Discovery: Of Monsters and Men


Nostalgia sets in as soon as you hear Of Monsters and Men. Hearing the Icelandic six-piece’s name brings about memories of reading fairytales and telling stories growing up.

Essentially, the band—composed of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson and piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson—are dreamers who are trying to bring that feeling back to life. The self-described folk-indie band is truly inspired by storytelling and making sure that everyone who listens comes up with their own interpretations to their stories.

Of Monsters and Men’s song, “Little Talks,” is a catchy, gorgeous folk song with a surprising old-school ska twist. It’s as if The Specials found love with Fanfarlo and Nada Surf. Currently, the band has released their Into the Woods EP, and it won’t be too long until Of Monsters and Men will be releasing their debut LP. We should be seeing it in the spring. Additionally, the band will be going on an American tour (so far, they have only played two shows in New York). Their first stop in the US will be in March for SXSW, and they are stoked to be touring outside of Iceland. It’s pretty apparent that Of Monsters and Men won’t be scared away from the music world anytime soon.

We caught up with singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir on the art of storytelling, connecting with their listeners and making their own versions of fairytales.

ON BECOMING MONSTERS AND MEN: About two years ago. It used to be me playing a solo act called, Songbird. I got Brynjar, the guitar player, to play with me, because we went to high school together. Then I met Raggi, the singer. We decided to form a band just before Músiktilraunir, an annual battle of the bands. That’s when we added the rest of the guys.

THE MAGICAL WORLD OF IDEAS: It just kind of came. We were playing around with some ideas. Radke came up with the name. It just kind of sounded well, I think. We connect the name to some of our lyrics and what we try to accomplish with the music. Others are often like, kind of not fairytales, but stories. We try to create stories with our songs, music and lyrics. It’s more systematic… something that could be connected with that.

ON LISTENING TO BON IVER AND THE BEAUTIFUL INSPIRATION OF WINTER: There’s a big difference with all of us. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Bon Iver. He’s inspired me a lot. The stuff that we’re working on now is probably a little winterish. There’s heavy snow right now. When we were writing, some of our stuff we went up to the countryside. There was heavy snow and winter. We got a lot of inspiration from being there. The songs that we write at a particular time, it’s what’s going on at that moment.

ON DRAWING FROM EVERYWHERE AND IN BETWEEN: I like Arcade Fire. I’ve actually been listening a lot to Feist lately. I’m just kind of speaking for myself because I know we draw a lot of different inspirations.

THE ART OF PERFORMANCE: I would love to share the stage with Bon Iver sometime. Project Gangs, I would love to see that at work. I would love to play a show. All of those bands I just mentioned. All of that.

BROADENING THEIR HORIZONS: The release date (for the LP) is still not 100 percent, but it’s in the spring. We played in New York two times. We played two shows in New York. We’re going on tour in March. It’s in March. We’re playing SXSW. I don’t know the specifics of the tour, but yeah, we’re playing SXSW festival and are playing in Canada.

THE REAL “LITTLE TALKS”: Okay. “Little Talks” is… How we usually make our lyrics is, Raggi and I, sometimes we come up with stories or situations. That one is about a relationship. Sometimes we haven’t wanted to give too much away. We like people to read their own things in the lyrics. I guess I could share it. It’s about a couple and the husband passed away and it’s from the conversation between the two of them. We don’t know if she’s going crazy or if someone’s actually there. We’ve kind of been inspired by people that lived in my house. This old couple that lived there for 30 years. The woman passed away, so it was kind of different.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MUSIC AND LISTENERS: I don’t know. We love hearing when people connect with our music and the lyrics and find their own meanings. Those are fun for us to hear. We just want people to have fun with us and hopefully get inspired themselves.

MONSTERS AND MEN CARRYING ON: Hopefully just touring and playing and making more records. Hopefully doing this. It’s a new thing for us. It’s weird for us… not many Icelandic bands get to tour a lot outside of Iceland, so that alone is just mind-blowing for us. It’s still kind of new to us. We’re just kind of getting used to it. I just think and hope that we’ll still be doing this.