1883 Magazine
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Last week, 1883 headed over to Richmond to meet Monsta, where the friendly trio welcomed us into their homely studio. Having spent so many hours isolated within the studio’s doors, they began to fear that the green parrots lingering in the area were merely hallucinations. Don’t worry; we here at 1883 can confirm that they do actually exist.

Monsta producers Rufio and Rocky – also known as Pegasus – first came together through a mutual love of jazz-fusion while in Music College. Since then, they worked with a series of major artists including Labrinth and Michael Kiwanuka, who together with Rufio once played together in a jazz fusion band.

Now teaming up frontman Bryn Christopher to form Monsta, the group spare some moments in between concocting new tracks to chat about performing live, their impending single release, not to mention their frequent visits to the Thai takeaway across the road and the strange method they have for packaging prawn crackers…

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Your debut single, Holdin On, is coming out early next month. How are you guys feeling about it?

Well we wanted to put something out and it’s really nice to make it more official. We think it gives it all more impact rather than letting it sift out gradually.

How long have you guys been in the studio for now?

Probably around a year and a half now. It started with just Rocky and I, but then we were introduced… Well, I guess we found Bryn! We loosely thought we could do something with a distinctive male voice and when we started working with Bryn it really felt like he was pushing us to try new things. It’s pretty different too as we’ve just been in the studio all the time, it’s not like we’ve grown up together constantly playing in our mum’s garage or something.

Is it a refreshing change working with a vocalist?

Yeah, definitely. Rocky and I have played in bands before but this is different. There’s like a complete flip when you play live. Traditionally in band, you play live and it’s cool and then you have to make a record and invariably you want to capture the same sort of energy and it’s difficult. In the studio you don’t have hundreds of sweaty people jumping around to your music! So with Monsta, the tracks are done and they are already laced with excitement and elation.

How exactly do your live performances work?

Well we play live instruments… Yeah, we try to play pretty much everything. Rufio is like an octopus; he has secret arms come out from nowhere when we’re playing! We (Rufio and Rocky) don’t sing so we have some backing vocals recorded if it’s necessary. And, you know, there’s some swoosy sounds too!

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Your shows have been pretty successful so far though.

Yeah it’s been great. People seem intrigued by what we’re doing. Hopefully what we do will go well when we do the stadium tour! Between gigs you feel as if you have this pent up energy and releasing it is great. You forget how different it is playing live; it’s really loud! We hadn’t played together in so long and Bryn was obviously ready so we had to pull it together quickly. We were all “where are the keys? Where are the drums!”

The juxtaposition of Bryn’s booming vocals next to the big basslines and slick production works in completely fluidly. Do you make the music first and then add vocals or is it done concurrently?

Well musically we usually have some sort of idea first. Even if it’s just a synth lick or a drum thing. We’ll put something together and then play it to Bryn. We just sit and wait, as we don’t know what’s going to happen, as he’s a man of few words. Then he’ll just go up to the microphone and unleash! Though we have written songs with the piano too. We like to create an initial atmosphere and then build around that.

What about lyrically?

The initial music usually leads to the lyrics. Sometimes it can even be the sounds of the words and how it fits in with the melodies. It can sound quite natural. Sometimes the lyrics linger in your mind and when you listen back to the track it just comes out.

Your tracks are quite diverse in style but they manage to retain your identity. Will the album continue this trend or do you want to pin down more of a specific sound?

When you’re making the tracks you are so unaware of it; we’re making the tracks so we feel it’s the same! The diversity isn’t a reaction; we are just interested in so many different genres. It’s exciting because we can go off in any direction we want. We don’t feel like we are constrained to any one kind of music. You get less stressed out working this way too. You don’t have any preconceptions going into writing either, as inevitably you’d just end up writing really similar songs.

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Bryn, how do you find working with Rufio and Rocky?

It’s wicked. I have quite a powerful voice and their tracks are so heavy that it manages to balance my voice out. It’s great working with them because it feels like there is no limit to what I can do melody wise, if it’s pop or RnB or whatever. As musicians, they’re really talented so when playing live it feels like there is an orchestra on stage with me! It makes me up my game. It’s always nice to take a track to the piano and see how it works as a barebones piece too.

You’re releasing the single on your own label. Do you have any aspirations to be signed by a big label or is it even a priority at all?

We aren’t anti-label or anything but it’s important to us that we have our own creations; tha t the thing we create is what we really wanted. It’s our passion and we really want to get it out there. If someone really good comes along and wants to help us then great! You can get in the position when you’re hyped up with a track and it’s alive then the label gets involved and it can be tough. Labels can obviously help get you to great places and with distribution of course but we just want to see what happens.

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Are you thinking about the album at the moment?

We’ve always been thinking about it, we reckon it could be like eighty songs at this rate! We have so many songs in the can and your favourite is always the newest one you’ve made! We feel like we have the content but we’re still making new tracks all the time. We want to see how it develops though, we’re going to let the single come out and see how that goes.

What’s coming up for you?

We have the show at the Water Rats coming up which is going to be great. We’re also going to be playing some festivals, which is exciting. Getting the opportunity to play festivals when we are so new is great and it’s really nice to be building up momentum behind the band.

 

Holdin On is out April 9th

Words by Dean Lawson

Photography By Natalee Ranii-Dropcho


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