Of Monsters And Men became an international hit after "Little Talks" drew global attention to the Icelandic Band. Their unique energy manages to be both uplifting and at times reflectively melancholy. With elegant beats, vocals that perfectly compliment each other and inspiring melodies they've proven track after track that they not only have the creativity but also the pure talent and drive to be a lasting fixture in the industry. This year at Sasquatch Music Festival, Ragnar þórhallsson (Raggi) and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir sat down with EARMILK to talk their new brand new album Beneath The Skin released June 9th, comic strips and favorite venues.
EARMILK: How did you all meet and start playing together?
Ragnar þórhallsson: Well Nanna kind of started it all and just got us boys to play one by one.
Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir: Yeah, Raggi and I were friends from before. It all kind of came together.
EM: Where does the name Of Monsters and Men come from?
R: At first I was very ambitious. I was going to create a comic strip -- I never did though. It was supposed to be in a world where monsters and men live together in a way... but the name just felt right.
EM: Having started out in Iceland, what was the biggest asset that helped spread your music to a global scale?
R: There were 3 things. There was our manager Heather Kolker who had met an Icelandic man and had moved to Iceland. She helped us out a lot and had many connections. Then it was Músíktilraunir.
N: Yeah, there was a music competition in Iceland (Músíktilraunir). It was a platform for us.
R: We won that competition and got some free time in the studio and some time at Iceland Airwaves – the music festival. When we played there, a Seattle based station came over and recorded us playing. It was many things.
EM: What are the biggest adjustments you've had to make from playing back home to touring throughout North America?
N: The biggest one for me is in Iceland we weren't playing every single day and then suddenly we were playing every single day.
R: And we weren't around each other every single day. We're constantly on the job here and when we're touring the shows get way bigger here than they ever were in Iceland. So I think playing on a big stage was an adjustment for us.
EM: Having a band with 5 members; how would you describe your group dynamic?
R: I don't know. I think it works very well. We all are pretty different. We all have our flaws and our qualities. We've been together for almost five years now so we know each other a lot better. I don't know how I would describe it.
N: The dynamic? I think we compliment each other.
R: Yeah, like if you lack something then I have it. If I lack something, then you have it and the other way around
EM: Do all members of the group always agree on what direction to take the band?
N: There's a lot of democracy.
R: It's a very democratic group but there are definitely some areas where some people are more vocal about things than others are. We tend to trust each other a lot because we write the lyrics and the imagery we use kind of derives from that. Still, sound wise, it's just all of us coming together.
N: And also I think we're learning more and more that of course you have strengths and weaknesses in the band and we definitely do. There are some people that are much better at some things than others and I think we're learning to trust each other.
EM: Beneath the skin is set to release June 9th. What can fans expect from this album?
N: I think that if you've listened to it, you'll know it is us. I think that our sound is very much there. I think that years have passed and we've done a lot of growing. I think you will hear that.
R: Yeah, I think if you listened to our last album as a whole, there are elements there that you will recognize in this album, but if you just listened to "Little Talks" or something like that than I think you might be surprised
EM: What made you choose "Crystals" as the first single?
R: There's not one reason 'why' -- just based on feelings and what other people around us, what our team thought and what we thought.
N: It just felt right.
EM: Your music has incredible contrasts of highs and lows. What would you say has been the greatest influence on how your music has developed?
R: I don't know. It's a mixture. Everyone listens to different things. Our guitar player listens to a lot of hip hop. Because we all are vocal in the band, when we are creating a song how we want it to sound, we all are different people, so you get those different things. I almost think it's uncontrollable how a song will end because if I have a vision of how I want it to be it's definitely not going to be that way because they all chip in equally. In the end whatever's between us 5 in the studio is what it is.
N: Probably because we are such different people coming together, we are kind of inspiring each other. We are learning from each other.
EM: Of Monsters and Men has played many festivals including Coachella, SXSW, Oshega and tonight at the Gorge for Sasquatch. Do you have any favorite venues?
N: I did like Red Rocks when we played there and this (Sasquatch Music Festival) is kind of the same; where the scenery is so beautiful that it just adds too what you're doing.
R: There was one in Holland as well that we played with the stage and a big lake. People were just sitting around the lake. I think that was a beautiful place as well.
N: Yeah and then people would go into the lake to get through to the stage -- it was kind of weird too, they would get into boats. It was really cool.
EM: You're known for high energy performances, what do you do to prepare before going on stage?
R: We kind of gather around and do a dance circle where one picks a dance and then the next one picks a dance. Sometimes we don't do anything. It depends on the energy.
EM: Do you still get nervous going on stage or is it second nature?
N: Sometimes yeah, when it does happen you just try to shake it off.
R: Yeah. Part of the preparation is being nervous and having adrenalin and that gives you energy in the beginning and then when you get rolling you feel good.
EM: As your music has gotten so popular, have there been any defining moments in your music career as a band or as individuals?
R: There have been moments while we were touring; the last album was still slowly building and we got these few moments where we saw it like 'woah, a lot of people are coming to see us.' There were a couple (times) that happened, like here at Sasquatch the first time around, Lollapalooza Chicago and there was one more...
N: Lollapalooza Brazil as well.
R: Yeah, there are these moments where you think 'how do all these people know our songs' and 'why do people in Brazil know our songs'. Stuff like that. A lot of those kinds of moments.
EM: Any regrets?
N: I don't have any regrets.
R: Yeah, I mean somethings you want to do differently but no, no regrets.
Of Monsters And Men
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