Music News

Ten years after debut, Of Monsters and Men reflects on “very surreal” breakout moment

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Credit: Cameron Stewart

When Of Monsters and Men first started out in Iceland, they never thought they’d be playing outside of their home country.

Now, after a decade of selling out shows across the globe, the folk rock outfit is celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album, My Head Is an Animal, with a deluxe reissue.

Speaking with ABC Audio, vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir can pinpoint the moment when she knew Of Monsters and Men was breaking out: a 2012 performance at South by Southwest, just as U.S. radio was getting a hold of the single “Little Talks.”

“We walked into this bike shop, and we didn’t know what to expect,” Nanna remembers. “Then the place was just crowded and people were singing along, which was very surreal for us. I think that was one of those moments, where you were, like, ‘Oh, wow.'”

“After that, it felt kind of out of control, really,” she laughs. “[‘Little Talks’] just kind of kept spreading and we were just kind of chasing it.”

Of Monsters and Men followed My Head Is an Animal with two more albums — 2015’s Beneath the Skin and 2019’s Fever Dream — and another is in the works. The band’s sound has become more intricate over the past 10 years as they’ve tried to build on the “playful” energy of their debut.

Vocalist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson sees the changing creative process like “when a child paints a picture” versus an adult trying to “capture that vibe again.”

“That’s, I think, the core of being an artist, is you’re trying to surprise yourself,” Raggi says. “You’re trying to not just go with what you know.”

“When you draw a smiley face when you’re 30, you just draw a smiley face and it’s instantly recognizable,” he says. “But it’s no fun.”

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