On the 30th August, Sydney based songwriter, Montaigne released her second album, Complex. Dynamic and theatrical, the album is an adventure to listen to as Montaigne guides us through her symphonic dream through the queendom of her imagination and personal trials, always returning home to the house pop. Recorded mostly in LA, the album is a collaborative effort between eight producers including Wynne Bennett (Twin Shadows), Thomas Rawle (Papa vs Pretty), Mario Spate (Tkay Maidza), Grammy Award Winning Andrew Sitek (TV On The Radio), Mauro Refosco (Atoms for Peace) with Australia’s, ARIA nominated Tony Buchen (The Preatures, Thelma Plum) taking the lead.
As a huge Montaigne fan, I tried my best to steady the starstruck stutters as I chatted with her about her new album Complex. Montaigne opened up about her pre-album burnout, referring to herself at times as a philosophical clown, emulating Bjork and playing the ‘vibe’.
What was the songwriting process for you?
I wrote most of it on the spot in the studio. I’m constantly writing so when I get into those spaces I can come up with melodies and lyrics fairly fast. Sometimes I walk in and I have one line or one idea I’ve been thinking about that I need to develop with someone else. ‘For Your Love’ came from scratch, I just had a story in my mind and really needed to talk about it.
Let’s talk about the album image, where did the idea for the queen-like ruff (in Montaigne’s word’s, the ‘neck wrap’) come from and is that symbolic?
I tried to give each song on the album a symbol, but that was supposed to represent the song ‘I Am A Clown’ and is also a double entendre in that Montaigne was also a 16th-century philosopher from the that. I do find is funny in that throughout history, both clowns and philosopher wear this uniform and how that reflects on me personally.
What did you play on the record?
I play electric guitar, but for the most part, on this album, I was a vibe player. I did a lot of handclaps and all the backing vocals, which there are a lot of.
The opening track ‘CHANGE’ is turbulently symphonic. Did you use a symphony or were these emulated synthetically?
I wish I had the budget for an orchestra. We had four players, they were wonderful, which we layered and they sounded big enough.
‘Love Might Be Found’, felt a bit different to the rest of the album. It had a heavy digital, feel. Who produced that?
There were eight different producers on this record, Wynne Bennet (Twin Shadow) from LA did that song with me. We went into that session thinking about the song ‘Enjoy’ by Bjork. So we went in there and built on that.
The film clip for ‘Ready’ did you design the choreography for the dance-based clip and are there any secret symbolic references in there?
There were bits that I improvised by I did have a choreographer, Larissa Mcgowan help on that one. I definitely wanted a progression in the use of colour to represent the emotional range of the song. In terms of symbols, just the obvious one of it being set in a school, I wanted it to be as simple as possible as opposed to complex.
The lyrics in ‘Ready’, you mention you’re ready to begin again, what do you mean by ‘again’ did something happen?
I went through a really serious burnout after my 2016 album ‘Glorious Heights’ came out. It was really important for me to learn the merit of rest and learning to say ‘no’ sometimes. It was a full bodily breakdown. I couldn’t leave my bed. I felt very lost. I’m good now, the sun came round and I feel like a better version fo myself. I’m ready to return to action, a new action.
What can we expect to on stage in terms of performing the album live for the upcoming tour?
It’s going to be myself and my band which I’ve had for the past five years and maybe we’ll add one more musician.
Make sure you catch Montaigne in Perth, Friday, November 8th at Badlands on her national Australian Tour for Complex. Tickets here.