Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men was proclaimed "the next Arcade Fire" in Rolling Stone magazine this fall, after the release of the debut album, My Head is an Animal.
Hailing from the land of Bjork and Sigur Ros, they were initially a group of friends who loved each other’s music and played together. Lead singer Nanna Hilmarsdottir had been a solo act and her backup musicians formed the basis of the band.
But when they won Iceland’s battle of the bands competition, Músiktilraunir, in 2010, their sound moved to another level and that's when they decided to call themselves Of Monsters and Men.
Hilmarsdottir and singer/guitarist Raggi Thorhallsson discovered they like writing songs together especially fantastical stories involving wolves and bees, kings and bears.
Thorhallsson says the pair discovered common ground in the stories, often disguising their own experiences with a fantasy tale.
That is partly the Iceland story-telling tradition, Hilmarsdottir said.
Songwriting is "a really good way for us to connect and tell a story together. We are fascinated by stories and anything could happen. It’s almost childlike," she said in an interview with CBC’s Q cultural affairs show.
She said band members are doing their best to stay level-headed and remain friends, after a journey that took them from a tiny island with a population of 320,000 to U.S. festivals like Lolapalooza where they played in front of 20,000 people.
"This experience doesn’t happen for a lot of people. A lot of people want this experience, we just keep that in mind," she said.
After being picked up by a Seattle radio station, Of Monsters and Men has had a growing profile in North America, including a gig at Montreal’s Osheaga festival this summer.
My Head is an Animal has reached number 6 on the American Billboard Top 100, the highest ranking ever for any Icelandic band.