Ever since its worldwide breakthrough, 2011’s chiming, charming debut “My Head is an Animal” and the hit tune “Little Talks,” Icelandic outfit Of Monsters and Men has wanted its own studio where it could comfortably record without an expensive meter running. The band finally built one in an old school to track its recent third outing, “Fever Dream,” with co-producer Rich Costey.
There was just one catch.
“It’s haunted,” casually notes band co-lead vocalist-guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir. “But that’s OK. Ghosts are a really good audience. They’re bored and they don’t have anything to do, so they’re very excited to have our music around.”
The singer — who brings her group to San Jose this weekend in the annual Not So Silent Night concert — knows about spirits.
Otherworldly phenomena are an accepted part of cultural tradition in Iceland, where projected thoroughfares may have their course altered to not disturb giant boulders rumored to be homes for elves.
“A road that leads to our drummer’s house had to be built in a specific way, in fact, because there’s an elf stone there,” she says.
As a kid, she was so enraptured by eerie tales from beyond her grandfather would relate, she formed her own ghost club and regularly went hunting for local specters, with varying results.
“But when I was young, I was also legally blind,” Hilmarsdottir adds as a caveat. “I had to have surgery to get it fixed. But until then, I would wake up in the middle of the night and just see these crazy shapes that I would if course think were ghosts.”
That magical, folklorish outlook, which she defines as simple curiosity, is what initially set Of Monsters and Men apart.
It’s something she didn’t want to lose on “Fever Dream,” even though she felt a restlessness, a need for sonic change. Thankfully, she had plenty of time and studio space to experiment, as she traded her guitar for synthesizer and computer. She loved writing on laptop.
One of the session’s first experiments became the kickoff single “Alligator,” a driving slab of arena rock that feels like Monsters amped way past eleven. Its motivation: Hilmarsdottir was feeling weak, even powerless, until she picked up on the galloping beat her drumming downstairs neighbor kept practicing.
“So the song itself is the alligator; it’s rough and charging right at you,” she says.
Although Hilmarsdóttir enjoys real-world perks like being clothed by top Icelandic designers (including Hildur Yeoman), she still prefers the wonder of the inexplicable.
“So anyone telling you that the world is very black and white? That doesn’t seem like a very fun mentality at all,” she says. “So I like remaining open and curious. I mean, why not?
IF YOU GO
Not So Silent Night
with Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men, twenty one pilots, The Raconteurs, The 1975, White Reaper
Where: SAP Center, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $29 to $139