INTERVIEW: Montaigne

Montaigne is an artist who has always had a strong creative vision. Through the release of each album they’ve immersed themselves in the heart of it and brought listeners into a soundscape that felt very genuine and theatrical leaning. But for their third studio album ‘making it!’, they’ve steered in a direction that is increasingly more honest. This record feels like a re-birth if you wish. It’s a reintroduction to who Montaigne is, and almost acts as a second debut album. Sonically it embraces their hyper-pop and electronic influences, while harbouring this ultra theatrical approach. 

From the glitchy opening of ‘in the green room’, they immediately bring you into this heightened world of emotions and electronic soundscapes. The ten track record steers through dark themes contrasted by humour, and intimate elements that are then complimented by over-the-top  theatrical ones.

I chatted with Montaigne about how their newfound love for Aldous Harding helped them introduce a new style of theatricality in their own artistry, and we explored the creative processes behind songs like ‘sickcrydie’, ‘in the green room’, ‘jc ultra’, and ‘embodi3d’. Check out the full chat BELOW;

THOMAS BLEACH: Your third studio album ‘Making It’ is a love record and it’s sonically placed in this glitchy and science fiction world where it allows you to go even more dramatic in your lyrical exploration. From releasing and touring ‘Complex’, was there a specific moment that ignited your creative direction for this record?

MONTAIGNE: I think it was a series of moments. I feel like after I made ‘Complex’ I got really into Aldous Harding, who is this folk singer that has a wonderful theatricality, and is really good at changing her voice to suit whatever she’s trying to achieve. She also has this incredible physicality with characters too, and knows how to fully inhabit a character. I thought that was incredible, and it was something I’ve wanted and tried to do in the past but couldn’t completely grok. When I saw her doing it, I started copying that in my own house. I think that was one of the key moments where I started to explore my voice more. 

In the past, in my mind theatricality was just singing really passionately and loudly, and pushing my voice to its limits. And then you listen to someone like Aldous who controls it so much, but you still get the theatricality and power, so I realised I needed to do that more. So that was part of it, and another part of it was really getting into electronic music. I remember listening to 100 Gecs for the first time and thinking “what the fuck is this”. And then a year later I remember putting my washing out and a 100 Gecs song playing and thinking “omg this is great”. Something just clicked. This was during the pandemic, so maybe that kind of music really represents some sort of mania or intense feeling which is what we were all feeling during that time. 

TB: I remember at the start of this album cycle before ‘now (in space)’ came out, you tweeted that this album was purely for you, and made up of music you wanted to listen to instead of streaming. I feel like listening to this album in its entirety, it feels like we have arrived in the Montaigne world. Do you feel that? 

M: I do. I feel that too. I feel really proud of it for that reason. I do feel like it’s the most cohesive record I’ve made so far. All of the songs sound like they belong to each other, but they also all do sound really different to each other, which I do think is really hard to do. It does feel very authentic to who I am. 

TB: I was in RockingHorse Records before this chat and I picked up your vinyl and I was reading the thank you’s on the back. And I loved that you talked about how you always thought you had to do this by yourself, but by making this record you realised the power of  collaboration, and you collaborated with a lot of producers etc that aligned with where you wanna be. So do you kinda feel like this is a new debut album?

M: It almost is. It’s definitely presenting a new me. The music is very different to previous records and cuts. But at the same time the person who has been at the core of those records is me, so it is just evidence that people transform and change over time, and that’s normal. 

TB: Album opener ‘in the green room’ immediately transports the listener into this science-fiction and video game world. Where in the writing process did this track slot in as the album opener. Did you write it intentionally for that?

M: I think once the production was finished I definitely knew it was the opening track. There is actually another song that I really wanted on the record, but it was another opening song, and it couldn’t be put anywhere else on the record. But ‘in the green room’ had to win this time around as I think it just makes sense for the whole album. It just sounds like an opening song to me, and it really couldn’t be put anywhere else. 

TB: ‘sickcrydie’ to me is THE song on the record. Not only is it an infectiously catchy synth hyperpop banger, but it also perfectly expresses the accurate feelings behind anxiety. Can you explain the creative process behind this song? 

