Interview by Gareth Ware
Making that transition from being a band member and co-songwriter to a solo artist can be a most daunting of tasks – even modern-day luminaries such as Richard Hawley can be found describing the whole experience as one fraught with difficulty and self-induced crises of confidence. Yet it’s an arena that former Lucksmiths lynchpin Mark Monnone has appeared to have entered effortlessly via his Monnone Alone moniker and attendant warm and inviting debut record ‘Together At Last’.
According to the list of previous performers this is the first time you will have performed at Indietracks. Have you been before as a spectator? On a personal level, what does it mean to you to be asked to play?
I have never been and have suffered in my silent envy every year. To be invited to play however, means my dream of making a nu-rave crossover has been temporarily shelved.
Describe the transition from co-songwriter in The Lucksmiths to being the sole songwriting force in Monnone Alone – do you think it’s changed your creative processes in any way?
No, not really. Many of the songs in my set were actually written years ago and several were looked at for the last Lucksmiths album. The transition has really been with me now accepting these songs delivered via my ghastly bark rather than Tali’s pleasant pipes. I’m pretty comfortable with how I write so haven’t made any conscious effort to ‘branch out’, but by the same token, I’m now more likely to give a different style of song a chance that would never have made it beyond the embryo stage in The Lucksmiths. The aforementioned nu-rave stuff, for instance…
How did you feel when making this record and putting it out compared to The Lucksmiths’ output – did it feel any different having an album emblazoned with your name across it, like a musical equivalent to Jack Brabham*?
I don’t know much about Jack Brabham… is he like Jack Daniels? The Monnone Alone record was never originally intended to be a full album, so wasn’t confined by the same urgency that Lucksmiths recordings always adhered to. I didn’t have a release date planned or any tours booked so it had plenty of space to sprawl out and do its own thing. In a way it was more like a cheeky excuse to spend tour downtime working with Gary Olson and other friends whose music I admire. It wasn’t until the final mixes were coming together that I actually really started to think about what it was going to be, and by that time the idea of releasing it as a Monnone Alone record had pretty much sunk in.
While it’s safe to say that most Australian guitar-based pop groups at some point get likened to The Go-Betweens, speaking personally there seems to be the odd moment that musically at least could’ve sat on Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express. Is this something you’d agree with? What would you say the main influences behind the new record?
Liberty Belle is certainly an old favorite, though it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to it. But as I say, some of the songs on the album are pretty old so I’m sure the Go-Betweens influence is somewhere in there. More obvious to me are passing references to the TVPs, The Clean, The Verlaines, The Pastels, early-Died Pretty even…
How has it been to work with the likes of Kyle Forrester (Crystal Stilts) Amy Linton (The Aislers Set), Hamish Kilgour (The Clean) and Ryan McPhun (Ruby Suns)? What do you think they’ve brought to the record?
Well, with Hamish and Ryan it was just a matter of having some old friends hanging out in Gary’s kitchen, so it seemed silly to not trick them into playing or singing something. Same as with Åke from Love is All… Just a buzz to have all these awesome people even listening to my songs, let alone playing something! With Linton and Kyle, those guys have played on my songs a lot when I’ve done shows in NY and also at the FPOP-15 party in London a couple of years ago. So I really feel comfortable playing with them. I’ve known Linton since The Lucksmiths first toured with The Aislers Set in the late-90s, so it feels really great to have finally recorded some music together. And Kyle is hilarious, just a freak, so I feel so lucky to have spent time in the studio with him. He always seems to know exactly what to play and when to play it.
What does the rest of 2013 hold for you, and what are you most looking forward to?
I’m currently on tour in Europe, so I’m having a hard time seeing beyond happy hour in Milan… But I’m hoping to play a lot more shows when I get back to Australia and keep writing new songs as well as drawing more, reading more, finding some nice new recipes, looking at a computer screen less… Actually, my label Lost And Lonesome is celebrating its 15th birthday this year so I am working on a big party in November during Melbourne Music Week that will feature stacks of great bands and art and snacks.
Of all the myriad of bands and activities over the weekend, is there anyone/thing you’re especially excited about seeing/doing?
My friend Amanda is a train buff so she’s trying to hook me up with some special train-based activities.
(*Author’s note – Jack Brabham = Australia’s first Formula 1 world champion, and the only one to have done so in a car bearing his own name)