to be labelled a certain place’s house troubadour”.  Whilst any venue would be lucky to have Axel has their house act, there is no way such a young talent could risk getting tarnished and stuck in one room through his career which he knows.

 

Axel has not been sulking about his lack of opportunities, instead he has been making the most of his time.  “So far in my career I have released three Eps.  One of them was an official EP and the other two were unofficial independent ones.  I have taken the unofficial ones down from most websites now, but they are still there on my Bandcamp.”

Even since he has moved to the bright lights of Reykjavik he has kept up the work ethic rather than be caught just as part of the music scene.  As he is still suffering with the lack of gig availability he is focused on recording, “at the moment I am recording my full length album.  We have fourteen songs that are pretty stuffed so we have nearly finished it”.

 

For songs that are pretty stuffed too, Axel is still thinking about sounds and how to improve them.  On this tour he has decided that he wants to get his bassist into the studio, but not to play bass.  Instead the plan is to get her in to record her singing as he wants to add a female aspect into the vocal mix.  He is definitely a man who thinks about all elements to his music.  Even the artwork is themed and produced by the same person for every release.  Can you guess who the artist is?  Axel Flovent.  For each release he tries to paint a line from the song or what the song makes him think of in order to marry up the image and the music.
Even though this has been done before, it feels wonderfully modern as Axel talks about it.  It isn’t for quirkiness or economy, but rather because for him music is art and it all combines together in one package.  And for me that mix of music and art is the essence of Axel Flovent.

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