For a country with half the population of Center City, Iceland sure has a diverse music scene.
Of Monsters and Men, the latest export from the Nordic nation, were one of the most talked about bands at last month’s SXSW. The sextet from Rejkyavik hit the U.S. airwaves running when they performed their hit single “Little Talks” on Seattle radio station KEXP during Iceland Airwaves, their premiere music festival.
“We didn’t know what radio station it was. They came to my apartment [to record]. We definitely didn’t think it would turn out so big,” says co-singer/ guitarist Ragnar þórhallsson.
Since then, the orchestral indie pop song has nearly a million plays on YouTube.
The name Of Monsters and Men refers to the topics of their songs, which range from, well, monsters to men.
“‘Jurassic Park’ was my favorite film as a child. You grow up listening to a lot of Icelandic fantasy stories,” says ?þórhallsson. “That plays a part in what we’re doing.”
The group of friends channel the energy of contemporary folk rock groups such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Mumford & Sons.
“We want to have fun on stage. The energy and the songs come from being a group — everyone is singing along and having fun,” says þórhallsson.
Their infectious energy has crossed international borders, playing into ecstatic American crowds.
“Americans are very open and welcoming in every city. They want to meet us and shake our hands.
It’s different from Iceland, where everyone is closed. … And we don’t let anyone in,” þórhallsson observes.
On the record
Of Monsters and Men’s collaborative spirit, which is embraced in the songwriting process as well as the live show, has since paid dividends as they release their debut album “Head is an Animal” on Universal Republic.
“We have all of the freedom in the world [at Universal]. We can do what we want to do,” says þórhallsson.
With their enthusiastic spirit apparent in the live and recorded setting, it’s only surprising they didn’t break out sooner.