Since we first heard 'I Am Not An End' and 'I'm A Fantastic Wreck', we've been big fans of Sydney's Montaigne. Then we got to hear her debut EP, Life Of Montaigne and we were even bigger fans. So now we're like her biggest fans ever or something. Deal with it. Anywho, our current Artist of the Month took some time out while she's touring alongside Megan Washington to have a chat about Life Of Montaigne, albums to save in a zombie apocalypse, The Jonas Brothers and more. Enjoy!
Interview by Matt Bond
Montaigne! Welcome to It’s My Kind of Scene. How are you on this fine day and what have you been getting up to?
Montaigne: Today? I have been working my casual job, had a nice vegan wrap for lunch, and went to my favourite Japanese restaurant with my boyfriend. Pretty solid, standard day.
Let’s start with an easy one; what music have you been listening to and loving lately?
Montaigne: Heheh, well, right now, I am listening to the Glee cover of ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ by Rod Stewart. Freaking gawld. Apart from that, I’m finding Bat For Lashes’ album The Haunted Man really enthralling, especially after reading Pitchfork’s feature on it.
Don't stop believing, Montaigne. Don't. Stop. Believing. Your debut EP, Life of Montaigne was released late last year and it was a beautiful introduction to your music. What would you say is the driving theme behind the five tracks and what was it like getting your first collection of work out into the world?
Montaigne: There are many driving themes to this EP. The great, overarching one is inner conflict - having feelings for someone and dealing with the reality that those feelings are unreciprocated; being aware of your flaws and trying to accept them and not being able to do so and being frustrated at your inability to do so; being told your qualities or identity is wrong, or inadequate, or offensive even though you’re sure they’re not and dealing with the confusion and frustration that comes with that; general disillusionment about life. It’s pretty serious. Most of my songs are serious.
I’m going to be totally selfish and ask about ‘A Cinematic Plea For An End’, because I can’t stop listening to it. What’s the story behind this particular song? It seems like it could be one that ends with me wanting to punch someone in the face for you?
Montaigne: Oh no no no no. Don’t worry, no punching needs to be done. Unless you want to punch me in the face, but I feel like you’d not do it if I asked you. The song is mostly a letter to myself. It’s 41% Hollywood fiction, 59% autobiographical. I have always been a romantic idealist (I possess a small degree of realism, or at least rationality now) and that outlook always used to get me into an emotional place that isn’t good for me. Nor for my relationship with the person for whom I have feelings. The song, plotwise, is about party 1 in a relationship expecting party 2 in the relationship to come running back as happens in movies, but party 1 isn’t actually doing any work or self-development that merits the triumphant return. And party 2 doesn’t like that. But ultimately, party 2 acknowledges that it is important that party 1 make this mistake so that they can learn from it and become a better person, a better lover. That’s what life is right? We fuck up so that we learn from it and do it better next time. I sped, got some harsh speeding fines, and I’m never going to do it again. I tried whiskey once, it was awful, I’ll never do that again. I once communicated poorly in a relationship, massive consequences, I’ll never do it again. That, too, is a big part of the EP.
For the record, I do not want to punch you in the face and if you asked, like you said, I would politely decline. ‘I’m A Fantastic Wreck’ was your first music video! How did you find the process of putting a clip together? And can we expect to see a video for any of the other tracks from Life Of Montaigne?
Montaigne: I didn’t myself put the clip together, I acted in it, but the idea, editing and direction were all Guy Franklin and John Gavin and their team. It was really cool though. The location was majestically rustic, the team was lovely, and even though it was so cold I had to wear a down jacket and two bath robes and cradle two hot water bottles in between takes, it was cool to get done. In terms of other videos, there will, I think definitely, be at least one more.
You’ve got a busy tour schedule building up at the moment. Megan Washington’s There There tour is underway and your own headline tour kicks off April 23 in Brisbane at The Milk Factory (woo!). For the uninitiated, can you tell us about the Montaigne live experience? And how have you found touring with the likes of Megan Washington and San Cisco?
Montaigne: I don’t have anything fancy going on visually just yet, it’s all about the music for now. I play with a full band and people seem to really enjoy the music. We’ve got a pretty big sound, which I am proud of. At the moment we’re playing the EP and five other songs I’ve written, and I don’t want to sound arrogant but we sound really good. People should be allowed to admit their strengths, right? People should be allowed to declare that they are good at things. We happen to be good at playing together, and at playing my music. I love touring, a lot. I love playing to people and singing and meeting people and finding out that my music actually makes people feel something meaningful. I like hanging out (and occasionally falling asleep) backstage, I like hanging out with the other artists and meeting their bros. I really like it.
People should be allowed to admit their strengths! Just not in a Kanye way. Maybe. In between touring and shooting videos and hopefully relaxing every now and then, are you hard at work on new material? Can we expect another release from you this year and if so, what kinda release are we talking about? We’re not so secretly hoping for a debut album.
Montaigne: There maaaaaay be an album either end of this year or early next. I’m writing always so, take that for what you will.
If you had to pick five albums that have shaped who you are as a person (or if the zombie apocalypse happened and you could only grab 5 albums to keep with you forever), what would they be and why?
Montaigne: Worst question, okay, I’ll choose zombie apocalypse scenario:
1. Go by Jónsi - this is the sound of life to me. My view of the world is quite optimistic, probably because I’m quite a fortunate person, but I see a lot of beauty in the world. In people, in nature, in music. I believe everything is connected somehow, in the way that children who don’t know each other will immediately socialise with their peers when taken to playgrounds by their parents. Artificial barriers are created when we get older I think. This song reminds me to try to revive my child-like spirit, my free and uninhibited youth. Of course it’s not an easy thing to do in this society of ours, but it’s good to keep that idea painted on the borders of your mind. This album helps.
2. Takk… by Sigur Rós - TRANSCENDENT. That’s all I can say.
3. Pure Heroine by Lorde - because that was the soundtrack to my transition from adolescence to adulthood, and it articulated everything I felt about that period of my life, and a stretch before it, and I really like how unashamedly adolescent it is. Adolescence is probably one of the most important parts of your life, it’s definitely a formative part, and though we do and think so many shitty things during this time, there’s no shame in it. People are allowed to make mistakes. Of course, if they don’t seek to improve themselves after making mistakes, that’s just not acceptable. But if they do, forgive them. Move on. Life’s too short. Moreover, not all teenagers are vapid fools. Lorde proves that in many things she says. One of my favourite lines of hers, about being a famous teenager, is: “Only bad people live to see their likeness set in stone, so what does that make me?”
4. Neon Bible by Arcade Fire - because I don’t think I could live in a world where I don’t hear the song No Cars Go. The rest of the album is also immensely important to me.
5. High Violet by The National - Depth. Depth depth depth. Depth.
A song guaranteed to make you dance is…
Montaigne: ‘Come On Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
Your favourite songwriter would have to be…
Montaigne: Owen Pallett.
Which means the song you most wish you had written is…
Montaigne: Not one of his! I mean I definitely wish I’d written some of his songs, as with any artist I admire, but I really resent the fact that I didn’t write ‘No Cars Go’ by Arcade Fire.
If you could play any festival in the world you would choose…
Montaigne: Coachella would be gr9.
Your ultimate music guilty pleasure is…
Montaigne: I don’t really believe in guilty pleasures, but something that others would perceive as something I should feel guilty about is probably ‘Lovebug’ by the Jonas Brothers. I had a HUGE Jonas Brothers phase.
When they air Montaigne’s MTV Behind The Music special 38 years from now, what will they say about you?
Montaigne: I actually have no idea. I don’t really know how other people perceive me. I think they like me??? But that’s it.