Of Monsters and Men: from Iceland with harmony
If you want to catch Of Monsters and Men on its current North American tour, be prepared to pay whatever the scalpers are charging. As of this writing, 16 of the 19 shows on the Icelandic folk-pop sextet’s schedule are sold out in advance. Not bad for a group that has never toured outside of its home country before, and whose debut album, My Head Is an Animal, won’t be released on these shores until April 3.
“We did not expect that at all,” says singer and guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, speaking from a tour bus heading from Texas to California. “When we put the tickets on sale and people started buying them, it was selling out in 10 minutes and we were like, ‘What? How come you’ve heard of us?’ We’re very flattered that people actually know who we are and are coming to our shows.”
Hilmarsdóttir can thank the Internet for that. Of Monsters and Men began getting serious attention in the fall of 2010, when Seattle radio station KEXP shot the band playing two songs in a Reykjavík living room and put the videos online. Those clips illustrate how well Hilmarsdóttir and her bandmates can play in an unplugged setting, but they only hint at Of Monsters and Men’s full capabilities. On My Head Is an Animal, the group moves comfortably from the warm, folksy intimacy of “Love Love Love” to the Arcade Fire-esque anthem “Six Weeks” to the brassy chamber folk of “Little Talks”. That last track features Hilmarsdóttir and her cosinger and guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” þórhallsson trading lines on the verses and harmonizing beautifully on the choruses.
It also has a video that’s virtually guaranteed to add to Of Monsters and Men’s already considerable buzz. In it, the five men in the band play adventurers who discover a lost fairy-like being (portrayed by Hilmarsdóttir) and help her find her way home through a gorgeously rendered CGI landscape filled with volcanoes and fantastical creatures. The eye-popping video was made by the Vancouver-based team We Were Monkeys, comprising director Mihai Wilson and producer Marcella Moser.
“They came over to Iceland, and they went around the country and took some photos and some footage to work with,” Hilmarsdóttir says. “And then we went into a studio in Iceland, which has this huge green screen. And they had us in makeup chairs doing all the makeup, and then they just shot us from the chest up—just like, the facial expressions. We had seen their draft for the video, and we were so taken by the idea, but we didn’t really know what to expect….Then they went back to Canada and worked on it, and a month later they showed it to us, and we were like, ‘What?!’ We were very pleased with it.”
Of Monsters and Men will play a series of dates in Europe soon after its North American tour ends. If audiences over there get a look at “Little Talks”, those ought to sell out as well. They do have the Internet in Europe, don’t they?
Of Monsters and Men plays a sold-out show at Venue on Sunday (March 25).