Minneapolis electronic duo, , will celebrate the release of their new EP today. Electrocaching is one of my favorite local releases of the year.
Here are two mp3s off the EP:
The New Monarchs : “Electrocaching” (mp3)
The New Monarchs : “Tangent” (mp3)
This week I had the chance to chat with the band about the new album, the CD release gig, and my favorite topic of the month: music blogs…
Who are The New Monarchs?
Sean Hogan and Taylor Nelson.
How would you describe your sound?
Sean: We have all the components of a traditional band, drums, bass, guitar, keys – only the drums and bass are controlled by machines.
Taylor: Yeah. The bass and drums are sequenced and manipulated live on two hardware drum machines. Songs, specific tracks & effects are triggered live.
Sean: A lot of our music is comprised of aggressive drum machine parts mixed with melodic synth and guitar lines. It’s always tough to describe a “sound” without branding a label on a band – we draw influences from a lot of people. Taylor and I really solidified our friendship off of listening to Radiohead. Our personal influences would be Thom Yorke, Trent Reznor, and Jason Lytle.
You started as a more traditional rock quartet but are now more of an electronic duo. What are the pros/cons of the new arrangement?
Sean: More interesting and diverse equipment. Getting to work with synthesizers, drum machines, vocal processors, etc. makes the writing process very entertaining. It’s not to say a lot can’t be done with traditional instrumentation, but when you’re stuck in a four-piece and everyone has their one instrument to play, it can get a bit boring.
Taylor: Also, there is a vast amount of sound manipulation you can do electronically. Whether it be changing the timbre of a sample mid-song, or changing the pitch of a drum sample at will. You know, things you can’t do to an acoustic drum set while there is a person sitting there playing. Sure, a drum machine will never match the real thing. But at the same time, the real thing can never match a drum machine.
Sean: Also, with only two people on stage most of the music is coming from electronic devices, and it can be difficult at times to really get an audience into a show. When there’s a big crowd, there’s never an issue. It’s those Thursday night shows when you’re on tour in the Midwest and only three or 5 people show up where it can be an issue.
How do you guys fit into the MSP music scene? What’s your differentiator?
Sean: Minneapolis really has a booming electronic music scene. I think our sound is unique compared to other MSP electronic acts in that we aren’t a super dancy electronic group, or even a revamped 80’s electro act. But in turn, we aren’t so experimental with the electronic gear and songwriting that it goes over your head.
Taylor: I’d say we are more of a “right down the line” kind of act. Rock meets electronic. We’ve never been fans of trying to fit into a niche, or trying to find some sort of shtick. If we like what we are writing at the time, chances are it will be put on an album or performed live. Our differentiator is that we don’t use laptop computers to create the sounds you hear. The hardware we use creates a certain limitation. And in that limitation, we’ve found our own style and sound.
What was the recording process like for your new EP?
Sean: Recording for Electrocaching was a great experience. We had the pleasure of working with Jeff Marcovis at The Sound Gallery in Minneapolis. Jeff is from a different part of the MSP music scene, so it was really exciting to get his take on our sound and hear what he had to bring to the table.
Taylor: Our last album (Blueprints) was recorded in the theater department of our hometown high school over a two-month period. We recorded the in just under a week’s time. With Blueprints, we were still figuring out who we were as a band. Jeff’s sense of organic recording techniques brought a new atmosphere to the songs on this album. To me, Electrocaching sounds like a direct feed from our gear. Not a lot of bells and whistles were added to these tracks. And the end result is a very raw and true display of what we really sound like.
What does Electrocaching mean?
Sean: Electrocaching was an idea I came up with after learning about geocaching. Geocaching is a hobby where people use GPS devices to find treasure in hidden places. The idea behind Electrocaching is that you can use music (in our case electronic music/sounds) to guide you places, to take you to what’s important. A lot of the lyrics reflect experiences I had in college, where I was unsure of where I was, where I should be going, and where I wanted to be.
I was on a SXSW panel about music blogs last week. How do you think music blogs have changed your music consumption and marketing approach?
Sean: I’m a big fan of music blogs because it exposes me to so many artists that I would have never had exposure to. Not only that, but it’s always a great resource for upcoming shows or events that feature the bands you love. As far as music blogs and The New Monarchs go, we definitely would not have had the exposure we have now if it weren’t for the blogs eager to write about emerging artists like us.
Taylor: Radio has failed everyone. Mainstream radio stations are stale and treat the listener as a pair of ears that will listen to whatever vapid drivel they think is relevant. And sadly, nothing they play is relevant to independent music coming to the forfront in the music industry. The same corporate suits that created Justin Bieber’s new album are creating playlists for stations like KDWB and JACK. It’s as if these companies have confiscated teenagers’ iPods, put it on shuffle mode, and plugged it into a transmitter.
This is why music blogs and the internet are so important. People can’t rely on the radio anymore for the discovery of fresh new music. Yes, independent stations like The Current are making great strides to save radio, but some cities don’t have the luxury of having a station like that. So when people crave new music, they end up having to go find it themselves. I think music blogs have done a great job in meeting people halfway, and supplying them with quality independent music. Smaller bands typically don’t have the budget to support extensive/elaborate advertising campaigns, so the free publicity and support from blogs really helps spread the word on young local acts. Just like the internet changed the way independent acts distribute their music, blogs have changed the way independent acts market/advertise themselves.
You guys have embraced technology in your music. What new technologies do you think will impact your songwriting in the next 5-10 years?
Sean: I have a feeling that as we move into the future we’ll be able to have less equipment on stage. And that equipment will do more. Right now we’re not using laptops or computers on stage, but I’m sure eventually all of the devices we do use will all be obsolete and easier accessed by a click of a mouse. In that instance it will probably be easier to flush out ideas anywhere a laptop can go, giving song writing no bounds.
Taylor: I think we’ve already seen the changes technology has made on how we create/produce music. Look at an album like Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails. Most of that album was recorded on a laptop in a hotel room or on a tour bus. The need for a full fledge studio is almost obsolete now. I think that future technologies will only further shift the power and control towards home recording.
Where can people get the new EP?
Sean: The EP is already available on iTunes, Lala, and all the major music download sites. The physical album came out on March 23 and will be available locally at Cheapo and Electric Fetus. It can also be found at any of our shows and on the Soup Bowl Records website.
Any upcoming gigs?
Sean: Our CD release show is March 26, at The 501 Club in Minneapolis. It’s a free show with and .
Taylor: We’re going to be adding some visual concepts to our set and will have some pretty cool contests tied in with the celebration. We also have a gig at the Nomad World Pub on April 8, as a part of the .