Photography Jóhanna Rakel

soundtrack your underachievement with icelandic singer special-k

Relatable, paradoxical and super cute!

by Frankie Dunn
12 September 2018, 4:32pm

Photography Jóhanna Rakel

When she was six, Norway-born, Iceland-raised Katrín Andrésdóttir recorded a cassette on her dad’s tape recorder with original material by her and a friend. They took it to school the next day and made the teacher play it for the class. “That was the first time I went looking for recognition as a musician,” she remembers, “but definitely not the last.”

With a background in classical music and a playful punk spirit as seen in her involvement with feminist rap collective Reykjavikurdaetur, Katrín’s Special-K project sees her blend the two and gently push them through a lo-fi pop filter, resulting in something that she describes as “fragile-weird-melancholic-pop-alien”. Combining complex chord progressions with amateur trumpet and flute solos, there’s something kind of Moldy Peaches about her sweet and sincere but kind of ironic lyrics. “The trick is not to take yourself too seriously. But at the same time I take myself very seriously,” she says, confusingly.

Her debut Special-K single, I Thought I'd Be More Famous By Now, is about the realisation that it’s much, much harder than you thought to become a famous popstar / actor / writer / princess. “I’ve been preoccupied with theories about millennials since I read an article by Tim Urban called Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy,” Katrín explains. “In 2016 I wrote a song with my friend Caterina Vanucci called Life Wasting Guilt where the chorus goes: 'Remember when you said 2016 would be your year? / Well now it’s here / Well now it’s here / Where’s your career?' Well I Thought I’d Be More Famous by Now is just one step further into despair.” Fun!

Though cruelly reminded that we, too, have failed to unlock our true potential, we’re happy to share an exclusive first look at the music video for I Thought I’d Be More Famous By Now, in which Katrín lounges about her childhood bedroom daydreaming of the star she’s surely destined to be. Watch and further relate to Katrín below:

Hi Katrín! Special-K, huh?
The cereal is one of my favourites. Special K is also a nickname for ketamine, which I didn’t know when I chose the name, but I like the layer it adds. It makes me seem cooler and more experienced with drugs than I am. I like both references. What is more normcore and everyday romantic than cereal? And what is more current and fashionable than ketamine? One day I hope people will be using these same adjectives to describe the third Special-K, me.

This project is quite a jump from your involvement in Reykjavikurdaetur, no?
Yes. Reykjavíkurdætur is a hyper-energetic-aggressive-party-rap-collective while Special-K is a fragile-weird-melancholic-pop-alien, so the two projects are quite different. I like doing diverse stuff though. At one point I was in a punk band that specialised in sex-positive feminist songs about anal sex and stuff, at the same time as preparing for my final exam as a classical pianist.

Reckon filling children with the belief that they can achieve anything is a blessing or a curse? The Tim Urban article I mentioned above states that happiness = reality - expectations. So if your expectations are grander than your reality turns out to be, you will experience disappointment and unhappiness. According to the snowflake syndrome theory, people of my generation have been made to believe that we are in some way unique, resulting in us all being delusional about being slightly better than everybody else and convinced that great things will automatically happen for us in the future. When that doesn’t happen, we feel like we’ve failed. But I don’t know, I’d rather be a failure at something I love than be good at something I resent.

When you were younger, what big plans did you have?
I wanted to become a movie star, a rockstar, a writer, a princess and many other things. I still haven’t really been able to decide what to become when I grow up. I thought I wanted to be a musician, but now I feel an urge to start making films. Very typical for my generation.

When did you realise how hard it was to achieve those big plans?
On my 25th birthday my friend asked me if I was content with where I was in life. I said I thought so and asked him the same question. He replied after a pause: sure, but I thought maybe I’d be a bit more famous by now. I found that answer so brilliantly honest and lame and relatable, I stole it for my song. However to be completely honest I think I still believe somewhere deep down that I might become successful in the end. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have put the effort into making this song, I would’ve just quit my artist dreams and started studying medicine like my parents want me to do. Maybe that is the real tragedy, my refusal to face the facts.

What's the best thing to do when you're feeling melancholic and unfulfilled?
Write a song about it. I believe that you don’t have to suffer to create, but when you suffer, you have to create.

And finally, what effect has Iceland had on your sound?
Feeling very small in harsh and sublime nature while being very close to your idols, growing up in Iceland gives you the sense that you might be able to achieve similar things when Björk shops at the same supermarket as you.