Monarchy clear a few things up, including: lying to Radio One, the attractiveness of their fans, and whether or not Calvin Harris’ choice of breakfast is interesting. SPOILER ALERT: it’s not.
Your sound and the image seem to centre around space and retro-futurism. Is that a passion that continues into your taste in fashion, film and art?
To a degree. We love the future. Retro-ism is too nostalgic and regressive. Also, most people who are retro aren’t historically accurate. The future is more open to potential by its very nature – it hasn’t happened yet – where the past cannot be changed, although it can be re-written.
For us, though, space and future are canvasses that we paste our aspirations and dreams. We like the open nature of space, the limitless possibilities, and more importantly, how that makes people feel. With the decline of religion, we are all looking for some form of escapism from this dusty planet, we are feeling trapped in this dimension and in this environment. We like how space and future make people feel invincible and make them aspire to greatness and to cast their imagination beyond their lives and world.
Space and the future have long been vehicles for people to tell stories about themselves. Science fiction uses space and the future to start asking questions about what it is really to be human, and what it is to have emotions, to feel joy, love, sorrow. We use space in the same way. By projecting outwards, we are entering on a journey into ourselves, to better understand ourselves, to understand what it is to be human.
What’s the best song ever written about space?
Gustav Holst- The Planets, which is a symphony completed in 1916. Holst wrote a movement for each planet in the solar system, except for Earth. Our favourite movement is Mars, the Bringer of War. Pluto wasn’t discovered until after he had completed the symphony. Luckily, it’s since been downgraded to a “dwarf planet” and not a fully-fledged planet of our solar system, so Holst can rest in his grave easily. It could have been a bit of an artistic oversight otherwise.
Are the lyrics meaningful or purely aesthetic?
Our lyrics are definitely meaningful. There is not a word that Ra sings that he dismisses as throw-away, and each word has one, and quite often several, meanings, within the context of our songs. We know Simon Cowell thinks no one buys a song for its verse, but we’re all about meaning and context, and each word is placed for a reason.
Your whole image and sound smacks of control, perfectionism, fastidiousness. Is this a good way of describing how you work?
Definitely. We have some rough edges, we sometimes let go, because sometimes a mistake, a moment of indiscretion or accident is the perfect answer, and you may arrive at something all the more perfect for its imperfections. But it’s rare. We like to release only a few things, and make them amazing, whether it’s art or music or a video.
MiniMix for Annie Mac on Radio 1
You’ve said “we don’t talk about our backgrounds. Process is dull”. Can you tell us about what inspires you when you’re writing/producing?
Music inspires us, though quite often it is not quite what you would expect. Maybe the way tonalities are used in a Steve Reich track, or the atmosphere of an Alan Parson’s Project track will inspire us as much as a current song or production. On the song front, we are inspired by the ‘greats’, like Bowie, Tom Waits, Nick Drake, through to modern pop, or maybe a one-hit-wonder that captures our attention. On the production front we are more into modern producers like Stuart Price, Lifelike, LCD Soundsystem and Soulwax.
We’re also heavily inspired by art, literature and fashion. Ra reads a lot of Blake and Byron, Andrew is more into Kundera, Palahniuk and Murakami.
How tempting is it to respond to conjectures about your identity online?
What’s the best guess you’ve heard so far?
The accurate ones. But we’ve had everything from Stuart Price to a Montreal heavy rock band, which Radio 1 kept announcing us as. They’re called The Monarchy, so other than the music, it’s easy to get confused.
You were rumoured to be revealing everything at a gig in January this year. Was that ever going to happen, or was it a publicity stunt?
No, it was definitely going to happen. We were going to play the gig, and at that point we were not signed. All the record companies were coming to see us that night, along with publishers, press, Radio 1, The Independent, other bands, even writers from Xenomania. The gig was planned for Wednesday 20th January. Mercury Records got in touch on the Monday just before the gig, and said they were interested in working with us, as long as we didn’t do the show. Maybe they didn’t want a bidding war. Maybe they wanted us to keep the mystery. Either way, we said we were interested, as long as they supported us in the way we wanted. By Tuesday they were in touch with the paperwork. By Wednesday we had signed the deal and pulled the show. It was a pretty crazy time. We were meant to do an interview with Radio 1 straight after the show, but we told them we were off to NY to work with an artist there. Lies!
Monarchy are truly refreshing; there’s only so much more we can hear about Calvin Harris’s breakfast choices or David Guetta’s underwear via Twitter. Do you think more and more acts will adopt your policy of anonymity, or do you think it’ll get worse before it gets better?
Already we’ve seen other acts arrive at the same conclusion as we have, either by coincidence or influence. Many artists are remaining anonymous, or mysterious, maybe in the hope of replicating our journey. Many now hide their friends list on myspace, where we have never allowed any friends.
We’re going through an information curve at the moment; people are adjusting to unprecedented access to information, very personal information about individuals. Artists feel they need to use this access to broadcast the mundane. However, we feel they are mistaken. Soon, we will bore of it, and additionally, people will come to recognise that there is far more diversity and contrasting opinions and personalities and ways of life than they can possibly imagine. And so people will become sanitised to a wider range of people, and also less privacy. Pop artists are the moment are sanitised and dull because of the increased access to their personal lives, but this too will change soon. Record companies will realise that people want real people, with real intellect and personalities to engage with, not sanitized dull mouthpieces that have nothing of value to say.
Do you similarly reject the culture of name dropping in the music industry, or is it a necessary evil?
We’re not really into the VIP thing, or making friends with someone just because they are famous. If they are intelligent and we respect their work, that’s an interesting starting point for a conversation, and we take it from there. We are about real connections, regardless of status or posturing.
Are you in fact robots/space beings who don’t actually have an identity as we know it, born out of artificial intelligence to deliver amazing music to the people?
In our minds we are. We’ve always had a problem distinguishing between fact and fantasy, so we find it a bit hard to answer. We would probably have to say ‘yes’.
You’ve been described as “music for lovelorn bloggers”. Your music does seem to suit the weird, delineated virtual universe that is the internet. How do you translate this into a live performance?
There’s a certain element of cold precision on our live performance as well, of space and fantasy. Darkness, diffused identities, light catching a strange angle or an unusual silhouette. And for the lovelorn bloggers that like our music, our shows are the perfect place to find other lovelorn bloggers to fill that empty space inside. And, rest assured, our audience looks amazing. As we gaze out from stage, so often we are struck by how good looking they all are. Sexiest lovelorn bloggers we’ve seen.
And finally, what’s been on your stereo the most this month?
We’ve been listening to the new Pacific! album, which is great. Also we’ve been listening to some old Gui Borrato – we like the cold space. Stuff by Lindstrom, Tim Goldsworthy, and Tensnake never really leave the stereo. And we’re still listening to Grizzly Bear. So wonderful.
Monarchy – Love Get Out Of My Way (Tim Goldsworthy remix)
Monarchy – Love Get Out Of My Way (Holy Ghost remix feat. Dixon)
Monarchy – Love Get Out Of My Way (Treasure Fingers remix)
Monarchy – Love Get Out Of My Way (Benny Benassi Remix)