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Monark: On The Cutting Edge Of Pop

Monark delve into the influences for the making of their second album and the business side of the industry.

10 Jul 2017 / Interview / written by Stian Maritz / Pics by Daniel Craig

Monark is a band that, in a few short years since their formation, has racked up an impressive list of achievements, not to mention that their first album “Negatives” has been on the airwaves almost permanently since it was released in 2014.

Three years later, their follow-up, self-titled album is so different in its melodic style that it’s a bold move I was keen to learn a bit more about ahead of sitting down with Eugene Coetzer (vocals), Ewald Jansen van Rensburg (guitar,synth), Deon de Klerk (bass) and Graeme Wuth (drums).

Stian Maritz: You made quite a big decision in self-titling this album, especially considering that the first was a success. What was the difference this time round?

Ewald Jansen van Rensburg: With the first album the production was dense with very metaphorical lyrical content. With this second album we’re getting more specific and saying that this is who we are without hiding behind anything.

Graham Wuth: This is also what’s happening in music at the moment. We’ve embraced the whole spectrum of what’s current in the music scene in the charts and in pop. We’ve looked not only at straight ahead mainstream pop but the full spectrum, the more cutting edge and raw stuff as well.

SM: Does that make it difficult to stand out as well?

EvR: Pop has become very accepting because of how people consume music these days. Radio stations and media aren’t prescribing it as much since we gained access to streaming culture. So a lot of different sub-genres have become much more acceptable and it’s been great exploring that.

The problem with pop is that it can become contrived pretty quickly. If you don’t guard your decisions they can become informed more by commercial reasons than anything else. For this album that was taken off the table and it opened the door for this album to become what it is.  For example, ‘Broken’ is not like anything we’ve done before and it’s not like anything else on the album. It’s there to reflect a certain side of who we are.

SM: Anything specific that you’ve heard recently that inspired you to take a different direction on this album?

Eugene Coetzer: There’s so much cool stuff out there. Kendrick Lamar was an influence because of how he says what he says. His work showed me the kind of issues that the world is ready to talk about. Aside from that The Weeknd, Chance the Rapper, Bryson Tiller as well. The way they work with beats especially was a big influence.

EvR: I listened to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in its entirety for the first time ever. I’ve listened to him a ton of times, but never from start to finish on a record like that. As a producer there’s a lot of pressure to stay current and cutting edge but for some reason I really got into it and it ended up playing a bigger role than I expected.

SM: You’ve also achieved success in a short few years with only one album under your belts. With the experience you have now, what’s the best piece of advice you’d give someone starting a band now in terms of the business side of things?

Deon de Klerk: I almost want to say that I don’t know [Laughs]. I feel like that’s a conversation we’ve been having for four years, and one that we still have all the time.

EvR: The music industry is like the stock market. There are some things you can’t predict but most of it is totally unpredictable. You could be the best broker on Wall Street and then Trump comes along and… [Laughs]. The music industry is very similar. Just in the time that we’ve been a band things have changed so radically in the way people consume music and figuring out how to monetize their art.

SM: And speaking of monetizing, how long was it before you felt you could start asking for fees for your performances?

Deon de Klerk: We decided that after about a year. We wouldn’t take a cut or a door fee after that, we had a set fee from then on. Maybe if we were younger it would be different and we’d be happy just touring the country, hitting the road hard until we couldn’t tour anymore, but now we choose much more carefully. If you choose your shows cleverly you can be just as successful in terms of payoff. It’s always hard to know what your price tag really is.

EvR: I think the whole thing starts with your product. As an artist you need to be realistic with what you have. If you want to be an esoteric blues artist for example then there’s a completely path from you than radio, and that’s not a bad thing if that’s your aim.

Follow Stian on Twitter.

Listen to “Monark” below on Deezer.