Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, but Mary Poppins might need more than a spoonful to stomach the relentless technicolour energy and freaky electro hooks purveyed by Sykur. “Sykur” is Icelandic for “sugar”. It’s also the name of a band that hails from Rekyavik and consists of four Vikingesque beauties who aren’t afraid to look you in the eye and tell you to DANCE, for goodness’ sake, and try to have a nice time while you’re at it.
Their chilly Nordic twist is a breath of fresh air to the average grey and jaded Londoner, and frontwoman Agnes is a suitably startling force of nature against whose joie de vivre and wicked sense of humour even the stoniest of ears and eyes are powerless. If the tough – and sparse – crowd served up by a weeknight at the Hoxton Bar and Grill did anything to deflate her enthusiasm, Agnes sure as hell didn’t show it. She is a bona fide bulldozer of a performer; just weird enough to make you think twice about hanging out in the front row but not weird enough to send you scuttling for a dark corner. Anchoring the weirdness to reality, with the help of an array of expensive-looking gadgets, are Halldór, Stefán and Kristján.
Sykur’s music is a dish best served hot, i.e. live, and is well-suited to those with a robust constitution and not-overly-sensitive hearing. Imagine chomping on a Hot Chip potato studded with Nine Inch Nails. Sounds tasty? It should do. Their signature sound is a delectably crunchy melange of manic drum machines, screechy synths, wide noises, slow beats, fat beats, fuzzy beats, stripped-down and club-friendly blippy bleeps, and otherworldly vowels.
And the singing? While a perfunctory nod to Björk is inevitable (but also most definitely a Good Thing – the music industry needs more Björks), there’s no denying that Agnes is a versatile and memorable vocalist who defies comparison. She paints a vivid aural picture by mixing things up between English, French and Icelandic and by smashing her way through more octaves than you can shake a treble clef at. There are also some satisfyingly banal lyrics involved. Messy Hair, anyone? I found the standout song to be Reykjavik, a pop-dance beefcake of a creation and a virtuoso balancing act between candyfloss and insanity.
After a breathless but enjoyable hour or so, I had a chance to poke the brainwaves of the band in person. I couldn’t help asking the sinfully boring question of where they get their energy from? From the crowd, they said. Jeepers creepers. I’ve seen livelier crowds inside an Age Concern shop. If that’s true, they could have a glittering career ahead of them in getting blood from stones.
So how did Sykur begin life? As a marching band. And like all great adventures, it started in the vegetable section of a supermarket. Halldór and Stefán did their thing for a bit before recruiting third member Kristján, and then a while later one of them had the vicarious pleasure of hearing Agnes singing in the shower… in another flat. Load-bearing walls, you say? Pah. A mere trifle in the face of a good set of vocal cords.
Rounding things off in a topical and not altogether un-moronic style, which I suspect betrayed the fact that this was my first ever band interview, I said that George is not a completely terrible name for a baby but perhaps Will and Kate would be open to something a bit more exciting, if anything sprang to mind? Without batting an eyelid they said [something unpronounceable]. I asked for a translation: the word(s) meant Be Blessed In Live Transmission. Though unlikely to make it into the National Anthem, it’s almost enough to make you want to learn Icelandic.
Sykur’s latest album, Mesopotamia, is out now – for more information, head on over to www.sykur.com.