To celebrate and welcome the musicians to DC, we asked local performer and musician Johnny Fantastic (Stronger Sex, Br’er, DAIS, Johnny Fantastic) to interview David Berndsen via email.
Read the conversation below, and pick up tickets here.
Who is Berndsen?
Viking new wave pop artist with all sorts of twists, but also Berndsen is my family name.
So, Berndsen is Icelandic. I’ve been there. It’s a vast paradise with endless glaciers and haunting volcanic landscapes. It has a small population and a harsh and unpredictable climate. How does a music scene develop in such conditions?
Well, that’s all true but you forgot we have elves, hidden people, trolls hiding in the mountains teasing us sometimes or helping us protecting the land. We are around 360 thousand people who live here, but in Reykjavik capital we are around 150 thousand so the music scene is quite extraordinary.
Because we have many bands here and since its a small community, most of them are good friends and share the love with another, and we have big role models like Björk and Sigur Rós and many great bands to look up to. The weather and landscape here is very inspiring for Artists. At summertime, there is almost no darkness; opposite with the wintertime, then I work best… covered in Darkness.
Iceland has been receiving a lot of international traffic lately. Has it had a big effect on the music scene over there?
Iceland is very popular now. We have a lot of celebrities coming here these days and big Hollywood films are being filmed here as well. I would not say it a big effect regarding the music scene but it’s probably helping in some mysterious way.
You seem to be making your mark in Paris. How are Parisians feeling the Berndsen vibe, and can you tell us a bit about Polar festival?
We have been lucky enough to play quite often in Paris over the last two years, and Parisians they are loving the ’80s vibe, especially the older crowd (the ones who experienced the real ’80s). Polar festival is multi art festival bringing Scandinavians to share their work in France.
Paris is, of course, chic, but you’ve visited some small towns that, well, most Americans have never heard of: places like Turku, Finland or St. Gellen, Germany. DC touring bands play their fair share of Dumphrees, Virginias and Champagne, Illinoises, but when we think of playing Europe, we can only imagine Paris, Berlin, or London. What draws you to small town Europe? Any plans to play small town USA?
Small towns in Europe are so nice as well, and [it’s] fun to visit something very different then Iceland. We hope that we will get more change to play in the States. The hardest part is that is quite far away and expensive to fly over but the future is bright 🙂
DC is our nations capital. Will you have a chance to get out and see some of our national treasures? The White House? The big pencil thingy? Ben’s Chili Bowl? (best “pylsur” in DC)
Yes! We really want to see the White House and the big pencil haha. Ben´s Chili Bowl sounds fantastic! So we try to do the most things as possible for short time we are in DC.
What can DC people expect when they come to see Berndsen this Wednesday?
They can expect some crazy ’80s beat with guitar solos all over and me singing like a big Elve. Whats not to like!
How did you come to music? Were you trained classically? Did you play in punk bands in garages? Did you learn on the computer? Were you in the church choir? There’s a million paths… I’m just wondering what yours was.
I started playing keyboards and guitar around 16-years old and doing nerdy stuff on the computer, and [I’m] still doing the same thing 15 years later! But I studied sound engineering in Holland and met Hermigervill there, and we became good friends. He showed me how synthesizers work, and I fell in love with that right away and have been doing synth music ever since.
What inspired the formation of Berndsen?
It was in the year 2008, and I really wanted to make authentic ’80s pop and things happened very fast after we released music videos around our music. That helped us a lot by getting people´s attention.
The person who first showed me Berndsen played “Game of Chance” for me, and I thought I was hearing a synth wave band from the 80s that I missed out on. Turns out you operate right here in the 21st century! How do you pull of such a perfect 80s sound?
Haha Thanks 🙂 Hmm, the first trick is only using music gear from the 80´s! We have been collecting analog vintage equipment over the years so we work very hard on getting the right sound. Then we experiment and record all sorts of ideas and work with that!
Watching you prance through the “Monster Forest” as a Geisha made me feel all sorts of things. The video features you, beard-clad and in a kimono walking daintily through a mossy volcanic landscape. How did you manage to make the bearded lady sexy?
Well, that was not hard! Buy some make up and put on your best dress.
In general, does gender fluidity play a role in your group? Is the Icelandic gender neutral pronoun “hàn” catching on?
Of course, both is best. And you find much colorful clothes in the women clothing stores, where I do most of my shopping.
Do you shop at vintage? How do you maintain such an elaborate and colorful wardrobe?
Most of the clothes I wear I have gotten from my mother’s friends who have hidden their ’80s clothes in the basement.
What’s next for Berndsen? Are you continuing your tour after Washington DC? Plans to go into the studio?
We are working mostly now on our third album which we will release after the Summer, No tour in the USA at moment just visting friends and having a good time while we are there! Hopefully in the near future we will tour with perhaps bands like Jef Barbara, big favorite!