drums

Coachella Band Preview: Of Monsters and Men

In exactly one month, it will be the final day of the first weekend of Coachella 2016. That means less than a month until the festival begins! There’s only a few more weeks and band previews left. I hope you’ve been prepping by listening to the incredible acts performing this year or by shopping for the perfect festival attire. If you’ve been doing just that or even if you haven’t, this week’s preview band is one I would definitely be seeing if I was attending this year. I’ve liked this band for a little over 4 years, but have yet to see them live. I know if I was going to be at Coachella they’d be in my top 5 bands to see solely for that reason.

Formed in 2010, Of Monsters and Men hails from Iceland. The indie group is composed of members Nanna Byrndis-Hilmarsdóttir (vocals, gutiar), Ragnar “Raggi”Pórhallsson (guitar, vocals), Brynjar Leifsson (guitar), Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson (drums), and Kristján Páll Kristjánsson (bass). After competing in a battle of the bands competition in Iceland, Of Monsters and Men started touring across their home country. Before the release of their debut album My Head Is an Animal in September 2011, Philadelphia’s alternative/indie radio station 104.5 started playing their single “Little Talks” which grew the band’s popularity in the U.S. Due to the nationwide success and the debut album only being released in Iceland, the band signed with Universal so they could release their album in America. Before that though, Of Monsters and Men dropped an EP, Into the Woods, in December of 2011 which contained 4 songs from their debut. The band released their debut in the States the following April.

In 2012 and 2013 the band toured worldwide playing countless shows and music festivals including Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Coachella (yep 2016 will be their second appearance). They also contributed songs to a few movies and TV series. In 2014 they began recording their sophomore album, Beneath the Skin, which was released in June of 2015. The band toured through the rest of 2015 promoting the new album.

Their music style is strictly indie. I guess you could say indie pop or indie rock. The songs have a great balance of male and female vocals because of Nanna and Raggi. They harmonize well together. It creates a uniqueness only heard in a handful of other indie groups with a male and female vocalist.

I first heard Of Monsters and Men around the time of their EP release in 2011 and the first song I heard actually wasn’t “Little Talks”. It was the song “Lakehouse”. Unlike many bands and songs, I don’t think the song was a recommendation either. I most likely found it while searching for new music. I had it on my iTunes by the end of November 2011. The next Of Monsters and Men song I heard wasn’t “Little Talks” either. It was the song “King and Lionheart” in April 2012, the same month their debut album came out in the U.S. When I downloaded that song, I remember thinking, “Hmm I think I have another song by Of Monsters and Men downloaded too.” Sure enough, I did. By the end of the following month, I finally heard “Little Talks” and despite not hearing the most popular song first, it slowly took over my life for a little while. My friend’s husband and I started getting together every Wednesday beginning in June 2012 to play guitar (Yes I play guitar if you didn’t already know. And drums. And ukulele.). It was during our guitar sessions that we decided to work on playing “Little Talks”. Playing the song came together quickly, but we did play it a lot. It was one of our signature songs along with “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys and “Dammit” by Blink-182. Eventually, on Black Friday 2012, I picked up a copy of My Head Is an Animal for a few bucks and I considered it one of the best buys of the day. It’s a great record. So yes, Of Monsters and Men and I have a history together, but like I said, I’ve never seen them live. I do enjoy all of the songs I’ve ever heard by them though. I’m sure as long as you’re down with indie pop/indie rock music, you should too.

As you know from reading this, Coachella 2016 won’t be the band’s first trip to the desert. They last played three years ago, but since released a brand new album featuring the hit “Crystals”. If you don’t have a chance to see a band you think is good while they tour in support of an amazing debut album, I think it’s great to be able to see them after they release a second album. Even with the second album, its still at the point that they’ll play plenty of songs you know and love from the first one, along with the best songs from the second one. You end up with a killer combo of music. Of Monsters and Men is at that point now which is another good reason to see them at Coachella this year besides the fact that they’re a great band. They play on the first day of the festival, Friday. Many of the other bands and artists I previewed so far are scheduled to play Saturday or Sunday making Of Monsters and Men a solid option for Friday. Here’s a few songs you should know by this Icelandic indie band:

  1. Little Talks
  2. Crystals
  3. King and Lionheart
  4. Mountain Sound
  5. I of the Storm
  6.  Dirty Paws
  7. Empire
  8. Love Love Love
  9. Lakehouse
  10. Slow and Steady

 

Whiplash

Yesterday, I was able to take advantage of $5 Tuesday’s and see the movie Whiplash starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. I saw the preview for it a month prior and was interested because of the focus on drumming in the film (I played the drums for a while and they were my first instrument). Not only that but I sort of have a connection to Miles Teller. I don’t know him personally nor have I met him, but his father was childhood friends with my uncle. I guess my mom also knew his dad from the times he used to hang around their home growing up. So because of that little connection, my interest in a film goes up when he’s in it.

Whiplash is about a young aspiring musician, Andrew Neyman (Teller), in his first year of school at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music based in Manhattan (according to the film this fictional school is one of the most prestigious music schools in the country) and his relationship with his feared, hard-nosed instructor, Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Fletcher recruits Andrew to join his elite studio jazz band shortly into the movie where he learns of Fletcher’s highly demanding teaching methods. Throughout the film Fletcher shows Andrew just what it takes to be one of the greats using his not-so-kind approach.

As a musician and especially as a drummer, I loved this film. The particular style of music played in it (jazz) isn’t one I’m familiar with as far as playing goes, but I know enough to know that jazz is one of, if not the most difficult style of music to play as a drummer. This film is more than just music. It shows a person’s drive, passion, and desire to become the best at what he loves even when faced with someone who is willing to challenge him in the most difficult ways. The mental and physical struggle to prove Andrew’s desire to be the greatest drummer of all time is exhibited beautifully in the movie. It’s hard to not be inspired by it. It’s also hard to believe that this film will not be considered as part of the Oscar buzz. Just like it’s main character, it’s worthy of high achievement. So if you get a chance to see this, I recommend you do.