After stints in Amsterdam and the UK, Icelandic folk artist Axel Flóvent returned home, where he found inspiration in the landscape of his youth. Ahead of his debut album, You Stay By The Sea, along with the premiere of his new video for “Still Awake,” COLLiDE chatted with him about staying creative through challenges and growing as an artist.
You’ve spoken about how Reykjavík is a huge inspiration for your music. Do you feel that the solitude simply makes it easier to focus on your craft, or do you feel it directly contributes to what you write about?
I think a little bit of both. As soon as I get to a busy environment, I’m more easily distracted. Being in a quiet place gives me the mental space to focus, but then there is also this feeling from the isolation that creates a need to let something out. I don’t know what it is but in these spaces, the songs write themselves, and more often than not, these are calm and quiet places.
This is certainly a difficult question, but of all of the music you’ve released thus far, do you have a favorite song? If so, why is it special to you?
My favorite is “City Dream” because I have fond memories of how everything came together for it; it’s the first time I was doing something different sonically. I wrote and engineered this song and took it to the next level with unique producers that I’m a big fan of (Tim Bran & Roy Kerr), and everything went so smoothly. The more we did for that track, the better it got, and it felt amazing. Every time I listen to it or play this song live, I think about this moment in the studio, and I just get goosebumps.
In reference to You Stay By The Sea, you said that “The ultimate goal was to bind together my old way of writing songs with what I’ve learned and made it sound like one collective.” How would you describe this “old way” of songwriting, and how do you feel you’ve grown?
I’ve been finding a way to create a collective that shines a light on different kinds of musical worlds; I tend to put myself in a box when it comes to what type of music I want to make. When I say the old way vs. the new, the old is this more stripped-down earthy mood. The latest is a more produced, clean mood. With my debut LP, I’m binding the sonic worlds of both EPs together into a single collection that I’ve been putting together and writing over the last seven years.
What are some of your favorite pastimes aside from making music? It’s safe to say you’ve fallen in love with the nature that surrounds you — do you feel that your favorite activities involve being in the outdoors?
Yeah, generally, I enjoy being anywhere outside – in a forest, hiking on the old tracks by a lake somewhere in Iceland, or anywhere in the world where I get a chance is high on the list. I like going for a run, my favorite place to let my mind drift off. I like drawing and painting sometimes as well, although I’m quite bad at that. The list outside music is not long, but like many people in the pandemic, I’ve been getting better at cooking at home and learned to enjoy that after my food got pleasant.
If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be? Would you choose someone who’s music is similar to yours, or someone who would bring in an entirely different sound (i.e. Phoebe Bridgers collaborating with Kid Cudi on his most recent album).
I’m going to have to be the predictable artist that I am and say Bon Iver. It’s been a dream for so long to collaborate with Justin and the musical community around him, they are such interesting creative creatures, and I would do a lot of damage just to be in a room with those guys for a day.
How has the pandemic played a role in your music and in your career? Has it helped to breed creativity, or stifle it? How much (if any) of You Stay By The Sea was written during lockdown?
I’ve struggled with writing in the pandemic. I felt so ready going into it; I thought getting more time at home would create a spark, though it would be the perfect time to write but been a bit empty in all honesty. All of “you stay by the sea” was written and recorded before the pandemic, so there were no pandemic songs.
Is there anything else you want to talk about or say to our readers?
I hope you will love this record and stream it until you get sick of it and don’t want anything to do with it anymore.
Check out the video for “Still Awake” below and catch You Stay By The Sea January 15th!