“It’s really weird to think that you can live on one side of the planet and your music can have another life on the other side” confessed Brynjar Leifsson – guitarist and one of the founding members of the Icelandic indie band Of Monsters And Men.
The six-piece, who embarked on their first Australian tour recently, seem genuinely surprised of their success down under, “I wasn’t expecting the shows to sell out – I hardly even knew that we were played on Australian radio, but when our tour manager told us the news, I was really happy!” continued Leifsson.
Hailing from Garður, the outfit formed in 2010 and since winning the annual battle of the bands competition ‘Músíktilraunir’ in their home nation; they have played for crowds across the world.
The band have previously expressed their genuine surprise of how quickly they became successful, claiming that Icelandic bands rarely leave the island, let alone have success overseas.
“It’s very surreal!” exclaimed co-singer Ragnar Þórhallsson, “we went a different way to other Icelandic bands; they tend to go to Berlin or London first, but we went to America first and after that, it was just a series of…” Leifsson chimes in unison with drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson: “fortunate events” the pair laugh at their echo.
Of Monsters And Men’s first American performances were at this year’s SXSW, where their performances were critically acclaimed. “It was quite hectic,” stated Þórhallsson, “but the people welcomed us really well and we had a couple of great shows!”
Leifsson reiterated saying “It was crazy, we played something like eleven shows in four days in insane heat!”
“It was really great though – we always played for full houses” smiled Hilmarsson.
Praise seemed to follow each of their appearances at festivals and their performance at the 2011 Airwaves Festival in their homeland led to critical acclaim, with Rolling Stone stating “meet your new Arcade Fire” – a comparison the band was surprised by. “At Airwaves we had other musicians accompany us, I think we had about eleven musicians on stage, so I guess that’s like Arcade Fire, but we don’t sound anything like them – but we do like them and it’s a great comparison!” said Hilmarsson.
Playing three shows in Australia to support their debut album My Head Is An Animal, the band came straight from Latitude Festival in The U.K – where they played the Arena stage on the second day of the festival. Catching performances from other acts such as Lana Del Rey, Metronomy, Yeasayer and the Friday night headliner, Bon Iver (which the trio described as “amazing”).
Þórhallsson claimed the band had technical difficulties at the festival, which meant they had to wing it: “It was good though and we were told our show had one of the best crowd turn outs”. Coming straight from the Suffolk festival to play their first Australian show at The Zoo in Brisbane last Wednesday, they claimed their first experience with Australian crowds was very welcoming and open, “they’re kind of similar to American crowds” said Hilmarsson.
Their debut album My Head Is An Animal, which was first released in Iceland last September, saw the collaboration of ideas from the four founding members of the band. However, now with two additional members (piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson), Þórhallsson said the ideas and sound may be different on the next album; “It’ll be fun to see,” he said. “We’re all kind of working on our own things, trying to write new material, but we haven’t found a time to jam them all together yet” he continued.
What with the rest of the year packed with constant performances at festivals and sideshows in between (many of which have already sold out), the band will need a break before returning to the studio. “We’ll definitely take a break before starting on the next album, but touring is priority right now” they all agreed.
When asked about their plans for 2013, the bandmates glanced at each other before agreeing that they will be continuing touring. “If people want to hear us, then we want to play for them!” exclaimed the clearly passionate Þórhallsson. “Then we were thinking it would be fun to start a new album when the opportunity arises.,” he added.
With sold out shows in Melbourne and Sydney, it raises the question of whether the extremely humble and hard-working band will return for more Australian shows in 2013. All we can do is hope!
My Head Is An Animal is out now through Universal.