INTERVIEW – The Monarch Project
A Mid Summer’s Dream is this Saturday! The buzz is building and you’re not going to want to miss out. Amidst the colourful fun, there will be a stellar lineup of live music including The Monarch Project. Comprised of Joe Boudreau, Jose Batista, James Rea Girt, and Rob Nagy, this Hamilton alternative/psychedelic band are ready to take Gage Park’s historic bandshell.
For more info on A Mid Summer’s Dream, check out my previous post about the festival. Here’s what you need to know:
A Mid Summer’s Dream
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Gage Park, 1000 Main Street East
2PM – 10PM
(But please bring a non-perishable item for the food drive!)
Facebook event page
Twitter @hamontcolour #MSD
Watch the promo videos on YouTube
I interviewed Jo, James, Jose, and Rob to learn more about The Monarch Project and get their thoughts on the festival.
IHH: I saw you play for the first time back in March 2012 at Homegrown Hamilton. That must have been one of your first shows, or was it your first? I remember being a fan right away. Can you give a bit of background about how the four of you came together?
JAMES: We were playing our last show as Steel Mountie, and Jo had been opening for us. After our set, he said that we should really get together and that there’s this material he had been working on that he wants to develop with a group. Shortly after I think he started jamming with Rob. I joined originally as a third guitar player, but a week before our first show the bassist bailed and I jumped into his spot.
JOSE: I remember joining in on some writing and composing sessions with Jo early in 2012. We would stay up late on Monday nights at Homegrown and work on the material over a cup of coffee. Jo was also working with Rob on the material and James joined shortly after.
Hamilton’s music scene is so supportive. How have you found the city over this past year and a half of playing shows as a new band?
JOSE: There is such an eclectic mix of talented musicians in this city. There is also a strong passion for local music amongst music lovers in this city. The combination of these two groups makes for great experiences when it comes to playing shows around here. I always tell out of town folks that Hamilton is the place to be if you’re a musician or music lover!
JO: Sometimes though, I feel like there’s so much going on, no one’s actually watching. It’s weird like that because other times, I could feel like the progress we’ve made as a band is actually being noticed by people.
You have a real throwback 60’s sound (your Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” cover is awesome), and there’s some 90’s British pop-rock in there. Before I heard you for the first time, Jose described the band’s sound to me as “Oasis meets The Yardbirds.” What are some of your musical influences?
JO: All things Must Pass (George Harrison)… I’ve been on a Harrison trip for a while now. Trying to find his old stuff in relatively good condition is fun, and totally like finding treasure. A group from the 90’s called Kula Shaker. Part of their music is that they reference some really obscure groups through riffs or melodies, so listening to them is like a gateway into a world of almost lost groups. And The Verve… especially A Northern Soul. That album is huge for me, where Richard Ashcroft starts exploring the acoustic side of his career, and still allowed the band to have a huge psychedelic influence on the sound.
JOSE: I’m all over the map with my music, I grew up on a lot of Beatles, Zeppelin, and The Eagles. However, one group that I really look up to is Thrice. In my experience, I haven’t come across another group that has shown such growth, open-mindedness, and desire to explore music in their careers. If you want to know what I mean… just listen to all their albums in order starting with Identity Crisis all the way up to Major/Minor.
How does songwriting work within the band? Does someone come in with an idea and build from there; do you jam and see what happens?
ROB: Jo usually approaches us with a general idea; a skeleton of a song or structure… and then we’ll kind of just jam on it, play it through a few times. From there, we start to flesh it out, adding textures and solidifying the rhythm.
One of my favourite things to explore in Hamilton has been the many recording studios. You recorded your 7” at Catherine North and it was mixed over at Porcelain Records. What made those studios a good fit for your music?
JOSE: Personally I’ve always wanted to record at Catherine North as well as work with Marcone. I’ve heard a few tracks that have come out of that space and I love the way it sounds. I was even more convinced when I heard The Rest’s Seesaw album and was told that some of the record was done there.
JO: Not to mention… we got a really sweet deal.
