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This article is from Issue 58: Jul/Aug 2012

Of Monsters and Men

This year's indie it-band is all about myths, fairy tales and creating spaces. But spiders? Not so much.

Halfway through discussing his band’s wildly successful first North American tour, Of Monsters and Men co-singer and guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson is confronted by a mysterious eight-legged beast. Standing near a bush outside his Washington, D.C., hotel—which he’s soon leaving to return home to Iceland following several sold-out shows in the States—Þórhallsson notices the creature crawling up his arm.

“THERE’S A SPIDER ON ME!” he exclaims, interrupting himself. Then: “Sorry. I’m not used to insects.”

That’s because there aren’t many bugs in Iceland, from whence Þórhallsson hails. The island nation’s Nordic climate keeps the creepy little creatures away.

Ghosts, mythic kings and magical monsters are more to Þórhallsson’s liking. He has filled the band’s debut album, My Head Is an Animal, with such mystical things. Iceland’s geological mix of mountains, glaciers and volcanoes has proven to be the perfect environment for a variety of
fantastical beasts to thrive, at least in the fairy tales from Þórhallsson’s youth.

These fables, he surmises, are the likely influence of the band’s mythical lyrics, co- penned by the group’s lone female, singer/ guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. The two sing about an epic battle between birds and bees, wolves running with the wind in the dark, and a whale—with a house on his back—who gives people rides across the ocean.

“Surroundings kind of mold you,” Þórhallsson says of his native land. “I think it plays a part in what we are doing and what we’re about.”

OF EXPERIENCE AND IMAGINATION

The stories beneath the fairy tale–like imagery of the songs come from anywhere and everywhere. They involve both experience and imagination.

“We like to take weird stories and inter- esting things—not like a book or a big story, but just small, vague stories that we can spin around,” Þórhallsson says. “We also like to make up stories. It’s more fun to make up a story instead of just talking about life. We throw in some personal experiences, too, but we kind of hide that and mask it in fairy tale.”