Q&A: Agent Fresco

by Kyle McCormick
Kyle McCormick
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on 09 July 2015 in Features

Ahead of their debut UK show this weekend at Tech-Fest, we took the time to compose some questions to send to Icelandic quartet Agent Fresco, these are presented below with the answers provided courtesy of vocalist Arnór Dan.

By reading on you can find out a little more about the band’s beginnings, what makes their fluid mix of genres work so well, and exactly what to expect if you catch them at the aforementioned Tech-Fest. The band’s next album ‘Destrier’, is released early next month, and confirms the band as a band of enthralling storytellers. Read on for more information on that record’s inspirations, basically just read on and enjoy, and hopefully discover something exciting:

Hello there, and thank you in advance for answering our questions. First of all, could you give a brief introduction to Agent Fresco for those who are unfamiliar with the band?

Sure thing! I'm Arnór Dan, singer of Agent Fresco, a four piece band from Reykjavik, Iceland and we've been together since 2008. We released our debut album ‘A Long Time Listening’ back in 2010 and our second album ‘Destrier’ will be released on the 7th of August this year. This makes me goddamn excited!

Tell us a little about your single 'See Hell', its themes of violence, personal experience, and how that all ties into the official music video concept?

While writing this album, I was very much dealing with anger and anxiety due to an encounter with violence that I had a couple of years ago. I decided that it would be a powerful and meaningful personal journey to explore these feelings and write about them, and ‘See Hell’ is the song where I specifically question and flirt with thoughts of revenge.

What I wanted to capture in the music video was how I got immensely close to a dark and aggressive mindset through this album period and afterwards had trouble getting rid of it. I just got addicted to staying close to these raw emotions, keeping them animated and it was like I almost fell victim to my own personal Stockholm syndrome.

So in the video, you'll see a character who wakes up every day dirty as fuck and he spends his waking hours cleaning himself up until he reaches that one day where he magically wakes up absolutely clean, but when this finally happens, he doesn't know how to deal with it, gets bored, snaps and ends up pouring black paint over his body.

The actor’s name is actually Arnar Dan, and I've wanted to work with him for obvious name reasons, haha, but in all honesty, he did a fantastic job portraying the lyrics and message. I couldn't be more proud of him and the production team at Tjarnargatan.

How does 'See Hell' fit into your upcoming record 'Destrier' as a whole?

The record travels through the birth and death of the Destrier, which was a warhorse in the Medieval era, born and raised for battle. I found this animal to be such a mysterious and muscular companion and a perfect metaphor for the album and this period of my life.

The song ‘See Hell’ enters during the latter part of the album, specifically track 9 of 14, and it's where a more sombre and aggressive tone is going on. Distance is being created at the end of ‘See Hell’ between the Destrier and myself in hope of letting go of all destructive elements.

Sell the new record to us more generally, perhaps highlighting your own favourite tracks and what makes it great in your eyes?

Agent Fresco is first and foremost an emotional outlet for me, so I think I would like to highlight our next future single, Wait For Me, which is a song based on my decision to move to Iceland and chase dreams and independency, leaving my family and best friends behind in Denmark. During these eight years now, my sisters have given birth to four incredible human beings and one of my best friends lost both of his parents. Being absent during these and other moments is difficult to deal with and makes you question how life is supposed to be spent. I haven't felt ready to move back to Denmark, especially during the making of Destrier, but I hope that they will all continue to wait for me and that's what this song is about. It's a tribute to my loved ones.

Which artists from Iceland should we be checking out, that people in the UK might not know, and which artists from the UK are you particularly fond of right now?

I've been listening way too much to my friend Ólafur Arnalds electronic side project Kiasmos. It's just really nice easy listening music especially when I'm trying to focus on stuff, like answering this interview. I probably listen to 5-6 different artists from the UK every single day, so I'll give you what I've listened to so far on this Sunday from the UK! Rolo Tomassi, David Gray and Peter Gabriel!

How would you say are received as a band in the UK, and how does this compare to your expectations?

Actually, our performance at the UK Tech-Fest this July will be our first official show in the UK, which is ridiculous, because it's about fucking time, so I don't really know how to answer your question. We've always known that we had a small fan base there, but it's a first now, with this new album of ours, that we have a label and a proper booking agency to make this happen. We'll then return later this year to do some more shows, but for this summer it's UK Tech-Fest only and I can't wait.

How does the Agent Fresco live show generally unfold, and why should people come see you perform at Tech-Fest next month?

I'm incredibly lucky to be in a band that celebrates performances as a really physical art of expression. So you can expect sweat. A lot of sweat. We just really respect the energy and connection that can be created with the audience during a show. I hope that it's quite obvious to witness our gratitude towards the audience and the festival for inviting us. It'll be a party alright!

It's worth mentioning also that we're going to be doing an acoustic set, which usually always ends up being pretty intimate. It just gives us the opportunity to recompose, strip the songs down to the bone and focus more on the lyrical and emotional aspect of the songs.

Agent Fresco's music can and has been described as a mix of various styles, but which genre of music would you say was the first you fell in love with?

I guess ‘80s and early ‘90s pop music. Nik Kershaw, Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna to name a few.

Similarly, what was the first physical music purchase you made, and what was the most recent?

I think it was some kind of ‘Greatest Hits Of The ‘80s’. ‘Drive’ by The Cars and ‘The Riddle’ by Nik Kershaw could be on repeat for hours... days even! My last physical copy was the new release by Icelandic alternative rap artists Úlfur Úlfur. I co-wrote and sang the final song on the album called ‘Akkeri’ (Anchor) and you seriously need to check them out, even though it's all in Icelandic, it’s available on Spotify just now.

What are your most significant musical influences and inspirations, and how do these affect the Agent Fresco songwriting process, if at all?

Þórarinn, our guitar/piano player is the one who composes the instrumental parts, so I can only speak on behalf of the vocals and lyrics. Uhm, there are a lot of mythical and religious allusions in our songs and I essentially treat my lyrics like poems. Especially romanticism, the supernatural and psychology fascinated me immensely since I was young, so I have to mention Edgar Allan Poe as an all-time favourite author. He somehow combined everything that I loved, had this dark approach to romanticism and his work has stuck with me ever since. Musically there are just too many acts and directions to mention really, but I always think that it's quite obvious through my melodies that I've appreciated and been inspired by everything from basic pop to noisecore. We're essentially a result of our surroundings, and I'm happy and thankful that I've had a very venturous and intimate relationship with music my entire life.

How do you pick the titles for your tracks, do they come before, during or after the composition is finalised?

The concepts for our albums were both created pretty early on, so I always kind of know in what lyrical direction I'm headed towards, but the titles usually come late during the songwriting process. I must admit though that I keep a file on my computer and a notebook in my office where a bunch of sentences, poems and titles are written down for possible future use. Really handy, but also extremely awkward for other people to read, definitely one of the first things that I want burned when I die, without a doubt.

Finally, if you were to pick your final three course meal, what would it be and why?

Why not a surprise? Just one more unexpected adventure before you die, why not?!

Now that you’re up to date on all things Agent Fresco, or most things perhaps, you can check out the video for ‘See Hell’ below, that introspective piece discussed above. If you like what you see and hear, you can get the new record on pre-order via iTunes right now, and you can catch them at Tech-Fest this weekend. That was already mentioned, right?

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