Nordic Playlist # 5 – Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir

Of Monsters & Men - Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir

By now, it's more than likely that you'll have heard of the Icelandic musical sensation that is Of Monsters And Men...

Jan 2014
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Of Monsters And Men‘s track ‘Little Talks’ propelled the group to international success upon its release in 2012, and the band went on to become the second Icelandic recording artist in history (following Björk) to achieve platinum sales in the US with their record My Head is An Animal.

The group – comprising “five day dreamers” and the sumptuous vocals of the fantastically talented Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir – then embarked upon two years of extensive touring, seeing Nanna and the band play an impressive number of shows and festivals around the world. The collective rounded up 2013 by contributing a song to the soundtrack of box office hit Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

As well as being one of the hardest working artists out there, it turns out that the group’s singer Nanna also has impeccable taste in music so we’re very excited to welcome her aboard as a curator of the Nordic Playlist! Click on the ‘speaker’ button above to stream Nanna’s playlist via your favourite streaming service, then scroll down to read an exclusive interview with the vocalist and to hear what 2014 has in store for Of Monsters And Men.

Do you remember the first playlist you ever made? What was on it and who was it for?

I can’t really remember what the first playlist was, but when I turned 17 and bought a car, I used to make playlist all the time. I think it mostly consisted of The Shins, The Postal Service, The Cure and some Icelandic stuff like Seabear and Sigur Rós.

Has anyone ever made a mixtape or a playlist for you? If so, what was your favourite track on it?

I remember this one girl that made this mixtape for us in 2010. It was just after we started the band and we were playing a show at Borgarfjörður eystri, which is on other side of the island.

She was from Germany and followed us all the way the way there to see us play. We’d never had anyone go to such lengths to see us perform, and we only played like 3 songs but she was very sweet and made us a CD with songs she liked and thought we’d like, I can’t remember what was on it, a lot of it was stuff i’d never heard before but I remember some songs from the Juno soundtrack.

On Sunday Raggi and I had to drive for 10 hours straight to get back home so the CD got some good use.

Of Monsters and Men played at loads of festivals in 2013! From Portugal to Chile, to Brazil… what were your highlights of this worldwide tour?

I just love playing festivals and we played so many memorable ones. The ones you mentioned were definitely one of the highlights. Also I have to say Coachella, Glastonbury, Fuji Rock and Roskilde. I could go on actually. But these were all stand outs. Roskilde was specially cool because it’s like the festival holy grail for Icelandic bands. Everyone’s been to Roskilde and all the bands want to play it.

Congratulations on your debut album My Head is An Animal obtaining platinum in the USA by the way!

How does it feel to be the only Icelandic artist next to Björk to have achieved this status?

It feels good but unreal. I never ever thought we would be mentioned in the same sentence as Björk besides from “they are both from Iceland”.

It’s definitely an honour.

Of Monsters and Men wrote the song ‘Silhouettes’ exclusively for the official Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack – can you tell us a bit about the process of creating the song and the idea behind it? How did it come to this collaboration between the film and Of Monsters and Men?

So the soundtrack is all songs created specifically for the movie. They seek out artists that they want to be on the soundtrack and simply contacted us. Writing ‘Silhouettes’ was a fun thing for us because suddenly we had this challenge of writing a new song.

It was refreshing, we had been playing the same songs for months and had no time to really work on new stuff. But there we had the drive we needed!

We read the books so we knew what the vibe was but we actually tried to not think too literally and just see what would happen. When we worked on the lyrics we wanted to write about our experience of being on the road so much, staying at hotel rooms, missing family and kind of the not so glamorous part about being on tour all the time.

The last album was so much about escaping Iceland and now we just craved it. The lyrics are very much about that and it just happened that it fit feel of the movie as well.

2013 seemed like an incredible year for you, and Of Monsters and Men – what were some of your favourite moments?

One of my favourite shows was at Red Rocks in Colorado where we played with Vampire Weekend. The atmosphere was beautiful. I also love the extremes I experienced, like one week being in Japan seeing wild monkeys and then being in the desert in Dubai, and then coming home to Iceland and getting your car stuck in the snow.

Can you tell us about some of the tracks that you’ve picked today and why you selected them?

I must admit, this was a harder challenge then I imagined. I thought that Iceland wouldn’t be so hard because there was a lot that came immediately to mind but then I realised that I had to pick and that was a little harder.

I decided to go with Hjaltalín because i’m in love with that song ‘I Feel You’ and equally in love with the music video.

Mammút was another choice, I just think their new album is amazing and I had the hardest time picking from the opening track ‘Ströndin’ or the last track ‘Tungan’ – I went with ‘Ströndin’ but I recommend listening to ‘Tungan’ as well.

I was so happy when I heard Mirel Wagner, her song ‘No Death’ isn’t really an uplifting song but I was just happy to find someone who had this sound I could relate to, it’s very haunting. I love it.

I was so deeply disappointed when I missed out on Anna von Hausswolff  at Iceland Airwaves ’13. I had been told she was someone not to miss and so I listened to her and loved what I heard. When the day came for her performance I looked at the schedule and realised that she had played the day before and I had the days mixed up.

‘Finally 1982’ by Philco Fiction is a track you listen to and it sticks with you for days and you are perfectly fine with it. So that’s why I picked it, so we can all have that line “your heart is colder then the winter of ’81” stuck in our heads at the same time.

The Nordic Playlist is all about discovering music from the Nordic countries, so can you tell us about a Nordic artist or album that is particularly special, or has been particularly influential on you?

I remember around the time we were forming our band I was listening a lot to The Tallest Man on Earth. His album Shallow Grave was a popular CD in my apartment. I saw him at Newport folk festival in 2012 and it was great, just a guitar and vocals and everyone was in awe. At the same day of the festival we saw First Aid Kit do backup vocals for Bright Eyes. Sweden owned that day.

The Knife is a band that me and my friends would listen to over and over when we got together. I’d say that’s a special band to me. That being said, Fever Ray was one of the most played artist on my iPod while touring. The last few years i’ve really fallen in love with both Lykke Li and Oh Land’s music as well, so they have to be mentioned here.

Did you discover anything new when making your Nordic Playlist?

Yes. A lot actually. That’s what I really liked about doing this list. I had to go and discover new things and therefore I have some new favourite music.

And are there any new artists from Iceland that you recommend we keep a close eye on?

I recommend keeping an eye on Vök, I think they are my favourite new band in Iceland. Also Cell7 and Highlands.

What does the rest of the year hold for you and Of Monsters and Men? What are you most looking forward to, and what can you reveal of your new year plans?

We are going to make a new album in 2014. We are very exited about it, we are probably gonna lay low while we are writing it and hopefully record it in late summer-autumn.

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