'If you’re feeling odd… you’re not. It’s an odd place'
Grace Almond
13:49 8th November 2019

Following the release of their third studio album FEVER DREAM, Icelandic indie pop kids Of Monsters and Men embarked on a tour of Europe. There's no doubt that a fair few attended just to hear their addictive, endlessly-played 'Little Talks', but many too will be true fans who went for newer songs showered in synth. 

Following their London show at the Hammersmith Apollo, Gigwise spoke to Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, the popstar frontwoman of the five-piece. We talked about Halloween, UK band Black Honey, and her Tyler, The Creator obsession. 

Gigwise: I heard you bought a Halloween costume last night?

Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir: Yeah we did. It was really fun. We’ve never had a Halloween show so we went all out.

GW: That’s exciting! What did you choose in the end?

NBH: I was a possessed clown… doll I guess? BrynJar was a dead sailor, a captain of a ship that’s drifted off. Like a ghost ship. Just a bunch of possessed people.

GW: Creative – I like it! So, you’ve gone from Songbird (your solo project) and performing at Iceland Airwaves in your early days as a group and on KEXP. You’ve seen this incredible success – what kind of impact has this had on your lives? How have your lives changed?

NBH: Let’s start from the beginning! Yeah I mean it’s changed quite a bit. Back in the Songbird days or even when we were just starting out, I was just working in a video store and everything was kind of very simple and cute [laughs]. Things have definitely changed a lot for us. But still… we all live in Iceland and it’s a really big part of our group that we live there. We always have that to come back to.

GW: What would be your dream festival line up? You can choose anyone dead or alive: it’s up to you.

NBH: Oh my god… I love the National and I’d love to share a space with them and we listen to Feist and Bon Iver or Fleetwood Mac. And I love Tyler, the Creator, I’m obsessed with him! So yeah… hm… I think that’s a starting point?

GW: Yeah, that’s a very good starting point! In terms of Fever Dream, you can definitely hear a change in your music, especially in ‘Wars’ and ‘Alligator’. Do you see this continuation in the evolution of your sound?

NBH: I think we’re just curious people. We’re curious about where our sound will go. We’ve always had this mentality of wanting to stay open and explore what we’re seeing at the moment. And for Fever Dream it’s exactly that. It’s a very freeing and nice feeling when you feel no restrictions to what you put out and that whole album was completely that. It’s just exploration and curiosity.

It’s always this nice feeling that something creative is bubbling inside of you and you want to do something you’re not used to doing. It’s very exciting. So yeah, I mean I don’t know what we’ll do in our next album honestly. I have no idea. I know we’re gonna definitely do something that feels exciting at that moment.

GW: What kind of creative process was there behind Fever Dream? I know there was a bit more solo writing?

NBH: A lot of things changed for us. We were kind of going into our own corners to write and that just… it was a new approach for us. And also, the way that we usually wrote was on an acoustic guitar or a piano and now it was more… putting a song together in a different way. Which is nice because you can pick up a keeper in the demos and you can get lost more in that whole world and it’s a lot of fun.

GW: There’s some really incredible talent that’s come out of Iceland like Sigur Rós, Kaleo and, of course, you guys. How different is the music scene in Iceland to London or the rest of the UK?

NBH: That’s a good question! I was actually having this conversation recently. We’re touring with a band now called Black Honey. We were talking about the differences. I feel like in the UK all the bands know each other. I was asking them… what about this band? And they all know each other or know of each other. And that’s how it is in Iceland as well. Everyone knows each other, everyone is playing with five different bands. So those are the similarities. I haven’t gotten to know the UK scene very much but there does seem to be a very specific sound in the UK that I don’t think we have a lot of in Iceland. Right now, hip hop is huge but there’s a lot of like… these sounds that come from a quiet place. They don’t seem as much in your face as opposed to this very raw sound. In Iceland it can be quieter… 

GW: Final question: if you could speak to yourself 10 years ago, (when you were just starting out), what advice would you give to yourself?

NBH: Oh wow! That’s a really nice question. Because 10 years ago I was 20 and I was just a girl starting out in a music world that seems very intimidating when everyone around you is a boy. And I think sometimes you feel very odd and that you don’t know what you’re doing. I guess my advice to myself is that none of these guys know what they’re doing! They’re not better at any of these things than you are. But I think sometimes boys can portray that kind of confidence and that feeling of ‘do it!’ and um… I don’t know, maybe I’d say to get closer to other women. That would be my advice.

GW: I guess when you’re starting out, everyone has the same fears and obstacles. It is a completely different ball game for women in the industry.

NBH: You have to have that mentality that you’re allowed to take space. Just take space. I’d probably say to myself – hey! If you’re feeling odd… you’re not odd. It’s an odd place.

GW: Thanks Nanna!

Photo: Meredith Truax