Interview with Of Monsters and Men

If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon enough. On Wednesday, Of Monsters and Men graced the home page of Pitchfork and Spotify with a massive banner advertisement for their debut album, My Head Is An Animal.  Animal hit as high as number two on the top-selling iTunes albums of the day, right behind the “queen of hip-hop” herself, Nicki Minaj.

So how the heck did a 6-piece band from Iceland get famous in America before even releasing a full-length album?

Even the band’s lead singer, Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson, isn’t entirely sure.

“What happened? It’s so weird, I think. It’s actually, I guess, the power of the internet. Because there was a Seattle radio station that came to us and recorded us in my living room – in 2010 I think – and that went online and then, the word spread, I guess. And it feels wonderful.”

Still, that description doesn’t quite demonstrate the magnitude of what Of Monsters and Men have done. When their American tour was announced, most of the dates sold out immediately. This is all based on the success of a four song EP, a couple of radio sessions (with KEXP and NPR), and simple word of mouth. More than anything, it’s probably based on their ridiculously catchy hit “Little Talks.”

Raggi says the reception to the band in America has “been crazy good. People are so welcoming and nice to us. It’s been a full crowd every time so we couldn’t be happier. We did not expect that.”

At this point in the tour, after playing eight shows at SXSW and seven more in the U.S., they shouldn’t be surprised anymore. I got the chance to see the band play at the Black Cat in D.C. on Monday, and they lived up to the hype, powering through each and every song with intensity and genuine joy at seeing some die-hard fans sing along with almost every song – a day before the debut album’s U.S. release.

The band’s triumphant music has often been compared to Arcade Fire’s. Raggi says the comparisons are humbling. “It’s definitely a compliment, being compared to Arcade Fire,” he said. “And I think it’s due to…we are a lot of people in the band, and have a big sound, and stuff like that. But because you want to make your own name, hopefully when the album comes out people will see that we are very much our own.”

The distinctive sound of the band does shine through on many of the tracks from its stellar debut album. Raggi has a few tracks he’d recommend for first-time listeners:

“The album is kind of diverse,” he said, so “I would maybe want to play different songs for them. I’d go for, I guess, ‘Six Weeks’ for the big sound, ‘Love Love Love’ for the quiet one, and I think for me, ‘Your Bones’ is one of my favorites.”

Check a couple of those out below, and, if you’re hooked, the entire album.

Of Monsters and Men are streaming their show live from the Music Hall of Williamsburg TONIGHT. Check out the stream starting at 10 p.m EST.

Of Monsters and Men Website | on Facebook

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