We Are Monroe Interview – Osheaga 2019

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Montreal Rocks:  That was a great show!

(The band proceeded to try to guess the logo on my hat. Turbo Haus is the one I get the most, but it’s actually a brand out of L.A. called Undefeated.). I hope I have attributed the right words to the right person.  When in doubt or when multiple people spoke….I just put WAM.  

We Are Monroe – Osheaga 2019

Jason:  It’s a cool hat.

MR:  Yeah. I feel empowered when I wear it. Kind of like you guys on stage.  

WAM:  Oh, we are defeated!  We had a couple of rough nights.

MR:  You’ve been around for 7 years.  So how cool was that?  This is your hometown and you are performing at Osheaga!  

WAM:  I think the only thing bigger than this, in the city, is when you play the July 1stconcert at the Montreal Jazz Fest.  

MR:  100,000 or so…but here, people have to pay to come see you!  It’s better.

WAM:  Good point. They choose to come see us.  You are a money guy, right?  (laughs)

MR:  You guys were in New York recently with Gus Van Go.  Are we expecting something new coming out?

Jason:  Tonight marks the end of the album cycle for us.  It’s crazy for us to say that, we are ending our album cycle here at Osheaga and the after party.  We started working with Gus in November.  We’ve been back and forth with new ideas and we are going to make a record with him. It’s going to be the next chapter for us.  

Dave and Bryan are coming into the mix, so the writing is changing and evolving and so is new instrumentation, the synth and different effects.  To work with this brilliant duo of Gus and Werner, his partner…

MR:  They are legendary.

Jason:  It’s epic.        

Pat:  They make the whole thing easier.  

Jason:  They are so funny and down to earth and make it really easy for you.  Their whole aesthetic is about taking the whole idea, breaking it down to its core and making each thing count, then making it sound great. 

MR:  Like bottling that energy you have on stage.  You are known for a very strong stage presence.  Any techniques you use to bottle that into a live recording?

Jason:  The funny thing is, making white lights had a lot of live stuff off the floor.  But working in their (Gus/Werner) New York studio, they are very into the idea that it’s going to be a track by track session. But as Pat said, they are really good at making you feel comfortable, right off the bat.  

They also believe in first takes, which usually has that raw energy.  

Just some of the drum tracks we were recording last November, had something in the first takes that the 2ndand 3rddidn’t have.  

WAM:  They try to catch the sound and moment at the same time.  A lot of times, in studio, they try to catch the sound, but not the moment.  They are looking for that moment…the energy.  

Pat:  The energy is probably the hardest thing to capture when you are recording.  When you are watching a show, you are seeing the band and the energy they are projecting.  It’s about being comfortable and there are advantages of being in the studio.  There aren’t a hundred or a couple thousand people staring at you while you are doing something.  

MR:  You can take chances.

Pat:  Yes, you can take chances.  You can lose yourself in the moment and submerse yourself in what you are listening to. 

When you are doing a show, you are focusing on the crowd.  You want to interact with them.  I think the trick is to really zone out, feel the moment and lose yourself in whatever you are doing in the studio.

MR:  I spotted a child on the side stage.  Was that one of your children?  

WAM:  It’s my daughter.  (I prefer to keep this anonymous.)

MR:  So, you have young fans…(laughs)…and you have very old fans.  You have a 91-year-old fan.  What’s the story there?

Jason:  We got booked to play the Tulip Festival in Ottawa.  When we were approached, we were set to play on one of the outdoor stages. When we showed up, they had made some reconfigurations.  They put us in this little hall.  A lot of the attendees were going to be the organizers, corporate folks and some fans. 

We got started and many where sitting down, bobbing their heads and that kind of stuff.  Mid way through our set, we just decided to jam and have fun.  There was zero pressure.  

Out of nowhere, this frail old woman gets out of her wheelchair and comes out to the dancefloor.  She was the catalyst to getting people in front of us and it turned into the biggest party it could have turned into.  

MR:  People lost their teeth?

Jason:  I don’t know…maybe!  

MR:  It was like a mush pit!  (I apologize for the puns…couldn’t resist!)

Jason:  We consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to have people listen to us.  We don’t think about demographics or any of that stuff.  We just want people to have fun.  If you are 18, 28, 38 or 48…it doesn’t matter.  That’s the cool thing about music…it transcends all of these factors like race or age.MR:  That brings us to your video D.M. Me.  It’s about these crazy seniors that go on a rampage.   

Jason:  We got our first start in acting!  (laughs).

Pat:  I think that is what we aspire to be later on, right?  Old people that still have a good time.  That 91-year old woman in a wheelchair is a perfect example.  She was the one who got up and created the mood, getting people moving.  There were young people there, but she was the one.  You are never too old to have a good time.  

MR:  You were inspired to name the band from a Monroe painting by Warhol.  That is an iconic painting.  What band, right now, do you think is iconic?  The Marilyn Monroe of bands…

Jason:  There are a lot of band where their legends proceeds them already.  Let’s take Montreal, for example.  Bands like Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire.  A lot of people know the name without necessarily knowing all the music that they have put out.  It’s cool to be from a town where that is true.  

Pat:  I think it’s harder than ever to be that iconic.  

Jason:  I think Interpol today is a band that has that mystique.  There are so many other bands, it’s crazy.  That’s a whole other conversation.  

MR:  Let’s go to the past.  Was there a time, for any of you, where music went from something you heard, to something you felt?

Pat:  Definitely. I think that is why we are all on this journey together.  For me, it came later in life in my late teens, early twenties.  I did have that moment where music transcended to being something more meaningful and deep.  I got something more out of it than just listening.  

MR:  Was it a song or a genre?

Pat:  I think it was more the discovery.  I wasn’t really a big music person.  I always listened to random radio.  I was brought up in a very conservative and traditional Portuguese home, so a lot of Portuguese music.  

When I discovered punk rock music, through my friends, it was just something completely different from anything I had heard in my life.  Definitely had an influence.  

MR:  During your set, I had fans right next to me, dancing around.  Your energy is great on stage.  CHOM loves you.  I see big things still ahead of you.  I look forward to seeing how you grow on this journey.  

Jason:  We hope it keeps growing.

MR:  One thing about Osheaga is the way they pick bands.  They curate who they think have potential, so just being chosen is quite an honor.

Pat:  They are doing what more festivals should do.  Just like CHOM, they look for local talent and when they find something they believe in, they will push it.  We’ve had the chance to have both Evenko and CHOM in our corner and they have done an amazing job helping us get to the next level.  

MR:  Your gigs are packed, often sold out.  You are gaining momentum.  What’s the secret sauce?    

Jason:  To be honest, we don’t focus on that so much.  We are very insular, in the sense that we want to get ready for these things.  If we book a show, we hope it does well. The only thing that is in our control is getting ready for it.  

As Pat said, having CHOM, Evenko and others helping promote us is almost outside of what we do.  Our whole internal vibe is delivering, once we show up.  That’s all we can do, really.  Write songs that we are passionate about that we can get behind. 

Just coming up to this day, we came back from Europe right into rehearsals.  There was no break.  We wanted to get ready to do the best that we could.  That’s the reputation that we have built.  You show up, and people can talk about it because we delivered.    

Interview: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube. His new Podcast RockStar Today helps musicians quit their days jobs is coming soon.

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