YP Exclusive: Icelandic indie group Of Monsters and Men on how nature inspires their unique sound

YP Exclusive: Icelandic indie group Of Monsters and Men on how nature inspires their unique sound

Famous for their mega-hit 'Little Talks' and cameos in 'Game of Thrones', the band is set to play their first show in Hong Kong

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Of Monsters and Men first made waves in 2015 with their song 'Little Talks'.
Photo: Meredith Traux

Hailing from the exotic landscapes of Iceland, is indie folk-pop band, Of Monsters and Men. Best know for their 2015 mega-hit Little Talks which took the music world by storm, the group is notorious for taking its time to produce each of their albums.

Ahead of their Hong Kong concert at MacPherson Stadium this Tuesday, Young Post phoned one of its members, lead vocalist and guitarist Ragnar Thorhallsson. Our exclusive chat is the band’s first and only interview with Hong Kong media to date.

While their music is often labelled as “indie folk” or “folk-pop”, they have a unique sound; one that’s utterly different from four-chord radio hits. Thorhallsson attributes this to Iceland’s unique landscape, from sweeping lava plains, volcanic hot springs, icy glaciers, to snow-capped peaks and bleak treeless countryside with 24-hour daylight in summer. 

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He says the band gets much of its creative direction from their homeland. “We’ve travelled our country a lot,” says Thorhallsson. 

“Our surroundings give us inspiration, and the space we get there [Iceland] allows us to have time to create, and think,” he explains. 

“For this particular album [Fever Dream, released in July 2019], we went on a writing trip to the Westfjords,” an area in the western part of Iceland.

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To say that they like to take their time with producing their albums would be an understatement – in fact, their previous album, Beneath the Skin, came out more than four years before Fever Dream

“When we were 18, 20 years old, it was so easy to get together, meet and rehearse,” Thorhallsson explains, “but as we are all getting older, we have our own families and so have to write separately, and do it all on computers and then send it to one another.”

Another less expected distraction from their music? Most of the members have dabbled in acting, even getting cameos in the hit series Game of Thrones

One reoccurring theme in their music is animals, inspired by the nature of their home country of Iceland.
Photo: Meredith Traux

“Most of us had never had any prior acting experience,” he laughs. “However, we were really big fans of the show as they filmed in Iceland a lot, and we ended up flying to Spain, and filmed for three days!”

Fortunately, although the group spends a lot of time apart, when they eventually do start recording songs, they have a studio in the capital, Reykjavik. 

“Unlike professional recording studios, it’s just a home studio where you can sit, and get lost in it, and not worry about time,” he says. “We all wrote the songs separately in different corners of the world, so it’s nice to come together and put everything together.”

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One recurring theme in their lyrics and song titles is the presence of animals. They released a song in 2015 called Humans, with the line “Cage me like an animal”; on their new album, there are two creature-inspired songs, Alligator and Vulture, Vulture

So why is nature so important to Thorhallsson?

He says it’s a part of everyday life. “We didn’t grow up in big, chaotic cities but isolated places. This applies to every Icelander – we have a respect for nature. 

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He goes on to add that these animal motifs “create this new world for me, and have allowed my writing to become more personal.” 

Thorhallsson says he and his band members are keen to explore our city while they’re here. “We’ve just been to the airport before, [but] never played there,” he says. “I’ve always thought that [Hong Kong] might be a bit crazy – the direct opposite of where I’m from;  I’m also hoping to take in the culture – and try out some great food!”

Tickets are available through Viagogo.

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