Your weekly go-to new music guide brought to you by our London music journo, Peggy as she uncovers the latest ‘bands and artists to watch’ in the post-punk, new wave, jazz and indie communities. This week she discusses Stormzy's Tesco order, fighting in a water tank and the beauty of the YAMAHA PS3 with London hailing, indie four-piece, Montrell.
Having cemented your place as key players amongst London’s teaming indie circuit, how did you come to arrive at your current line up?
Jonny: So it was myself and a cracking chap called Danny Monk who founded Montrell. He left to pursue audio engineering, but we’re still great friends. I played a show with Danny in Kings Cross at the Water Rats and met his friend Sam Delves (bass) there. Alex Moorse (drums) is a good uni friend of Sam’s, and he joined in 2018. Last year we met Michael Kurtz (guitars) at a Sofar Sounds and asked him to come on tour with us, as we needed lead guitar. He’s stayed with the band ever since… so it’s the four of us now.
What have been your ‘desert island discs' to see you safely through lockdown?
Mikey: I’ve become obsessed with Dinosaur Jr especially their album ‘Farm’ which is perfect lockdown listening in my opinion - really angsty and a bit twisted. I’ve also recently discovered Tenci’s debut album which is very understated and beautiful. And they just released the last recording John Prine made before he died called ‘I Remember Everything’ and it’s a pretty moving last word.
Can you give us a ‘through the Montrell lens' insight into the thoughts and songwriting process behind your latest single, ‘Friends’?
Jonny: It was a song I’d written whilst staying on my friend Laura’s sofa in Hackney three years ago. I was genuinely running out of friends to call for places to sleep. During lockdown, I started humming it again. Alex worked with me on the arrangement, added a lyric and emailed me over drums. Then Sam sent over a sort of dancing bass part and Mikey his warm harmonies. It was a strange yet somehow coherent jam over email.
Marking the first step towards your third EP release, when and what can we expect to hear?
Jonny: We’ve been chatting back and forth a lot about this. I had a stroke of luck in finding an old Yamaha PS3 (essentially a small child’s keyboard) from 1980s Japan, which you can hear on Friends. It has a sort of fragile moan to it underneath the acoustic guitars; I definitely want that aspect to run through the EP. We’re also edging Mikey’s voice into the music generally which is cool because he has this oaky baritone which blends well with my higher octave. I’ve been getting really excited about the arrangements Sam and Alex have been sending over, so I think it’s going to be an interesting summer record. Hoping for an August release.
Your recent video to accompany the single ‘Aqua' looks like a succinct, high budget drama (queue underwater fight scenes). What are the concepts behind the video and how did you go about the making of?
Jonny: We can really thank Boyter and Pope for the video. They really smashed that one out of the park. So after I met Will Pope (the director) at a gig, we arranged to meet in Cafe Boheme in Soho and we chose Aqua for the vid then and there - he said early on ‘we could always do it in a water tank’. The whole thing from Will was to display a kind of subconscious world where a spurned lover witnesses his wife cheating, and the dream sequences begin to cross over into reality. He also had all these ideas from 70s French New Wave films. I think what’s also present is that warm orangey grade that you get in films like American Hustle. Celina Bassili did the art design and she had done a lot with Guy Ritchie, so we were in capable hands from the start. The team was genuinely a dream to work with. It was also Mikey’s film debut, so we threw him straight in a water tank.
In the glory days of live music (may they one day return) where did you visit on your European tours last year? What were your highlights and hairy moments be it on or off stage?
Jonny: The days of wonder are still to come. The tours were simultaneously wondrous and hairy in a sort of luminous cocktail, for me. I really enjoyed drinking shandys in the back of the van with Sam and just generally getting to know the guys more. Seeing Danny’s face staring at us from the front of the van. Waiting for Mikey to get back into the back of the van after a heady night. Meeting a lotof people. Filming Alex in petrol stations and behind the wheel. One time in Hamburg we had the longest standing ovation we’ve ever received. It was really moving; I remember the audience connection was astoundingly good that night. Second tour was great too - although whilst we had about 100 people watch our first show in Nijmegen in the Netherlands we came back around to a venue in the middle of nowhere and played to an audience of 10, ha! But I think that just keeps you grounded. I sold a lot of chilli sauce on the first tour.
In spirit of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign, which seeks to demand financial support for UK music venues and festivals from the government, what was the last gig you went to? A happy occasion?
Sam: I had to check my calendar - it’s been that long - but my last gig was seeing Stormzy way back in January. Since he settled in my hometown of Kingston, I guess for the relative obscurity of a suburban postcode, Stormzy has become somewhat of a local hero. He now lives just a couple streets away from my uncle and has become a regular talking point - the most recent update being that they’ve chatted in the queue at Tesco Express. Catch me after our next gig and I’ll let you know what he likes in his meal deal. On the release of his second album, Stormzy performed a number of intimate shows in the local theatre (another important industry that’s in need of financial support right now), and thanks to my long time patronage of Banquet Records, I was among the first to hear about it. There is definitely something mesmerising about seeing an artist at the top their game and this felt like that coupled with the nostalgia of a Kingston night out; the scene for many of my own gigs. It’s just sad to think some of these venues and ones like them might not come out the other side of COVID.
How have live music venues supported your career and what can we do as punters to ensure their survival?
Jonny: A huge question. Many have helped us. Paper Dress Vintage have a really friendly team. I could focus the attention then, on one venue, for the purpose of all. The Lexington is a venue to look out for (we’re booked to headline on October 27th). Its website is currently a giant plea for donation. I would ask the gentle readers to go there and donate, and donate now. If not to meet the gigantic task of revival, then to remind the curators that hope still meanders through the streets of London. The idea of a show-less circuit is terrible to behold, no matter what profession you’re in. No one can tell you they can replace that numinous feeling of finishing work and heading to a beer stained hall, to smell a new act fall out of the rafters. The show simply must go on.
Now that pubs are officially reopened, which local boozers do you recommend for a humble pint?
Jonny: The Spurstowe Arms. LGBTQ friendly and unassuming, whilst having a great Friday night vibe.
When we’re singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’and praying for a better 2021, what do you hope to have achieved as a band by then?
Alex: I think I’d like to have released a high quality production EP. You wanna aim high but a lot of it depends on the circumstances. Just keep doing it in our own way. I think we’ve proved this year that nothing can stop us.