February 2012 “Band of the Month” – OF MONSTERS AND MEN
Its a new year and with that means changes. Resolutions. Weight loss. Cutting cigarettes. Eating veggies. We figured we would put all that aside and focus on something a bit more important. Starting this year, we will be featuring one band per month that we want to introduce you to so that you can mix things up on your playlists. These artists will be coming from all around the country, not just the South East. Check them out. Download them. Enjoy.
TBI’s Band of the Month: OF MONSTERS AND MEN
OF MONSTERS AND MEN exude a hypnotic mystique arising from the harmonious interplay of singers Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson. As a result of the male and female vocals seamlessly entwining, “Little Talks” is an uplifting and undeniable call-and-response punctuated by propulsive horns, sunny tambourines, and organic acoustic strumming. It’s an unforgettable anthem, and the music video brings it to life vividly.
My Head is an Animal (available everywhere April 3rd) features production by OF MONSTERS AND MEN, Aron Arnaarsson, and Jacquire King [Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, Cold War Kids], while Craig Silvey [Florence the Machine, Arcade Fire] handled mixing. It sounds like a dream, and it’s pure bliss to listen to.
The album follows up their debut EP, Into the Woods, which garnered unanimous critical acclaim. Paste Magazine named as one of the “20 Best New Bands of 2011”, while Rolling Stone’s David Fricke wrote, “Expect them to be all over the American indie radar shortly.” iTunes chose “Little Talks” as “Single of the Week” and the EP exceeded sales of 22k in one short month. As of now, various digital sales have surpassed 100k cumulatively, making the band the #2 best-selling alternative artist of 2012.
We caught up with Raggi while the band was in the process of finishing up the upcoming release to chat about mixed drinks, Icelandic music you’ll be happy to learn about and the City of Brotherly Love.
TBI: 2011 saw a very late release for you all but My Head is An Animal was extremely well received and was featured on dozens of “Best of” lists, even though it was only a European list. One of our staff writers actually featured you all as #4 on his Top 11 of 2011 list, which in turn introduced me to your work. With a release that late in the year, do you all intend to spend the majority of 2012 promoting this record and touring on it or has your focus turned primarily to working on the newest recordings that you’re currently in the studio for?
OM&M: Well, last years release was just for Iceland. This year, more specifically on April 3rd, we’re going to release the album in the US and Canada and other countries will follow. It will for the most part be the same album but there will be some very nice surprises in there for those who have already listened to the Icelandic release. We plan on spending the whole of 2012 promoting My Head is An Animal, hopefully visiting as many places as we can!
TBI: What can you tell us about the recordings that you all are currently working on? We’ve been keeping up with photos from the studio and it looks like you guys are having a blast together. Who are you working with and what progress has been made so far?
OM&M: Oh it’s been so fun! We’ve been recording a handful of new songs with the help from two of the best people we’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Sound engineer Aron Örn Arnsson and producer Jacquire King. Aron actually worked with us on all of “MHIAA” and is a big part of our sound. Jacquire is well known for his work with Kings of Leon, Norah Jones and is also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. This experience has been very successful and we definitely have a couple of songs that we’re very happy with!
TBI : I take it that you all will be heading out for your first ever tour of North America sometime later this year. What are you most eager about with these dates and will it be the first time actually in the States for any of you?
OM&M: It’s hard to say which city we look most forward to because it’s all so new and exciting for us but we have to give this one to the good people of Philadelphia! They’ve been nothing but great to us and are definitely a big reason for our success in America. A big shout out to radio 104.5!
TBI: After watching Sigur Ros’ first documentary, anyone who has never visited Iceland was given the impression that there really isn’t much of a music scene or nightlife outside of Reykjavík and Kópavogur. Has the touring circuit changed for Icelandic artists since then or is the majority of arts culture centered in those cities?
OM&M: I’ve never really thought of Kópavogur as an important place in Iceland for musicians. I don’t even think we’ve played there hehe. But Reykjavík is definitely a place where most of our shows take place. It’s also very common for bands drive around the coastline of Iceland and stop in small towns to play shows. We did it last summer with our good friends in Agent Fresco”and Lockerbie. We call it “að fara hringinn”.
TBI: Though we have no intention of overlooking you all moving on to a more obscure Icelandic group, are their any other artists that you can recommend our readers look into? We’re not aware of any bad tunes that have come out of your country actually.. (I did some research and actually uncovered a few artists I hadn’t heard of: Bang Gang, Pool Party, Benny Crespo’s Gang)
OM&M: Bang Gang and Benny Crespo’s Gang are definitely great. Actually Magnús and Lovisa from Benny Crespo’s Gang are coming with us on tour. Magnús will be our sound engineer and Lovísa is actually supporting us with her solo project “Lay Low”, something everyone should check out!. Agent Fresco is another great Icelandic band that you should also check out, Cliff Clavin, Orphic Oxtra, Mugison, Hjaltalín as well. There are just so many. We recommend that you go to www.gogoyoko.com. It’s great site that allows you to listen and/or buy music from almost every Icelandic artist out there!
TBI: What would the root of your material be, both musically and lyrically? Not necessarily influences in the common sense, but what inspires you all to create what you do?
OM&M: Well I think it’s a mixture of so many things. First of all I think the atmosphere of the music, both lyrically and musically, comes from living in Iceland. We’re inspired by the things and people around us and that creates a certain unique sound.
TBI: If the band were to have a signature mixed drink that conveys your energy and spirit, what would you all have in it?
OM&M: It would consist of icelandic glacier water with a hint of peanut and olive chutney, mildly spiced with turkish pepper powder and finished of with a dash of warm human blood . But we also just like beer :)