Since the end of last year, Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men have become one of the fastest growing bands in indie rock. Their song “Little Talks” hit No. 1 in their native land and has caught on with fans across the world. Riding the success of that song, the sextet has toured the globe for the better part of 2012, both as headliners and at festivals. Before they hit the stage at San Francisco’s Outside Lands, we caught up with singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsson and drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson to hear what they’re planning on doing in San Francisco, how they’ve responded to their growing popularity and what they’ve been overshadowed by in the Icelandic media over the past few weeks.
Have you been surprised about how well the band has been received internationally?
Nanna: I think it’s been surprising, exciting and overwhelming. I think it’s been like that because it’s happened really fast, so it’s hard to know what you’re actually feeling. But, it’s a very exciting time for us.
Kristján: It was my dream to be a musician and travel all over the world. I didn’t depend on it happening and here I am playing some of the biggest events in the world. It’s very exciting.
Being that the band has performed at a lot of the big summer festivals, what’s been some of the stranger things that you’ve experienced?
Nanna: Storms. It’s been very weird. We were playing in Montreal the other day and there was a hurricane warning and at Lollapalooza there was the storm evacuation. I didn’t know what was going on. Crazy weather has followed us!
Kristján: We did a show there at The Independent earlier this year. It was nice there and we enjoyed our time there.
What are you looking forward to doing in the city while you’re there?
Kristján: I’m hoping to go to the beach. I heard that our hotel is close to it so I’d like to go to it. It might be a bit cheesy, but I want to see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. We don’t get to see very much when we’re touring.
Arnar: In-N-Out burger as well.
Nanna: Oh yes! Cannot forget that.
Having just played in the heat of Chicago, you’ll be playing in a much different environment this weekend. Do you prefer the heat or colder, cooler weather?
Kristján: We’re from Iceland and not used to the intense heat. Even though it can get the best of us, we like the sunny weather.
Arnar: And we get to use sunglasses on stage.
Nanna: Sometimes it can be hard. I just want to jump in a pool after the set.
Kristján: They’re different for festivals.
Arnar: At your shows, you can expect your own fans coming in. At festivals, you have all fans that may not have heard your music, so you need to play songs that will make an impression on them.
How has the media in Iceland covered your emerging international success?
Kristján: Right now, the national handball team is the center of attention with the Olympics going on. All of the media is writing about them and has forgotten about us for now, which is a good thing.
Nanna: Handball is our national sport, so it’s a pretty big deal in Iceland right now.
Do you find it weird that with your growing popularity that you’ve become more recognizable to people on the street?
Kristján: They don’t recognize me as much as they’d recognize Nanna.
Nanna: Well, that’s only if I’m wearing my hat. If I take off my hat, then no one will know who I am. When I put on my hat, I become Nanna from Of Monsters and Men. When I take it off, I’m just Nanna. I don’t wear it all the time, but I do like hatwear.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get back to Iceland?
Arnar: There’s a great pizza place in our hometown that we have to go.
Nanna: It’s a weird tradition we have. Whenever we come back home, we go and get two pizzas and bread sticks. It always tastes so good and reminds us it’s good to be home.