M: I tweeted about wanting to make a song called “sick cry die” about feeling sick when you’re super anxious, and then crying a lot, and then feeling this morbid dread. I started making something on Ableton, and I posted a little bit of it on Twitter to show the early beginnings, and it was going to be this full-on dance-house track. That’s how I was initially imagining it, and then a few months later when I was working with Dave Hammer a lot I showed him what I had. I told him I didn’t really know how it should sound yet, but I knew it needed to be manic. All I had lyrically was “first I’m feeling sick. Then I wanna cry. Then I get the strongest feeling that I wanna die”. And then I said I wanted it to feel weird, like you were tripping out, but also a little bit sarcastic too as you wanna balance it out. 

He started with the intro, and from there it came really quickly. I was playing with that weird effective voice that comes through my nose, and it all just came together. Dave also said he thought we should add a whistle and I was totally on board and we did that. And it was pretty much all together within a day. 

TB: That bridge melody will forever live rent free in my brain – and is one I can’t wait to hear live. I felt like the perfect contrast of lets get playful with this while shadowing the heaviness of the song still.

M: That song just wouldn’t be that song if it wasn’t funny. It would just be dark. I don’t think that lyrical content works if you don’t make the sound light and funny because it would just be too confronting. It also just wouldn’t be me as that’s not how I approach dark things.  

TB: ‘Embodi3d’ is one of the big hyper-pop influenced moments on the record. What were some of your references for this song?

M: That one started with the concept. Dave began with the beat and I was like “this is what I want to write about”. I remember the part where I harmonised “I wanna ride”, I was like that is my Amy Shark moment. I channelled her tone of voice or something for those bits specifically. But the whole thing was meant to be this alluring and chill song that you can sway to. That one also had a big voice change as it’s quite grounded. 

Caroline Polachek was a big influence on this song, and was a big influence on a lot of songs that didn’t actually make the record too. 

TB: ‘Jc ultra’ is a song I am obsessed with and it really is a bit chaotic, as it’s about the Mkultra brainwashing program the CIA tried to do in the 70’s or 80’s. It was originally meant to be your Eurovision song, so I wanted to know if you knew what you would’ve done for your performance with this song if you were allowed to do it?.  

M: I was going to be in a lab coat or suit with four other people, in a very stylised sci-fi way with office desks across the stage. When it goes “Computers and lamps, a turtle race”, it would’ve been shots that were cutting to a person holding/doing that literal thing. I wanted it to be a late night alien sitcom vibe. I wanted it to be over the top, but with a darkness to it too. Like with the “welcome the aliens” bit, there would’ve been flashing red lights and a slow zoom of my wide eyes saying the bit. I think it had so much potential to be extremely theatrical. 

TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about ‘making It’. Are you ready?

M: Yeah!

TB: The emoji that best describes my new album ‘Making It’ is…

M: Probably just the alien. 

TB: The song I’m most looking forward to performing live would be…

M: ‘jc ultra’, or’ sickcrydie’.

TB: The song that went through the most versions to get it to where it is now on the record was…

M: ‘come death’ went through the most vocal takes.

TB: The lyric that makes me smile every time I hear it is…

M: There are quite a few but the one I was thinking about today was  “You’re going to be amazing, cool Jess” *laughs*. I just think it’s quite stupid *laughs*. 

TB: If you were introducing my music to your friends, the song I’d want you to play first from the album would be…

M: ‘sickcrydie’, as I’m getting such good feedback from people on it. 

‘making it!’ is out now!

Montaigne Australian Tour

Friday 30 September – Lion Arts Factory, Adelaide

Saturday 1 October – Rosemount, Perth

Thursday 6 October – The Northern, Byron Bay

Friday 7 October – Solbar, Maroochydore

Saturday 8 October – The Zoo, Brisbane

Friday 14 October – Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney

Saturday 15 October – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle

Thursday 20 October – Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Friday 21 October – Barwon, Geelong

Saturday 22 October – Volta, Ballarat

Friday 28 October – La La La’s, Wollongong