Calgary and Reykjavik Musical Exchange: We come from the land(s) of the Ice and Snow


What do you get when you combine Calgary indie musicians, Icelandic indie musicians, Icelandic folk stories, and the Banff Centre? You get the creatively interesting and very eclectic EMBASSYLIGHTS.

Described as a mix between “the elegant soundscapes of Bedhead, the rhythmic jitters of the Talking Heads, a dash of ‘60s girl group pop and rock songs based on Icelandic folklore” the band is a musical exchange between Iceland and Alberta, put together by Calgary native Mark Andrew Hamilton.

As Mike Bell from the Calgary Herald reported in December, Hamilton gathered local musicians Samantha Savage Smith, Clinton St. John and Laura Leif and together they travelled to Reykjavik, Iceland. There, they connected up with “two of Reykjavik’s most intriguing up-and-comers,” Benni Hemm Hemm and Prins Póló to put together what would become their self-titled album EMBASSYLIGHTS. In February 2013 with the two Reykjavik-ians in tow, the group returned to Alberta and headed down to the Banff Centre to record. Their complete, eight track album was released in October, and they have just recently released a limited edition flexidisc version. (We’ll let their Bandcamp page tell you what a flexidisc is.)

You can find the results on EMBASSYLIGHTS’ Bandcamp page, but the sound is certainly something that one could arguably use to bridge the gap between Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Bjӧrk, if one really wanted to make that jump for some reason. It is certainly something that is, as the Herald story says, uniquely half-Canadian and half-Icelandic, “coloured by the weather, scenery and people.”

“There’s no way that it couldn’t be,” [Mark Andrew Hamilton] says, noting the experience saw them writing and rehearsing in a Reykjavik shop front, where passersby could stop and watch, and which also overlooked the harbour.

“I will say, though, that being at The Banff Centre that certainly had a huge effect on the music also … But we couldn’t have written this record in Canada, for sure.”

As for the ease in which it all came quickly together, Hamilton thinks that’s because Calgarians and Icelanders sharing a number of commonalities, from the inclement weather and geographical isolation, to a “sense of adventurousness” that those things seem to foster.

“In Calgary you can always pick up the phone and ask somebody to go do something that might seem ridiculous …” he says.

“That doesn’t happen in Vancouver or I don’t think it really happens in Toronto, but it definitely happens in Calgary and it definitely happens in Reykjavik”

“The idea of having Iceland and Canada helping each other is still going to stay the same, and each record will be a document of which of the group happens to be involved.”

Source: The Calgary Herald

And hey, if you’re interested in joining EMBASSYLIGHTS someday, or getting a taste of the Reykjavik experience Hamilton talks about above, don’t forget that in March of 2014, Iceland Air began offering regularly scheduled service between Edmonton and Reykjavik!

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