"We even talked about the first one as like summertime and this one as the wintertime."
Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir — Of Monsters & Men's dual lead vocalist and guitarist together with Ragnar "Raggi" Thorhallsson — confirms that the quintet will bring their expanded line-up. "You can expect nine excited Icelandic people," she declares.
"It's refreshing to have someone in there listening and also challenging everything you do and sometimes saying like, 'No, that's shit'."
The ebullient Hilmarsdottir is enjoying a break from touring solidly. "It happens every now and then," she laughs. "Today we were back in Iceland, so that's nice. We're back home for two days. We just came in and there's a huge storm here, so I'm forced to rest, I'm forced to stay at home and do nothing..." At the time of the interview, Of Monsters & Men were soon return to the US.
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The Reykjavik-based Of Monsters & Men is the biggest act to emerge from Iceland since Bjork. Yet their success has been grassroots, propagated, quaintly in the digital era, by regional US radio. The Scandinavians — creating an eccentric, euphoric and folkloric alt-rock — initially attracted programmers' attention with the stirring anthem Little Talks. Their 2011 debut My Head Is An Animal materialised internationally the next year. It went Top 10 Stateside. In Australia, the record reached #1 after 20 weeks in the ARIA Charts and is approaching double-platinum. Little Talks is multi-platinum, and placed at #2 in triple j's 2012 Hottest 100.
In recent months Of Monsters & Men have released their second album, Beneath The Skin, led by the atmospheric Crystals. Far from the group feeling any pressure, Hilmarsdottir remembers prepping the record as "really fun". In fact, the "cold and shitty" weather outside reminds her of their early album sessions in Iceland. "I just wanna write a new one right now," she enthuses.
Though Beneath The Skin doesn't represent a radical departure, it's deeper and darker, with such songs as the slow-building and intense Thousand Eyes. This shift in mood wasn't conscious. "I think it very much happened like that," Hilmarsdottir reflects. "We talked about the first album being kind of open and inviting and the new one, it's not like it's not inviting, but it's colder and it's darker. We even talked about the first one as like summertime and this one as the wintertime."
While Of Monsters & Men largely produced My Head Is An Animal themselves, for Beneath The Skin they sought the services of American Rich Costey, who's worked with Muse. "It's always very helpful to have an extra set of ears," Hilmarsdottir says. "When we're all together [as a band], we're all deep into it and we're all playing the instruments and we all just get really sucked into it. It's refreshing to have someone in there listening and also challenging everything you do and sometimes saying like, 'No, that's shit'... It's very good to work with a producer just to push you more."
Of Monsters & Men contributed Silhouettes to the blockbuster soundtrack accompanying The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. They're now making on-screen cameos. Indeed, the band will succeed their compatriots Sigur Ros by appearing in HBO's Game Of Thrones season six. Probed for details, Hilmarsdottir is careful. "I want to say so much!" she blurts out. "But they're just like, 'No, don't say anything.' So we are not allowed to speak — it's a very boring thing to say."