Billboard Post Party Presented by Starbucks Refreshers Featuring Of Monsters And Men
The Jezabels, French Horn Rebellion (DJ SET)
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Doors: 10:00 pm / Show: 10:30 pmDouble Door
Free w/ RSVP *Attendance subject to venue capacity.
This event is 21 and over
RSVP at http://www.billboardpostparty.eventbrite.comhttp://www.doubledoor.com/event/147951/
"We just kind of... won," recalls co-singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir. "We weren't expecting it at all. So I said, 'Everybody come to my place!'" Beer-swilling friends spilled out of her flat. "I was like, 'Oh fuck, my neighbors aren't liking me right now.'"
Those neighbors won't be making noise complaints anymore. With the group's bright, trumpeting single "Little Talks" winning over one blog at a time, Nanna and her bandmates (co-singer/guitarist Ragnar "Raggi" Thorhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rosenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Arni Guthjonsson, and bassist Kristjan Pall Kristjansson) are well on their way to becoming citizens of the world.
Their rapid rise transpired in just one year. Nanna, who began as the acoustic act Songbird, recruited extra hands to bolster her sound for a solo show. She liked how her vocals commingled with Raggi's, so they started writing songs together and in 2010 morphed into Of Monsters and Men. As victors of 2010's Musiktilraunir, the new group earned a slot on the influential Iceland Airwaves festival later that year, followed by Seattle's radio station KEXP posting "Little Talks" from a Living Room Session filmed there, setting the telltale ripple effect in motion.
By the summer of 2011 "Little Talks" hit No. 1 in the band's native country, and "people around the world seemed to be listening to us," marvels Raggi. The band was asked to perform again at Iceland Airwaves 2011, where KEXP then anointed the group as "easily the most buzzed about band."
Though their reach is growing broader, the group's appeal has remained distinct: Their music is as fantastical as it is pretty. For inspiration, they often reference random stories they've read. The chanting, tribal "Six Weeks" was inspired by the true tale of American frontiersman Hugh Glass, seemingly left for dead after 86ing a bear that attacked him. Explains Nanna, giggling: "I was reading a post about the six most badass guys in history." As for the swelling, epic "From Finner"? "It's about a whale that has a house on its back" says Raggi "on which people travel across the ocean, exploring different places and having adventures."
They also dig deeper, past legends of grizzly men and whale riders. "Little Talks," for instance, explores loneliness and insanity, while "Love Love Love" ruefully ruminates on heartbreak. "If you listen to the lyrics, they're not as uplifting," he says. "But our music is meant to be fun to sing along to."
In September, Of Monsters and Men threw another party -- a more thoughtful gathering to celebrate their full-length debut, "My Head Is an Animal." (The album, which was released in Iceland and hit No 1 there soon after, will drop worldwide in early 2012.) For the occasion, they cut out animal masks for the attendees to wear, making them makeshift monster-men/women. "Iceland can be a very isolated country and that translates to the music," Nanna says, adding,"We get stuck in our little world."
Did you see how they caught the light? Hurt Me broke the US charts, made iTunes' single of the week. Easy To Love and Mace Spray were indie radio staples; Dark Storm an iTunes #1. AIR and APRA nominations were lavished for records and songwriting.
Meanwhile in the live arena, maybe you've been shaken by The Jezabels' cocktail of power and elegance, at one of their sold out headline shows around the world, or at any number of festivals that left critics gasping, from Oz inkies to UK glossies to Austin's SXSW:
"Commanding…epic…brilliant…menacing…purring, roaring, soaring… intellectual ferocity…pyromaniac intensity…imagination and emotional rawness…thundering…threatening…exuberant rock'n'roll swagger…"
So much for peeking through the keyhole. With Prisoner, their debut album, The Jezabels are released at last.
"We love a bit of drama," firebrand singer Hayley Mary makes clear from the outset. "The EP trilogy was practical as well as conceptual on our part. It helped shaped us internally, as well as how we were perceived.
"The themes we got to develop, the aesthetic of the design… they helped establish our world, our business, our creative realm. It was nice to feel like we were protected within the force field of the trilogy."
In the force field of their hearts and minds, Hayley Mary and keyboard player Heather Shannon were The Jezabels long before they left the coastal paradise of Byron Bay for the bright lights and dark shadows of Sydney in 2006.
Guitarist Sam Lockwood recognised them in the corridors of learning. History. English. Gender. Rock. He signed them up for a band competition, conjured drummer Nik Kaloper from the mist. The battle was won. The first of many.
"It was a combination of four individual desires to play music and taking whatever opportunities we could find — which happened to be each other," says Hayley. "From there the process has pretty much been one of reconciling musical differences. But we're getting closer."
Prisoner is a panoramic study of tension and emancipation, from the echoing stone cathedral of the title track to the sun-blasted morning of the first single, Endless Summer; from the cloistered atmospherics of the instrumental interlude, Austerlitz, to the chiming and climbing pop of Deep Wide Ocean and the quiet reflecting pool of Peace of Mind.
Like the EP trilogy, Prisoner was recorded during stolen hours by Sydney producer Lachlan Mitchell, whose passion for glittering pop divas and his nocturnal gig in blood-guzzling black metal band Nazxul helped define The Jezabels' polarities of grandiose theatrics and gothic intensity.
"I was always obsessed with that whole Brontë-esque gothic melodramatic thing Kate Bush did," Hayley says. "I love the performance aspect of people like Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper.
"Nik is obsessed with metal. He's a perpetual ball of rhythm. He needs to drum so he doesn't flip out. Heather is a classical pianist who has the advantage of not really knowing the rules of rock. Sam is the earthing element. He likes organic country-folk so he balances that theatrical, over- the-top, almost '80s thing we have…
"Between us it gets very intense but also very dynamic and awesome. There's always someone with a great idea that you would never think of yourself."
Between big ideas and spectacular hooks, dynamic and awesome is about right. The ecstatically swelling melody of Long Highway and stately grace and sky bound chorus of Rosebud bring immediate rewards, but between layers of sound and meaning, Prisoner takes time to fully reveal itself.
"The lyrics are set out as a letter to a prisoner," Hayley says. "I'm interested in the idea of your personal role in your own oppression. To a certain extent the album explores the idea of looking at yourself as a prisoner and asking about the reasons for that. Are they external or are they internal?"
Perhaps related is the fact that The Jezabels have chosen to remain an independent entity for their debut album — in spite of a virtual stampede of label interests.
"The team we've worked with showed faith in us from the first show, from management to production to design," says Hayley. "That's a valuable thing, to have this internal strength of knowing it's us against the world."
World be warned. Prisoner is loose.
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