Of Monsters and Men: Iceland's Folk-Pop Stars

Music Features Of Monsters and Men
Share Tweet Submit Pin

Hometown: Reykjavik, Iceland
Members: Ragnar þórhallsson (acoustic guitar, vocals), Árni Guðjónsson (accordion, keys), Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir (acoustic guitar, vocals), Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson (drums), Kristján Páll Kristjánsson (bass), Brynjar Leifsson (electric guitar)
Album: My Head Is An Animal
For Fans Of: Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, The xx

It all began back in 2010, when Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir decided to add more members to her then-solo project.

With three more members, Of Monsters and Men entered last year’s The Icelandic Music Experiments: Músiktilraunir, a nationwide “battle of the bands” competition. Hilmarsdóttir and her new bandmates won over the audience—and the judges—with their catchy number “Little Talks,” and went on to win the entire competition.

After Músiktilraunir, the folk-pop quartet decided to expand its sound by adding two more members. Of Monsters and Men then began playing at venues around Iceland, taking over Iceland’s airwaves with “Little Talks” and earning a strong fan-base. Over the past year, the band has expanded its fanbase worldwide—its Facebook page shows requests to play gigs from the United States to England to Australia.

“It’s just been wonderful,” singer/guitarist Ragnar Þórhallsson says about the international attention. “We just played in New York. I think it’s because of that YouTube video getting our sound out.”

“That YouTube video” refers to the single “Little Talks,” which was recorded last October by Seattle’s KEXP Radio. It has since gone on to receive over 180,000 views.

Since returning back to Iceland from New York, they’ve been in the studio working on a debut full-length. “It’s about to be finished, about 85 percent done,” says þórhallsson. “There are some things left, but almost done, we’ll hopefully release it in the summer.”

The record will be comprised of approximately 11 tracks, which were all written together. “We all have some ideas,” says Hilmarsdóttir. “And sometimes someone will come up with an idea and we’ll jam on it.”

The ideas behind each song are inspired from interesting stories they read online and in papers. “We make up situations and put ourselves in them,” explains Hilmarsdóttir. For “Little Talks,” the story is about lovers that have gone away. “It’s basically about losing someone,” says þórhallsson.

This process is the inspiration behind the band’s name. Of Monsters and Men, says þórhallsson, is “basically because of our lyrics. We like looking up strange stories, stories about monsters and stuff.”

“We’re just kind of inspired by the whole weirdness of everything,” adds þórhallsson.

That openness extends to the music. “One of us likes classical music and jazz, we really like pop music,” says Ragnar. “It’s just a mix between what everyone likes, and that’s just the outcome. Music from all over the place, not just Iceland.”

Of Monsters and Men  have been able to connect with their many fans in different countries through their Facebook, MySpace and Tumblr pages. The feedback, the group says, is part of what keeps them performing. “We like talking to people that like our music, we like hearing from them,” says þórhallsson. “We love making music for them.”

Recently in Music