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They Might be Giants: Lindy Vopnfjord keeps family musical tradition alive

Lindy Vopnfjörd has often leaned on the traditions of his native Iceland for inspiration.
Lindy Vopnfjšrd grew up surrounded by music. His parents, Len and Karen, who sang in the folk trio the Wayward Singers during the 1960s, formed a family-friendly group in the mid-1970s that included Lindy and his older brother, Kris.

Lindy Vopnfjörd has often leaned on the traditions of his native Iceland for inspiration. From performances as a child while clad in traditional Icelandic dress to covering songs by obscure Icelandic acts as an adult, Vopnfjörd has always been a big booster of his family’s heritage.

Too bad he can’t figure out what his countrymen are saying half the time.

“It’s so rare that anyone around here knows what they are saying,” Vopnfjörd says with a laugh. “I can’t understand it. It may as well be the American soldiers using the Navajo for code.”

Vopnfjörd, 40, grew up surrounded by music. His parents, Len and Karen, who sang in the folk trio the Wayward Singers during the ’60s, formed a family-friendly group of their own during the mid-’70s — one that included Lindy and his older brother, Kris.

“When my brother and I were born and we were old enough to sing, they brought us on stage with them. We’d sing Icelandic songs, as well as songs my dad wrote. And we often played in Winnipeg Jets jerseys, or wore Icelandic sweaters.”

He lived with his family in Victoria for the better part of a decade, ultimately leaving in the mid-1990s to pursue a career in Toronto. But like his Winnipeg roots, his Vancouver Island tenure had an impact.

Lindy and Kris were at the core of the folk-pop group Northern Junk, which had a nice run in B.C. during the early ’90s.

The group split in 1993 after five years.

Three years later, Lindy left for Toronto, where he remains.

He has been active on the music front ever since, releasing music under numerous banners — first as Lindy, then with the group Major Maker and now on his own as Lindy Vopnfjörd.

His sixth solo outing, Young Waverer, was released last week digitally through iTunes and his own website, with hopes of a traditional CD release to come.

Young Waverer came into being over a two-year period with help from supporters who contributed almost $9,000 to Vopnfjörd’s cause through the crowd-funding site Rockethub.

Though his journey has been full of peaks and valleys, he has collaborated with a wealth of weighty names, including ex-Odds member Paul Brennan, Hawksley Workman and Mary Margaret O’Hara, and has toured with the likes of Tegan and Sara.

Vopnfjörd is currently riding high over the completion of Young Waverer, which arrived a few months before his first child with wife Sally Panavas is due to arrive.

It’s all about perspective these days, Vopnfjörd says.

“I have so many people that really love what I do, and that’s enough for me. If I go bigger than that, that’s fantastic, too. I’m just going to enjoy what I have. Hopefully, it grows. But if not, I won’t be upset. I’ll keep doing it, because I love it.”


Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Winnipeg, but I went to high school and university in Victoria.


When did you arrive in Victoria?

We moved out there when I was 14 years old, as I was going into Grade 9. I went to Claremont.

At which point did you know Victoria was not for you in the long term?

I loved living there and it’s a fantastic place to live, for sure. It’s beautiful, with wonderful people. I had been touring Western Canada after Northern Junk split up, and started going back and forth between there and Winnipeg. At that time, [the music business in B.C.] was a satellite office for Toronto. I realized quickly that if I wanted to do this, I needed to go where it was going to happen for me.


What is your favourite thing about Victoria?

The beautiful scenery. The mountains, the weather, the air. And I like that it doesn’t move so extremely fast all the time. People aren’t in such a crazy, mad rush. It’s less cutthroat.


What is your greatest accomplishment as a person?

Meeting and knowing and touring with my wife Sally, and making that work so wonderfully. She played bass with me, and we toured four times across Canada on our own and three times across the U.K. It’s a wonderful relationship that we have. We never fight. It’s amazing.


And as a professional?

One of the most exciting moments was what happened with [the Major Maker hit] Rollercoaster, a song we submitted for a Maynard’s candy commercial. It went viral and everybody wanted to know who was the band behind the song in the commercial.


First album you purchased?

The first album I received as a gift was Queen, The Game. But the first record I ever bought was Judas Priest, Screaming For Vengeance.


Favourite album?

It would have to be an early Dylan record. I’d say Highway 61 Revisited.


First concert you attended?

Chilliwack at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, in 1979.


Favourite concert you attended?

I’d say Sigur Ros at Massey Hall in Toronto. Or the Indigo Girls at the Vogue in Vancouver, back in the day.


If you had one motto, or rule to abide by, what would it be?

Always stick to your guns. Never give up. And always stay true to your art and yourself.