Meet Monarch! The psychedelic four-piece from San Diego. As TGF shines the spotlight on their upcoming Euro tour, we chat to Dom (lead singer and guitarist) about the songwriting process for Monarch, their musical inspirations and the transitions between albums. The four-piece have just written their much anticipated third record and will be hitting U.K soil this August! They will be lighting up The Black Heart in Camden playing their first-ever in person Orange Jams event on Thursday 3rd of August!
Tell us, how did Monarch begin and how did you meet?
Dom: We all grew up in Encinitas , a small beach town just a little north of San Diego . Met each other through either skating together or went to the same school. After high school in 2010 we started jamming together in loose formations and I was in a band with Andrew Ware (drums) and Brenden Dellar (Sacri Monti) called COLOR . In 2012 COLOR went on hiatus then I moved up to Portland Oregon in early 2013 for a lil bit then moved back home that same year . I’d been writing songs and wanted to get a band together. At the time I was in a backing band for friend with Matt Weiss (bass) , Nate Burns (guitar) , Andrew and we eventually started jamming / writing our own stuff outside that group . At the time I was working at a cafe with friend Thomas Dibenedetto (guitar) and he wanted to come by to jam with us . That first night Thomas came by and we wrote the beginnings of our first song , just kept going on from there.
How do you work and write as a band, do you come together with structured ideas or do the songs write themselves as a result of jamming together?
Dom: Every song comes together differently but for the most part someone comes to practice with a idea (riff , beat , vocal) then we all chip in and the best ideas stick … ultimately it’s a very democratic process .We’ve been experimenting with the writing process by getting together in a stripped down form with drum machines , shitty toy keyboards and acoustics in the garage and seeing what comes out of that. Occasionally a full song will be written before everyone chimes in , more so the case recently . I write all the lyrics . Sonny (keyboards) is great with dialing in melodies , harmonies. Jamming usually happens after we finish a handful of carefully written songs and we want to lean into the improv side of our brains to keep things fresh … kinda just goes back n forth between the two approaches.
How would you describe the transition from your first record ‘Two Isles’ to the second one ‘Beyond The Blue Sky’?
Dom: From my perspective as a writer i’d say I started to come out of my shell , working towards shedding my shy cryptic metaphorical lyric style and being more straight forward about the subject matter …. Not every song on BTBS is obvious but I see it as a transition into a more direct lyrical style . From a musical standpoint “Two Isles” is a collage of all of our very different influences at the time … giving it a listen after many years it’s very eclectic but still somehow works . Nate (guitar) left after the first album and James Upton was our new guitarist. They have completely different playing styles and the songs reflect writing around a new guitar style . BTBS takes a more experimental approach , we recorded everything to tape … no computers … and brought in a few different instruments . Thomas played Rhodes and Saxophone , I started messing around with synths , James played a vibraphone. I see it as us breaking through a songwriting wall , just doing whatever we felt like … using the studio as an instrument and being loose.
I’ve heard you’re working on your third record, what can people expect from your new release?
Dom: Yes we have , our line up has changed , we are now a four piece with our friend Sonny Yates on synths and keys. He has brought a whole new side out of the band . The past year we have been recording in LA with our mate Shags Chamberlain … I don’t want to give too much away since we are still in the process of mixing . All I can say is I hope it will be done sooner than later but it will be out when we consider it perfect . We aren’t going to share anything that is less than 100% . We did debut our bar band versions of 3 newer tunes in a session with Orange Amps & Jam in the Van and will be playing a handful of new songs on our upcoming European tour.
Can you tell us a bit more about other bands and artists that have influenced you and your sound?
Dom: So many but off the top of my head I’d say for me it would be Thin Lizzy with the guitar harmony stuff, Aphrodites Childs recordings , Not so much sonically but spiritually Prince is a reminder to not compromise and be 100% yourself ….. The Ramones … They were a well oiled unstoppable machine … always looked up to how they carried themselves … the first rock n roll band I was completely obsessed with .
How’s the summer looking for Monarch?
Dom: It looks great ! In rehearsals right now for our upcoming European tour. Can’t wait to play The Black Heart in London! Very excited to be jumping on a handful of dates with our San Diego boys Earthless.
Got the dates for anyone who wants to check us out:
Monarch Euro summer tour 2023
11/8/23 – Sonic Blast – Ancora , Portugal
14/8/23 – *Wurlitzer Ballroom – Madrid , Spain
15/8/23 – *Razzmatazz – Barcelona , Spain
17/8/23 – *KIFF Aarau – Aarau , Switzerland
18/8/23 – *Backstage – München , DE
19/8/23 – Volcano Sessions – Auvergne , France
***- Opening for Earthless
What are your favourite spots / dive bars / venues in San Diego?
Dom: I gave up drinking about 5 years ago so I don’t go out to bars that often but when I’m feeling it and wanna go play pool or enjoy an N/A i’ll go to Lancers or Live Wire. Both are a 5 minute walk from my place in University Heights . Matt (Bass) works at a brewery in Vista Called Booze Bros and they throw a bunch of great shows.
Any bands that should be on our radar
Dom: The revolving door of bands Im listening to changes on the daily but I did just see Mammatus for the first time the other night and that was amazing . They are a band I’ve wanted to see for many years .. was well worth the wait! Looking at my recent Spotify listens I have Say She She ( amazing female vocal trio ) , A song by Briget called “Tenderly “ that I’ve been jamming for the past 24 hours and Patrick Cowley “Megatron Man”
Come join us at their Orange Jams Show at The Black Heart on 3rd August – GET TICKETS