The New Monarchs' new electro-indie album "will knock the wind out of you"

Electronic duo the New Monarchs have carefully crafted a collection of songs that suggest renewal of a genre that is often cannibalistic in its music. On the new album, Stay Awake, Sean Hogan and Taylor Nelson do not bother with little else than creating a flood of gentle, nimble sounds that are sparse and full all at once.

Ahead of Saturday's release show for the album, Gimme Noise caught up with the to talk AP History, and capturing the energy of someone motorcycling and lifting weights at the same time. Intense stuff! 

Gimme Noise:Does the name the New Monarchs have anything to do with maturation in life -- as in a monarch butterfly?

Sean: The name came from a chapter heading in an AP European History class I took in high school. At the time, I thought it sounded cool, but never gave much thought to what it would/could actually stand for. Taylor and I started writing together not too long after that, but it wasn't until a few years later when I had brought up using the New Monarchs as the name for our group. I recall trying to justify the name by saying that the kings and queens that were considered "New Monarchs" unified and made prosperous their respective nations and that we in turn would do that in our music genre. Looking back on it now, I might have been full of shit and really just liked how it sounded, but that was almost ten years ago and everyone would agree that the 18-year-old version of themselves was probably pretty stupid. Though the name may not reflect it, Taylor and I really have matured into the sound that we were so set out to create back when we started with the release of Stay Awake.

What's the story behind the name Stay Awake? Did a lot of caffeine go into the making of the album?

Sean: Stay Awake was taken from lyrics of the song "A Room In a House," on the album. This particular track encapsulated what I was going through at the time that Taylor and I started focusing on content for the album. The song, and the album, deals with trying to move on from things that happened in the past, being haunted by the memories, and feeling incapable of letting go. Stay Awake, to me, isn't so much caffeine fueled as it is thought fueled. Those times when you cannot sleep because your brain is over thinking every little detail about a particular situation. It's something that happens to everyone, some people handle it well, others not so much, but relatable either way.

The New Monarchs started off as a four-piece and pared down to a two-piece band. How did the sound change in the process? Is it easier to communicate with less people, or more difficult having to wear more hats?

Sean: The communication piece of it never really changed from a four piece to a two piece. Taylor and I were always the main songwriters, which may have been why we eventually scaled it down. At the time, which was around 2005-2006, we had gone through a handful of lineup changes. When it got to the point where our drummer decided to pursue other opportunities, Taylor and I knew it was time for a change. We had already been writing electronic-based songs, so it was a natural progression to continue down that path and scale down to a two duo. In retrospect, this was huge because it set the path for where we are now. Who knows what things would be like if we had stayed a traditional four piece band?

You both are very active in the local music scene. How has that contributed to The New Monarchs' sound?

Sean: We definitely have a lot going on now. Taylor is also in the group Wiping out Thousands, which has been a huge success for him and Alaine Dickman. I've been working on a collaborative project called Hey There Handsome that Adam Tucker will be producing as well as a new group with Logan Baker (formerly of Satellite Voices).

As far as how the scene contributes to our music, getting out and seeing local acts gives me the exposure to styles and sounds that I may not have heard if I had just stayed at home. For me, this really gets the creative juices flowing. Seeing a live show always flips a switch in me, where I just want to play guitar for hours the next day. I know for Taylor and I it's been a great way for us, not just to hear new music, but to meet the musicians as well.

Taylor: I respect what other acts are doing around town, but I've never really found influence from others in the local music scene. It's too diverse. There's so much going on that you can lose focus and create something a little too dynamic. I'd rather sit in a room with electronics in front of me and create what I'm feeling rather than try to recreate something I heard elsewhere.

The New Monarchs' new electro-indie album "will knock the wind out of you"
Bryan Ische

 How did you meet Adam Tucker, and how did you come to choosing him on producing this album?

Sean: We met Adam Tucker in 2008 at a show we played with his band Nobot.

I tell this story to Adam a lot, but I remember him coming up to me and being overly excited to be playing with us. Taylor and I had just released our first record, so I was surprised that someone could be that "into us," already. After our set, he came back to talk to us, and again was really excited saying things like, "You guys are awesome, we have got to work together on something, etc."

This conversation continued for years. Any time we would play with any of his bands or see him out at a show, he always want to talk about how much he dug our sound and how he had to work with us. After we had finished up our EP Electrocaching and were ready to start writing again, Taylor and I decided to meet with Adam and record a song. In my mind, this was a test run to see what it was like to work with him and to see what he could do. The song is on the new album and is called "Converter." After working with him on that song and hearing what he could do, we both knew right away that we would be working with him on the entire album. He did an amazing job at understanding what we were going for sonically and was able to bring out the sound we had always wanted. Adam has always been a huge proponent to our live show and was really honing in on getting our records to have the same power as our live sets.

Why do you describe Stay Awake as more glossier than previous releases?

Sean: I'd say its gloss is in the details. The three of us spent most of our time fine tuning parts, mixing, and layering these songs so the end result was a sound that would knock the wind out of you. It's a very solid sound. In the past our records were very much: here is the drum part, here is the synth part, here is the guitar part and now they are all playing at once. In my opinion, the sound on the record combines all the parts into one hard hitting force.

Taylor: It comes down to working with Adam Tucker. Recording with him for this record was a different process for us. Instead of just hiring someone to hit record, we were able to work with someone who had considerable creative and production-related input. We were able to build substantial rapport with Adam, and that made this project very comfortable.

Was this the sound you were going for, and what were you able to say on this album that was not communicated before?

Sean: Definitely. The sound conveyed on this album is what Taylor and I have been working towards since we started writing. It's interesting, I had said off hand to Taylor that we sound more like we did when we started back as a four-piece (but with just the two of us). It's interesting, we started with an idea, and as time has gone by we have explored different sounds/instrumentation/etc. but at the end of the day we ended up growing into a pure form of the original idea.

As far as the message, this is a very personal record for me lyrically. I wanted to make sure, if anything, that I was saying what I felt: that I was conveying something that listeners could relate to/have an emotional response to. When writing the songs I seldom went back to edit things, because I wanted it to have that "in the moment" kind of message.

Taylor: At the end of the day, we are an electronic rock group. We've tried all sorts of styles on previous records, but the routes we've explored have led us to this particular sound. Stay Awake portrays that design on a holistic level.

Favorite track off the new album?

Sean: The last track, "Not Today." Lyrically, a really good look into over reflective/over questioning inner-monologue that quickly turns into very clear exclamation that thoughts like that shouldn't dictate a person's actions. Musically, a great interpretation of music matching the lyrics. It builds the entire time and ends up in your face, which was a great way to end the album.

Taylor: "Endless" elicits the biggest emotional response from me. Especially the live incarnation of it.

What can we expect at the CD release show?

Sean: I can't tell you how excited we are to be playing with Fire in the Northern Firs, BNLX, and have Sex Burger DJing between sets. We feel very privileged to be playing with such amazing local talent. The show is going to be loud and wild. The perfect blend of rock and dance. I have a great memory of seeing Passion Pit at The Triple Rock years ago. The place was packed and the music was cranked. People were jumping and dancing and everyone was sweaty. I can only hope it ends up like that.

Taylor: I showed Sean a .gif of some dude riding a motorcycle on one wheel while doing a bench-press. If the live performance sounds anything like that .gif made me feel, I'd consider the show a success.

The New Monarchs will release Stay Awake with Fire in the Northern Firs, BNLX, and Sex Burger at the Triple Rock Social Club on Saturday, June 16, 2012.
18+, $6, 8 pm

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