La Blogothèque

Of Monsters and Men

Arriving in Rome we felt bizarre, thrown out of sync with the rest of the city.

It was the day that François, the new pope, was to be inaugurated; holy men were to be found strolling on every via, street or strata; a helicopter hovered over the distant Piazza San Pietro.

Of Monsters And Men were playing later that night and were experiencing the extraordinariness for themselves, having arrived from Bologna the previous evening. Accompanied by our friends from the Bushmills Irish Whiskey brand, we took the opportunity to film a Still Room Session, a unique and one off moment with the seven friends in a Rome that was buzzing with energy.

For once, we found ourselves in the same situation as the group: having arrived just hours ago in a city foreign to us, we had to improvise, take everything as it came to us with only intuition to guide our choice of locations that we hoped would complement the fantastical music of Of Monsters And Men.

We met up at the top of one of Rome’s abundant hills with the idea that, in any case, it would be easier to wander back down into the city in search of an appropriate place to film.

Upon their arrival, Nanna and Ragnar, the group’s two singers, confirmed our intuitions: they also wanted to amble about the city. We caught them in the middle of an exceptionally long tour, 12 months that would carry them across 4 continents to finish in the United States in October, and they came to us with the firm intention to see as much of the eternal city as possible in their few free hours.

Questioning Nanna about these interminable tours–of which this is the sixth–she replied that she likes the promiscuity of being on the road, sharing every moment with her bandmates, many of whom are old friends that she’s worked with in the past.

One has the impression that with Nanna, music is a family affair, and that for her the success of a band’s vocal contingent lies in an attitude of collusion.

Once everyone is adequately equipped, we set off to stroll in Rome with a collective bent towards spontaneity. The uptempo attitude of the group, their overall kindness is quite hard to pass over without admiring. Very soon after, we test the natural acoustics.

At last, it’s in a little piazza near Trastevere, at the intersection of multiple side streets and back alleys that the adequate location reveals itself. The band stops to practice ‘Dirty Paws’ in the middle of a flotilla of pedestrians, first stunned then charmed by the sound of the first few timid measures. In no time, percussion and vocal harmonies take hold of the song and resonate in this place from another age: we are in Rome, at the center of the world. The music of Iceland’s vast spaces echoes between these walls that ancient history built.

On the way back, I asked Anna how the group had felt during those moments, whether they were accustomed to this genre of exercise. She was content simply to smile: it was a moment, un bel instant ensemble.