“We wanted this album to be light and effortless, but Icelandic is a thick language…” - hmv.com talks to Of Monsters & Men
It’s been a while since we heard from Icelandic heartswellers Of Monsters And Men. The follow-up to their second LP, 2015’s Beneath The Skin, has been a long time coming. But it finally drops this week.
Part of the reason for the delay is down to the band being over-productive, rather than struggling with writer’s block. Returning to their homeland after almost two years on the road, the band wrote and wrote, eventually producing over 100 songs in readiness for the new album.
Now, with the help of Mastodon/Muse man Rich Costey, they’ve slimmed that down to 11 tracks and new album Fever Dream.
The album is out now in hmv stores, but ahead of that, we spoke to the band’s co-frontman Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson about how the album came together…
It’s been four years since your last album, when did you start putting together the songs for the follow-up? Did it take a while to come together?
“We toured for over a year and a half on our second record and we needed some time after that. We wrote separately for about a year and in the summer of 2017, we felt ready and we came together and started putting it all together.”
Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do differently?
“We knew we wanted the process to be different. We wanted to write more as we recorded, to make it less like a band setting and more like a studio setting. It was a hurdle and it was hard to adjust at first. I think we’ve got a real pattern now of how we can work in the future. It opened us up and gave us a new perspective.”
You worked with Rich Costey again, why did you decide to continue with him?
“We started out working just by ourselves. We were just working in our own studio in Iceland with a couple of engineers. We worked well and we worked a lot, but we realised after a while that we were going in circles. We weren’t finishing anything. Rich is very good at making us make decisions and we needed someone to make us do that. He’s a great friend and a wonderful producer, so it was the perfect choice.”
Do you think without him you’d still be working on the album now?
“I really do. The five of us in the band are quite passive people. We just go with everything. We can go round and round and nothing can get done. Sometimes you need a bit of brute strength.”
You had a lot of time to write, did you have a lot of material to sort through?
“We’d never had so many! I think between us at least 100. Not all fully-fledged songs, but strong ideas. It was a lot to process.”
How did you find getting 100 down to the 11 that are on the album?
“It was hard. Very hard. There are three of us that write and obviously, each of us are keen to hang on our own songs. Somehow though, the good songs filter through, don’t ask me how.”
You and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir write the lyrics, do you work together or entirely separately?
“In the past, we had done it together, but this time she wrote the lyrics for her songs and I wrote the lyrics for my songs. The songs were slightly further along when they got to the band this time. It was a new thing for the band, a different take.”
Do the lyrics to your songs have a theme?
“I’ve been going through a weird time in my personal life and these lyrics have turned into a bit of a therapy session. I’ve been trying to give myself clues on what I should be focusing on. It’s still a bit of a touchy subject, it’s very new. I still feel like I’m sorting through everything and trying to work out a way of talking about these songs and finding respect for the people they’re about. It’s my therapy. I’m talking my way through it all.”
When did Fever Dream become the title?
“Quite late. We always do that, the title is always the last thing. We seem to find it hard to settle on that one sentence. We had a few ideas, a few working titles, but nothing really felt right until Fever Dream. The process of making this album, it made our personal lives quite chaotic, the whole thing feels like a real blur.”
Did anything come close?
“For a while, it was called; Geimfari’, which is ‘astronaut’ in Icelandic. That was perfect for about a month, then one day, it didn’t work anymore.”
You’ve had Icelandic song titles, but never an album title in Icelandic, do you plan to, one day?
“We don’t think about it too much. It just has to feel right. We were really searching for an Icelandic word for this record, but it didn’t work. We wanted this album to be light and effortless, but Icelandic is a thick language. The words are heavy and dark and cold. This album needed a more casual title.”
You toured hard last time, will you be a bit more moderate with your commitments this time?
“I can’t wait to start, it’s what I love the most. It will be more of a healthy balance, our drummer has a baby now, we’re all older and we have responsibilities. Having said that, I don’t have responsibilities, so I hope we tour for longer, I hope we go for two years!”