Of Monsters and Men (and Roller Coasters)
You mentioned that as the tour has gone on, that you’ve gotten closer as friends. Have you been working on doing fun things like band activities to bond as you go, or is it something with the live performance itself that keeps you guys together and bonded?
We do some fun activities together. We went to a koala sanctuary [Laughs] and we’ve gone to amusement parks together, but I hate roller coasters [Laughs].
If you want to keep your voice strong, you can’t be screaming on roller coasters.
When I go to a roller coaster, I’m totally quiet but my eyes are saying, “I will die here!” [Laughs.]
In terms of new material, have you guys started thinking about your next studio project or writing some songs and playing them live?
Yeah, definitely. We have some ideas and we’re all very involved [and] when we were at hotels we would write songs. We haven’t recorded anything, but we will probably get a chance to do some of that after we stop touring this album [ My Head Is an Animal, which is at the end of this summer. So hopefully we will be able to go to the studio and get something done.
I know you have mentioned occasions that took you by surprise, how successful this album has been, not only at home [in Iceland] but also internationally. I remember reading a quote from you when you said you never thought that you’d be able to play internationally at all, let alone have a hit song [“Little Talks”] and a successful album over here. With that in mind, the next time you guys go back in the studio, would you try to create an album that has a different sound, or would you try to continue the same vibe that you’ve developed?
I’ve thought about this a lot. I have to do the same thing to please the crowd and friends and get the same success. I think that’s the wrong thing and it’s wrong to do something totally different just because you don’t want to do the same thing. I think the right thing to do is do what you want to do. Don’t think too much about it. The [future] album won’t be the same because we’ve grown so much as a band and as people. It will never sound the same. I think it has to come naturally and I think it will happen.
Can you give us a little background on the recording of the full-length record? Where you guys recorded and a little about how the songwriting process developed during that recording session?
We had about eleven or twelve songs. It was paid for with our own money, so it was very much getting the most for your money because we didn’t have a lot. We rented a studio, which was a big room, for one weekend. We did twelve songs in one weekend. We wanted to have the album [be] live. Then, in another small studio, we started everything over. We started working on each song and it took about four months, just going back and forth in the studio, trying to develop the sound and experimenting. We released My Head in September of 2011, then it came out in America in 2012. For that [version], we added two new songs and went back to the studio. We recorded “Mountain Sound” and “Slow and Steady” and worked with a producer called Jacquire King. He was so great and we developed a relationship with him.
Was there any particular advice he gave you, having listened to the album and recorded two new ideas? Is there anything he said that stuck with you guys?
Overall, he told us a lot of things. A lot about ways to arrange songs and what works and what doesn’t work. He’s very good at that. When we recorded the album, it was the first time I had been to a studio. With him, it was his second [time]. I didn’t know a lot, so he taught me a lot.
You mentioned earlier on that where you come from is kind of in between the United States and Europe. Given that you’ve gained popularity in both [places], would you say that because of where Iceland is located, in terms of writing and lyrics, it’s informed by stuff on both sides of the world, or are there certain areas in both that you relate to?
I think that we can relate well to both the States and Europe. We kind of fit into both sides. If you watch television in Iceland, you get things from both the U.S. and Europe. It’s 50/50. You get inspired by both.
Since you guys have been on the road, is there any famous musician that you’ve had a chance to either play with or meet that’s been particularly inspiring for the band?
Our fellow Icelanders, Sigur Rós, we got the chance to hang out with them a lot and we’ve played at some of the same festivals as them. We know the guys, so for me, just meeting them and making friends is very cool.
Did they give you guys any interesting advice?
Not anything that I can think of. The way they do things, they’re very professional. They’re good role models. They know who they are in their image, so that’s very important. We learned a lot from them.