Icelandic folk giants Of Monsters Men erupted fully formed onto the global scene with pop gem Little Talks, but the evolution of their musical style has been much more glacier-like, singer Raggi tells JIM CARROLL
Like all the best music stories, this one starts with a song. The current state of the pop landscape dictates that Of Monsters Men’s Little Talks was a tune destined for success.
It possessed everything you could want in a modern-day pop hit: folk bits, pop bits and a brilliantly oddball ska twist with a trumpet, as if some Kingston rudeboys went rogue and started hatching bluebeat gems in deepest Iceland.
All through last year, you heard Little Talks at every turn. It was one of the tunes on repeat at last year’s SXSW festival as Of Monsters Men seduced tastemakers under the Texan sun. Within a few months, it was never off the radio.
It was a wham-bam favourite on YouTube (46 million views and counting) and became the tune which soundtracked every festival the Icelandic band played last year – and they played a lot of them. It was – and still is – one of the most effective get-up-and-go tunes of recent times.
Every band would love a calling card like that to hawk around, and the band’s co-frontman Raggi Pórhallsson knows just how fortunate they have been in this regard.
“It just sort of happened like that, we had no idea it would get such positive feedback,” he says. “When we recorded the demos for My Head is an Animal, we didn’t even think of it as the big single. It just had its own intentions.
“We like people to read their own things into the lyrics, but this is about a couple where the husband passed away and it’s from the conversation between the two of them. We were inspired by people that lived in our house, an old couple that lived there for 30 years.”
Dealing with the acclaim for, and popularity of, Little Talks is not something Of Monsters Men were expecting to have to do. Back home in Iceland, they were one of many bands making music and playing gigs. For such a small country, Iceland’s prowess in producing interesting musical acts is quite striking, though few outside of Björk have really graduated to the big leagues. But OMM became one of the big breakout international acts of recent times and one of the very few Icelandic bands who can rely on something more than underground acclaim.
“I don’t think people sometimes really realise that there actually is a lot of music from Iceland,” Pórhallsson says. “But it’s hard for bands to get out there and be able to go overseas and travel. If they go, not many people show up at first and you have already spent a lot of money to get there so it’s hard in terms of money. We have been lucky because we have a really good team around us. We’ve also been a little bit lucky. We were in the right place at the right time.