Complimenting the 60’s vibe to your music, I associate your music with a lot of colours. At that first show at Homegrown, you had some local artists projecting lights over you. The psychedelic quality suited your music. You also recently played a show called “Professor Quigley’s Big Experiment” which incorporated colourful visuals. You’re a perfect fit for A Mid Summer’s Dream – I can already picture the dusty rainbow of colours floating around as you play. Do you think about visuals as well as the music?
JOSE: Absolutely! The lighting can be as important as the music in some cases. It helps create a complete “show” and complements the sound. It was really fun to work with the projectionists at both Homegrown and Absinthe and I really dig some of the throwback methods that are used in creating these visuals.
JO: We’ll actually be working with the projection artist from Quigly’s Big Experiment really soon, as a collaboration for a music video. He had his thing down and really understood how the rhythm can be emphasized with smooth movements.
I love everything A Mid Summer’s Dream stands for – it’s all about inclusion, creating joy, and it’s a peace festival and food drive. There is an innocent and magical quality about it. Do the festival’s values especially resonate for the band and make you want to be part of it?
JO: Well… to be clear, I had to bug the hell out of Mark [Gowland] to even listen to us before he decided to invite us onto the bill, which I’m totally grateful for because I know this is going to be the place and stage where our music needs to be heard. It’s hard in a small dark loud venue to transmit positivity… but from my experience so far, in an open air venue the people tend to just gravitate toward the positivity. I think there’s a definite quality to our music that is powerful and uplifting, and I’d like to spread some of that at a festival with people who are going to spread their own positive energy with others.
What can we expect from your performance at A Mid Summer’s Dream? Are you doing anything different for this festival?
ROB: I think we’ve all agreed to incorporate some other musicians into the performance. It’ll just kind of embrace the whole spirit of the festival by allowing other people to just come up on stage and jam with us.
You recently played the rooftop of Dr. Disc for the “Raise the Roof” concert series during July’s Art Crawl (which I was happy to co-present!). The sun was setting during your set and you sounded fantastic up there. I know you were all super stoked to play – what did it feel like up there?
JO: It felt like I was singing from a Mountain Top… it’s nice, because there’s no sound bouncing back at you… it just disappears into the open space.
JOSE: I felt on top of the world! Mark [Furukawa] is super cool for letting this kind of thing happen on his roof!
JO: World… mountain top, same thing.
What’s next for the band? Do you have plans to record a full-length album?
JO: We’ve discussed recording some more material… I think we disagree about the full length this early in our career. Right now, I’m more interested in working on new material and building a really full catalogue, but along the way putting out a few more singles would be beneficial to our experience.
Favourite place to eat in Hamilton:
ROB & JO: Ajio Sushi on King… or Hoya, whatever they want to be called
JOSE: Bastoni’s Shwarma or Wild Orchid if I’m feeling fancy
Favourite breakfast food:
JOSE: French Toast
JAMES: Eggs Benedict
If you were an alcoholic beverage, what would you be?
ROB: An Indian Pale Ale
JAMES: Hot Toddy
Your go-to karaoke song:
JO: “House of the Rising Sun”
JOSE: “Hemorrhage” by Fuel
If you could speak flawlessly with any other accent, what would it be?
Favourite concert/live performance you’ve seen:
ROB: Spiritualized, for certain
JOSE: Thrice farewell show
JAMES: Neil Young “My Boy”… definitely the best, at Massey Hall. I was sitting third row, right infront of me was Gord Downie, and just behind me was that dude from Alexisonfire. He started the show with a full acoustic band, and then went into his second set, completely electric.
What is on your playlist right now:
ROB: Spacemen 3, Flaming Lips’ new record, Can
JOSE: Oasis’ Be Here Now album and a ton of random country music
If you could detour to anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Favourite mode of transportation:
JO: The train
What’s one thing on your bucket list:
JO: To play the Gage Park bandshell in the summer!
Play a Beatles song on a rooftop.
Thank you to The Monarch Project for taking the time to chat with me! I know they will be the perfect score to A Mid Summer’s Dream. The fun starts at 2PM on Saturday – get there early!