Between Mountains: “But I know I don’t have to be in love to wanna meet you” – Live at Iceland Airwaves

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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I first saw Between Mountains at Iceland Airwaves 2017, just 6 months after they won Músíktilraunir, the annual Icelandic “Battle of the Bands,” and back then it was a very different band. At that time they were a duo — Katla Vigdís Vernharðsdóttir and and Ásrós Helga Guðmundsdóttir — and their name represented the fact that were from different fjords (in Westfjords region of Iceland) located “between mountains.” They harmonized beautifully together and incorporated elements of keyboard, xylophone, and accordion into their songs with a proficiency way beyond their years. Fast forward another 2 years and they are now a 4 piece live: Katla (the muse of Between Mountains) on vocals/keys, her father Vernharður Jósefsson on bass, her brother Valgeir Skorri Vernharðsson on drums (also drummer for Mammut and drum tech for Sigur Ros), and Salóme Katrín Magnúsdóttir on backing vocals/keys. While I enjoyed the duo before, I must say that I prefer the larger band much more and appreciate the clever, catchy percussion that Valgeir brings with his extensive experience on drums. The talent within this family is enormous (Katla and Valgeir’s brother is the talented front man of Rythmatik), and has me imagining how their spurious moments of “playing around the house” has led to the masterpieces we hear now. Please do yourself a favor and listen to their debut album, ‘Between Mountains’ (released on Nov 1 and produced by Arnar Guðjónsson of Warmland), because it’s AMAZING and chock-full of hits: ‘Little Lies,’ ‘I Don’t Want to be in Love,’ ‘What Breaks Me,’ and ‘Synthalag.’ ‘Little Lies’ is an incredibly beautiful track with lyrics that I’m sure we can all relate to (“My mind will fall apart again, now it’s only a matter of when, it rise up as I go down.. and there I stay, I reach for you, meet me halfway… I wonder if I’ll be the same, and how I will keep myself sane, confine my thoughts, tie every note… I told you a lie when I told you I’m fine”) and I’m so impressed that they lyrics were written by someone only 18 yrs of age. The same goes for the song, ‘I Don’t Want to be in Love,’ which has a style reminiscent of Sharon Van Etten (whom I absolutely adore). : “It’s been 3 weeks since we’ve first met and I thought I hadn’t screwed up yet. I haven’t felt this way for someone in almost a year. I missed it when it was gone but I’m scared that it’s here. Cause I’m not very good at this and I never show my cards. I am too afraid of it, I won’t let my guards. But I know I don’t have to be in love to wanna meet you.” WOW. I know we can ALL relate to this one even though we’d rather not admit it: Poignant, vulnerable thoughts laced with infectious, upbeat melodies and gorgeous harmonies. ‘What Breaks Me’ is another stunner, and you’re bound to sing along to the catchy chorus (“It’s what I can hold that makes me, what I’ve been told what breaks me”) that Katla and Salóme so intricately deliver with staggering vocals that echo one another like a call-and-response.  Still, the song that I feel STOLE THE SPOTLIGHT at The Hard Rock Cafe was, ‘Into The Dark’ (nominated for “Video of the Year” at the Icelandic music awards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp4AHG8OkRg), which Katla said she wrote when she was only 14 yrs old. UNBELIEVABLE. This one starts out soft but picks up on speed and intensity, and you can feel your adrenaline pumping as you anticipate the crescendo of the cryptic chorus: “It says you’re deeper in the sea.. I feel you’re face.. I see your face.” The harmonies in this one are gorgeous, and I made sure to mention that when a famous writer for Rolling Stone magazine was showering her with compliments later that night. Another song that stole the spotlight and had me all teary-eyed and emotional was Synthalag,’: “the colors in your eyes tell me stories, about what should have been and why I ran, the buttons your coat say ‘you’r sorry,’ cause they can hear and no one else can, and when I look up to the sky, I suddenly feel alive. The lights are dancing with the stars. And we just sit and watch.” OUTSTANDING VOCALS that will take your breathe away and transport you to a place under the arctic sky, looking up at the stars “together” with someone you love.  Between Mountains are certainly rising out above the rest and getting the visibility they deserve. I sure hope to see them in the states next year! ❤

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