It’s easy to write off Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men as just another pop group. With repetitive “Hey!” refrains, an earworm of a trumpet line, and a breezy, lighthearted vibe, the six-piece troop’s biggest hit, “Little Talks,” spent 26 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 2013. It also earned the band a reputation as a mainstream hitmaker.
Beneath that breezy surface, however, is emotional depth. The group’s second album, Beneath the Skin, was released in June and has dark lyrics to go with its well-known pop tone. Co-singer and guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson says that dichotomy has always been part of the group’s sound. “We always look to create contrast in our music, that’s very important to us,” he writes via email. “We did that on our first album as well–I just think that people didn’t really notice as much.”
Still, there’s no question that the group’s success influenced their second album. For Þórhallsson, releasing an album is much like parenthood: “For us as parents, [Beneath the Skin is] a totally different baby. It’s a bit more mature and maybe not as outgoing as our first child. It’s bigger and heavier which made the birth a bit harder but it’s also more sensitive and shy.”
Part of what gives the band’s music so much depth is the group’s two vocalists; Þórhallsson shares microphone duties with Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, sometimes harmonizing with her and sometimes–as on “Little Talks”–turning a dialogue into a duet. Their vocal closeness is no doubt a reflection on their close songwriting collaborations. “We write the lyrics together so it doesn’t really matter to us who wrote what,” Þórhallsson says. “We usually figure out whom the songs fits vocally at first and then we kind of go from there.”
Despite the occasionally gloomy lyric, their new music sounds as easygoing and bright as ever, making Merriweather Post Pavilion a fitting venue for the group: There’s no place better for a folk-pop concert than an outdoor space against a late summer sunset.
Of Monsters and Men performs with Oh Land on Sunday, September 20 at Merriweather Post Pavilion; $40 to 55.