The D.I.Y. spirit (and a lot of love) keeps this ridiculously glamorous Icelandic trio going
With their flamboyant stage wardrobes, arty videos and theatrically minded dance pop, Iceland’s Steed Lord personifies high-concept glamour. But it isn’t just an image, or a case of self-reinvention. The members of the trio were born into a glittering world of art and style. It’s all they know. Kali, who provides the Annie-Lennox power soul vocals and lamé-happy styling, is the daughter of one of Iceland’s most famous singers and started her own singing career at a very young age. Her bandmates, husband Mega and his brother Eddie, grew up hanging around their father’s film studio and traveling.
Kali and Mega met in the ’90s as underage club kids in Reykjavik. Björk once helped them sneak into a club. Now they live in the trés hip Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. They’ve never been normal, but they are absolutely real, and as Mega put it in our interview with him and Kali, they’re a family.
The interview ranged over so many topics (including their two-part third album The Prophecy pt.1, the first installment of which is due out December 1) that we have decided to publish only the choicest morsels and to break the revelations down by subject. Their story is almost as over the top as one of their couture music videos, but reading is believing.
What makes Steed Lord a collective and not just a band?
Mega: We do everything from the graphics to editing the videos to directing the videos to styling the videos. All our visual art, the graphic design, the merchandise, the music, we mix it, we master it, we record it. We remix our own albums. We have our own record label. We are a three person army.
The easiest way to describe it is a musical visual art collective. And we never know what we’re going to do. We might make a watch or an app for an iPhone. We’re just super creative minds. That’s why we love doing what we do, because we can do it ourselves and we can do it from our own perspective. We never know where it will lead us but we love getting into the visual part of things. We’re super excited to finish this album so we can start making music videos, maybe a little short film to come with the album.
Can you tell me about some of your fashion collaborations?
Mega: We’re just big fans of fashion and the whole visual art of graphics on fabric. When we worked with H&M, we got the chance to do prints for a world-known brand and get our kind-of clothing line out there in front of a mass market.
We do all of our merch ourselves and we have these little brooches that we sell online. And Kali’s been designing all of these Steed scarves. We’re just always evolving with our merch and our clothing line and hopefully we’ll eventually be able to do a big clothing line if some investor will help us, because it’s a big thing to do.
We’ve done things with Fresh.I.Am, which is a homey of ours in Atlanta. He does really cool hats, like custom made hand sewn lettering on hats. We just did a collaboration with him last year and we’ll probably do another on this year.
And then, of course, we worked closely with WeSC for the past six years. We won a song contest with them and got the opportunity to do a collaboration with them. We are the faces of the brand. We get to be ourselves and we did a cool project, it was a short film for the Standard Hotel last year, through them for the WeSC/Standard Hotel headphones collaboration.
You said you wanted to preserve a naïve feeling on this album. What do you mean by that?
Mega: We’re going back to our roots, where we started as Steed Lord, that naïve approach when we wrote our first songs for fun. It was a creative exploration but we became a band. We never decided to sit down and write songs. They came out when we were fucking around with programs, recording vocals. So when we’re writing today we’re always trying to maintain the same naïve mentality, not thinking about where we’re going too much, just trying to maintain the raw approach.
Doing that means to sit down, the three of us, crack open a beer and start working on the synthesizer, start working on a beat and see where it goes. We did most of the album like that and it was a lot of fun. It was like we were working on our first album.
Did you say you grew up doing graffiti with your brother?
Mega: I was doing graffiti. Eddie is 11 years younger than me so he was in diapers when I started. It was just me and my older friends writing graffiti on walls in Iceland, getting frostbite from the cans because it was so cold. Doing bad graffiti and good graffiti. I had a graffiti crew. Then my other brother AC and his friends started doing it. Now he’s a great illustrator and visual artist. Iceland’s very western, always influenced by New York, especially the hip-hop scene and the art scene in London and New York.
Kali, how did you meet Mega?
Kali: We met in 1994. We met at a club called Tunglið, which means moon in English. It was a nightclub that played house music and I went there frequently. I was one of the go-go dangers, dancing on stage in high platform shoes. Very ’90s! I was 15 or 16. And he was there with his friends and I knew his friends. And we saw each other and it was love at first sight.
How did you become a singer?
I’ve been singing for a long time. My dad is one of the most successful singers in Iceland. He’s been recording and releasing music since, like, 1967. He’s kind of like a Neil Diamond or Frank Sinatra of Iceland. So, I was born into the industry and started recording when I was very little. I had my first number one single when I was 11. And then I started doing house music when I was 14 to 15 and started having my own career and was doing dance music. And then I dabbled in pop.
I was signed with EMI in the US and Priority for four years in the late ’90s early 2000s and had an album and videos and toured in the US and Europe. But it was never something that I really loved doing, because my first love was dance music and R&B and soul. I was kind of glad when that whole thing was over.
How do fashion and music relate in your work?
Kali: When we’re done recording and we’re kind of in the mixing stage of songs, I start thinking of scenarios in my head for videos and that’s when I start seeing costumes. Ever since we started that band I’ve been the one doing the styling and art direction for the band and our live shows. I’ve always been very into designing and sewing. I’ve always made a lot of my own clothes and costumes and things for my friends.
What inspired the new album lyrically?
Mega: We have a very emotional connection to each other. I guess it’s because we’re a family, but we were also in a serious near fatal car accident in 2008. It was just really hardcore and totally changed all of our lives for good. It was a beautiful thing even though it was a horrible experience, because we all survived.
Now, when we write songs, it’s really emotional. Being in the hospital for months and months, it changed us a lot, subconsciously more than anything. When we write the emotional ballads now it’s stuff that connects with our love for our family and our love for our friends and our love for life. I know it sounds kind of clichéd, but it’s still the truth.