The Sugarcubes formed in June 1986 in Iceland (which helps explain their unconventional sense of melody). The members of the group had been in a variety of Icelandic bands, and vocalist Bjork Guðmundsdóttir had been singing and performing since she was 11 years old, when she recorded a children’s album.
In her late teens, she joined the Icelandic post-punk band Tappi Tikarrass who released two albums before splitting in 1983.
Drummer Siggi Baldursson was a member of a band called Theyer, whose most prominent international moment came in 1982 when they recorded with Youth and Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke.
At the same time, Theyer was popular in Iceland, Einar Benediktsson and Bragi Olafsson formed a punk band called Purrkur Pillnikk, who released records on Benediktsson’s own label, Gramm.
By 1984, Bjork, Einar and Siggi had joined forces, forming KUKL (it means ‘witch’ in Icelandic) with keyboardist Einar Melax.
KUKL was a noisy, artsy post-punk band that released several singles on the independent British Crass record label.
In 1986, KUKL evolved into The Sugarcubes, adding Bjork’s then-husband Thor Jonson on guitar and Bragi Olafsson on bass.
In 1987 the band signed to One Little Indian in the UK (and Elektra in the US). They released their debut album, Life’s Too Good, in 1988 to critical acclaim in both the UK and the US.
Birthday, the first single from the album, became an indie hit in Britain and a college radio hit in America. Bjork received specific praise which fuelled tensions between her and Einar Benediktsson.
By the time the group recorded their second album, Thor had divorced Bjork and married Magga Ornolfsdottir, who became the group’s keyboardist after Einar Mellax left. Bragi Olaffson also divorced his wife – who happened to be the twin sister of Siggi Baldursson’s wife – and married Einar Benediktsson, making their union the first openly gay marriage in pop music.
The Sugarcubes’ second album, Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week (1989), featured a greater vocal contribution by Einar (a move which was criticised in many of the record’s reviews) which were noticeably weaker than those for Life’s Too Good. At the conclusion of a lengthy international tour to promote the album, the band members pursued their own individual interests.
Stick Around for Joy, the band’s third album, was released in 1992 and received better reviews than Life’s Too Good. But the album failed to yield a hit single, and shortly after its release, The Sugarcubes disbanded.
In 1993 Bjork launched a critically acclaimed and commercially successful solo career.
Einar Orn Benediktsson
Thor Eldon Jonson
Margret ‘Magga’ Ornolfsdottir