I’ve always been enraptured by the sounds and styles of Of Monsters And Men, along the masses following their 2011 release of “Little Talks.” Their first single raided the peak of alternative charts worldwide, yet the band remained true to their haunted elegance for their second album, Beneath The Skin (released this past summer). Current members Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, Ragnar Þórhallsson, Brynjar Leifsson, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, and Kristján Páll Kristjánsson are now in the middle of an American tour. Traveling all the way from Iceland, the group has a collection of meaningful moments here in the U.S.—from where they first heard themselves on the radio, to enduring a disastrous accident with their instruments. Much has happened since they won Músíktilraunir, battle of the bands in their native country. Still, the feels while listening to their music remain the same. I could always appreciate a band that uses a trumpet and accordion, skillfully. And their depth falls further than just their melodies, but also in the poetic lyrics and alluring imagery. Of Monsters And Men fans can all agree that there is something so goddamn eerie about them, and that’s part of the reason why we remain obsessed.
In a recent interview with The Aquarian Weekly, Ragnar “Raggi” þórhallsson reveals what’s going on with the band while touring, and what’s playing on his headphones right now. He’s one of the two lead vocals for Of Monsters And Men, as well as a lover of vintage shops.
Hey! First off, I hope you’re kicking ass on the tour. Have you visited any new cities or grew to love one that you revisited?
We just started our new American tour and so far we’ve only done Philadelphia and are about to do Pittsburgh. It’s always nice coming back to Philly, one of the first places we got some radio play in, so there’s a nice group of dedicated fans there that come out to see us every time.
Beneath The Skin is hauntingly beautiful. You guys have a habit of delivering alluring imagery with your tracks—it’s awesome, to say the least. Do you think that came along with nature and divinity of Iceland? One of my friends traveled and hiked there for a month for photography, and came back with amazing images that remind me of some of your videos.
Thank you… I think that growing up in Iceland has definitely influenced our writing. It’s not that we set out to use nature and scenery in our lyrics, it’s more that it just happens. I guess the things you grow up with kind of linger in your head and pop up later when you’re searching for inspiration.
In what ways has the band grown since you won Músíktilraunir?
We’ve learned a lot these past five years about what it is to be in a band and what it takes. We’re also much tighter as a group of friends and I think that translates into the music.
I love finding out about musicians’ “babies.” Namely, their favorite instruments. Has the band adopted any of their own?
We all have our favorites but we’re also always looking for more when we go on tour. We like to hit the vintage shops and usually one of us walks out with something. It’s funny you should ask me this question now since we just had a big accident with our instruments. As we started pre-production we noticed our guitar vaults were all wet. We looked inside and the guitars were soaked! I lost my Martin D28 that I toured with all last album cycle and recorded the new album with. Sad day, but it also made me realize that these are just things and I should be happy I owned them in the first place. Still pretty pissed about it though.
Are there any bands out of the U.S. that the band has grown a liking for? There are a number of bands in the underground/indie scene in Brooklyn, NYC that have adopted similar poetic elements like OMAM. As much as you have inspired us, we hope we have inspired just the same!
I’m loving Unknown Mortal Orchestra at the moment. I was also heavily influenced by Death Cab For Cutie as a teenager and they helped me find myself as a lyricist.
Name some favorite (new!) foods that you have tried while touring in the U.S.
Hah, I think I’m too old to be discovering new foods, I feel like I’ve likely eaten everything under the sun in my 28 years. But if you have any tips please let us know!
Following the success of My head Is An Animal, did you have any particular direction with writing the second album? Or did the band just “go for it?”
We kind of just went for it. As you dive into the second album you’re constantly reminded of how difficult it’s supposed to be and everyone is expecting something and whatnot. After hearing that a million times you kind of just say fuck it, we’re just going to do something that makes us excited and feels right to us.
Do you remember the story of the first time any of you heard one of your songs on the radio?
I remember when I heard “Little Talks” for the first time on American radio. We were driving around L.A. with our A&R person and all of a sudden the song came on. It felt great.
With all the touring overseas, have you found favorite things to do in your downtime?
It’s cool to just take a stroll around the venues and check out the different cities. We like going to vintage guitar shops and it’s also lovely to go to good restaurants and taste the local foods.
Of Monsters And Men will be playing at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan on Sept. 22 and 23, and at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on Sept. 24. For tickets and more information, you can visit their website at ofmonstersandmen.com.