Iceland's Of Monsters and Men play the Greek Theatre.

Iceland's Of Monsters and Men play the Greek Theatre.

Of Monsters and Men carry on folk traditions

There is probably no greater venue to see Icelandic ensemble Of Monsters and Men than Berkeley’s Greek Theatre. The band’s whimsical, traditional-lore-steeped folk rock — on its 2011 debut “My Head Is an Animal,” its smash single “Little Talks,” and the brilliant, more percussive new “Beneath the Skin” — is made for wafting on the autumn breeze from an open-air venue with sensitive acoustics. “Everything has changed for us, in a way,” says co-vocalist Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir, stunned by her own success. “We’ve gotten to travel the world and actually do music for a living.”


Have you treated yourself to anything nice with your royalties?

I bought a lot of guitars. And I have an apartment, and I like going around to new places, because it’s really fun to buy random stuff and fill up your apartment with things from all over. This tour, I’ve been collecting doll heads. And masks.

Have you met any of your musical heroes?

Well, I’ve seen a few. I saw Robert Smith, but I didn’t want to say hello to him because I was too shy. But I love him, and when I was a teenager I wanted to be him. I was a Gothic kid, and I was so obsessed with him I even did my hair like him.

Iceland has this great tradition of storytelling, from eddas and sagas, to modern folklore, where highway construction is diverted around giant boulders that are reputedly homes to elves.

Yeah. There’s always stories like that going around – you can’t build roads here because this stone? There’s somebody who lives in it. With me, I grew up with ghost stories a lot, and my grandfather used to tell me a lot of the ghost stories, about what happened in the east or the west.

Do you have a favorite?
My favorite was about this couple, they’re in love, and there’s a river between their two towns. And on Christmas eve, he rides his horse over to see her, thinking the river is frozen. But it’s not. So he falls into the river and dies, and hits his head on the ice so his skin scrapes off and you can see his skull. But as a ghost, he still goes to see the woman that he loves, but she can see his skull. So she rings the church bell, and he goes away.

You’re carrying on that storytelling tradition, in new songs like “Wolves Without Teeth.”
It’s about fears that are irrational. That’s why it’s a wolf, but it doesn’t have teeth, so it can’t really do anything. But I suppose it could gum you to death. If you were very, very unlucky.

IF YOU GO
Of Monsters and Men
Where: Greek Theatre, 201 Gayley Road, Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Oct. 16
Tickets: $42.50
Contact: (510) 548-3010, www.ticketmaster.com

IcelandLittle TalksNanna Bryndis HilmarsdottirOf Monsters and Men

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