The locations of good bars and the best food may need to be rediscovered, but the band has no regrets about spending several years out of the public eye. When Philadelphia radio station 104.5 began playing the five-piece’s ebullient single Little Talks in 2011, it set off a chain reaction of success and further work that included a pair of internationally successful albums – 2011’s My Head is an Animal (which topped the Australian charts) and 2015’s Beneath the Skin – plus a succession of tours. Five years went quickly and the group did not want to go straight into a follow-up record.
“If you rush into things then your decisions are controlled by fear, and they’ll be made for the wrong decisions. You should take the risk and do what you really want to do,” Porhallsson says. “You’ve got to be excited by what you’re doing.”
The quintet went into the writing of what would become Fever Dream determined to not repeat themselves. They believed if they were different people with fresh relationships and, in some cases, the responsibility of parenthood, they would need to make different music. Sounds they had made in the past had to stay there.
“We don’t want to stay in one spot, we don’t want the tension of people feeling they can’t have different things in their lives. We have obligations, but we want to keep the band strong and create,” Porhallsson says. “A lot of bands break up because of this, so we have to change and keep talking to make it work. That’s a good development.”
On the advice of Porhallsson’s mother, a yoga teacher who “fills the room with positivity” according to her son, they had a simple guide for sharing individual ideas in the rehearsal room. Instead of saying ‘Yes, but’, which would upend the nascent song, they would begin comments with ‘Yes, and’, so there was collective resolve.
“It’s not hard to put it into practice. If you feel that you’re getting off track or becoming negative, which is very human to do, it’s good to have this in your mind,” Porhallsson says. “We gave everyone the freedom to explore what they’re about in the band – everything didn’t have to fit in the Of Monsters and Men box. We have three people that write music in this band and we wanted everyone to shine.”
Co-produced by Rich Costey (Muse, Sigur Ros), Fever Dream elevates the tangents that always informed their buoyant choruses and folk melodies – rippling electric guitar, electronic textures, and stadium-sized sentiment – to the forefront of their songwriting. Led by the single Alligator, the album has a dynamic range that moves from bittersweet ballads to storm-the-barricades belters. It’s a progression Porhallsson views with a calm typical of Iceland’s musical exports
“We want to keep making music and have it be interesting for us,” he says. “You might lose some fans, but you can gain some others through making something you’re proud of. That’s what you have to do if you want your band to grow with you.”
Of Monsters and Men play at the Enmore Theatre, Newtown, on Tuesday, January 7; Anita’s Theatre, Thirroul, on Wednesday, January 8; and the Forum Theatre, Melbourne, on Friday, January 10. The band is also performing at the Falls Festival in Lorne, Marion Bay, Byron Bay and Fremantle.
Craig Mathieson is a TV, film and music writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.