- Posted on Mar 15th 2012 4:00PM by Dan Reilly
Sneak Attack Media
"We've only been to New York so it's going to be our first time seeing the U.S.," singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir tells Spinner. "It's gonna be so weird because we spend a lot of time together as a group, we see each other every day but it's like, I'm gonna have Ragnar [Þórhallsson, singer and guitarist] right beside me snoring like crazy. It's a month in a bus -- it's going to be very interesting and we're looking forward to it, but we've never done anything like this before. We've done a little tour around Iceland and that was like a week with a really cramped bus. That's nothing compared to this."
The group followed a now-familiar path to signing a major-label deal, following plenty of blog buzz and some radio airplay of their song 'Little Talks,' a ridiculously catchy yet heartbreaking song that will be on their debut LP, 'My Head Is an Animal.' But how they got any attention in the States is a matter of a lucky break combined with their onstage talent.
"There was this guy who came to Iceland, saw our sound check, went his way and decided to look us up," Nanna says. "He heard 'Little Talks' and liked it, so he had a friend at this radio station in Seattle and said, 'Hey, you should check this band out.' And that's kind of how that started. He sought us out and told us that and we were like, 'Wow! Thanks a lot! You are great!' Hopefully when we go to the U.S., we'll be able to find him and bring him a beer."
The band, made up of two groups with mutual friends, first found fame in Iceland after winning Músíktilraunir, a music contest with rules that forced Of Monsters and Men into creative overdrive. "You have to have all original material, so we just started writing songs like two weeks before the competition," Nanna says. "We just kind of went crazy for it."
'My Head Is an Animal' was released in Iceland in 2011 and became one of the country's best-selling albums of the year, and the success has allowed the members to quit their day jobs.
"Before this I was working in a kindergarten and at a video rental place, renting out movies," Nanna says. "It's so weird to wake up and do music all day. Especially here in Iceland. When I was telling my parents that I wanted to do music, they were like 'Well, that can be a hobby.' Not a lot of Icelandic musicians get to do that, so we're very lucky and happy."
Of Monsters and Men have been compared to Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and it's easy to see why after just one spin of 'Little Paws.' The tender call-and-response vocals between Nana and Ragnar, combined with anthemic backing, make for a great listen, even if the subject matter is much darker than meets the ear.
"It's about a pretty sad thing," Nana says. "It's about two people who, for some reason, can't be together anymore. It was kind of inspired by [when] I moved into a house where there used to be this old couple who lived there before me. They lived there for 40 years or something and the wife had passed away. That was a part of that, the vibe in the house and that kind of story, yeah."
The vocal trading and wistful imagery are a product of the band's songwriting collaboration between Nanna and Ragnar. "We will trade lines to each other and what we'd do is make up situations," she says. "We really like to read stories that we find very fascinating or just make up our own. And then we just talk about it and get really detailed into it and try to make the lyrics not so obvious. We just like to have fun with it, spend a lot of time on it."
Even though the band has never done a tour this long, one thing Nanna isn't apprehensive about is spending a lot more time with her bandmates, who she says haven't driven her crazy yet. "[Our Iceland tour] just brought us closer together because, especially that trip, it wasn't that stressful," she says. "It was just us doing what we like to do, playing and having fun, so I think it's going to be that way in the U.S. A month of having fun and playing for people. I'm not nervous about us getting on each other's nerves."
And what is she most excited about? "I'm really looking forward to going to Texas because it's Texas," she reveals. "If you're going to the U.S. you might not go there, at least not Icelandic people."
'My Head Is an Animal' is due out in April via Universal and will feature two new tracks not available on the Icelandic version. Get more info on the album and their SXSW dates here!