Monty Cime is down for a lofty idea
I interviewed the "Southern California freak folk" artist about their new EP
Today in the Molly Zone, we have an interview with Monty Cime!
When Monty Cime reached out to me to share their upcoming EP Laurels Of The End of History, the pitch was so good that I need to share it verbatim: “It's like a 20-minute latin megamix cassette you found unlabeled in a garage sale being performed by a noise rock band…the past and present melt into one another through hazy, melancholic memories…” Such a description landed like a damn heat-seeking missile, and so I got to listen to a not-quite-mastered version of the EP, which truly is a feverish blast of ambitious, dissonant folk punk. (It’s out on August 18th!)
Monty is Honduran and her music is infused with an intense pride and care for Honduras. On her previous release, The Independence of Central America Remains an Unfinished Experiment, some of the lyrics were written from the perspective of Francisco Morazán, who was president of the Federal Republic of Central America; on “Yoro,” off Laurels, they sing, “God is Indigenous, we will be victorious / And His love for Honduras resounds / Through miracles that know no bounds.” Frankly, Monty’s perspective on history, politics, and spirituality is totally captivating, and their sprawling musical maximalism, which references everything from psychedelia to baroque pop, is too. I wanted to talk to them about what inspired Laurels, and we did, but we also talked about academia, the art of the music video, raving, and historical cycles…keep reading and our (lightly edited) freewheelin’ conversation will occur:
Thank you for joining me on this zoom. I listened to the EP, and your previous album as well…I'm excited to talk about this because I feel like there's a lot to talk about.
That's very exciting. When people say “I've seen what you've done before,” I’m like, really? And you still think of me highly? I like your shirt by the way, what is that?
Thank you. I bought it at a techno club in Berlin. I'm a big fan of the smiley face as a concept.
It's a big thing in raves. I don't really know the the association. I imagine there's something to it…
Yeah, something about “don't worry be happy.”
I've been recently going to raves. I talk about myself as a folk musician, right? And folk is such like a nondescript genre. Moreso than any other genre, unless you are someone who is just naturally in that world — if you live on the streets of Brazil, playing samba, for example — you have to approach it academically, to analyze it, and have an ethnographic approach. And so for me, I have noticed, and you’ve probably noticed as well, this interesting intersection between techno and rave cultures and hardcore punk culture.
Going to raves and seeing how late they go, I never understood the association with ecstasy, until I realized raves start at 10:00 and end at 6am! Rock and punk and hardcore shows end at that time. Like, let's go to this hardcore show and then walk down the street, doo-doo-doo, to the warehouse.
Ha! Yeah, thinking about the functionality of music and how it aligns with substances and “lifestyle” — you do a drug that makes you awake all night, of course the warehouse is open til 6 or 7 in the morning. Versus a punk show, that’s like a two-beer show.
“Two beer” as a unit of measurement, I love that.
So I want to talk to you about your EP. Before we started talking, I was creeping on your Instagram and I saw that you were playing some accordion, and managing a lot of different tracks on these songs. And so I wanted to ask, what goes into constructing your music?
I'm glad you asked. This project in particular, I would never say it's a 'correction' to the last album, because I think everything I do is everything it needs to be at the time. I would like to think of it more as a ‘recuperation.’ A lot of people didn't like how messy a lot of the instrumentation was [on the last album]. I did about 99% of it myself, so I was like, I hear that, I get where they're coming from.
Every album, I kind of go into it with a lofty idea, right? And eventually I kind of have to pare it down a little bit. And this project is shorter — a little bit under 20 minutes. So I thought, okay, it's not as long as the last one, so that means I don't have any excuses regarding composition. I'm going to go full out. The last track in particular, I had six or seven people working on it, playing different things. There's, like, 20 different instruments.
Every song is its own little sequestered story, but some themes come through by the end of it. And even though I gave it a “mixtape” approach, it’s cohesive in a way that I didn't really anticipate until it ended up, you know, out of the oven. You can pour the sugar and flour and mix the dough as well as you can, but ultimately, you have to put your trust in the process, because you never know what's going to come back.
That’s so interesting to me that there's both a lot of intention, but also an element of chaos where you don’t even know what the end result will be.
I have it in my head, but I get surprised! Like, what is this? This is what I made?
That's so sick. So from poking around the internet, I understand you have an interest in “multimedia” experiences with music — like, I know you're a writer as well as a musician, for example. So I’d love to hear your take on, besides the actual recording of music itself, what else goes into releasing your music and trying to get it to people.
When you have a grasp on any kind of artistic, creative expression, it's hard to limit yourself just to that. I think naturally, you become drawn to other ways of engaging, whether that's visual or literary or whatever. For me, the idea of presenting myself in this way is taking after my idols, I suppose. I have a book around here from one of my biggest inspirations, Guillermo Anderson, one of the most famous Honduran musicians and poets of all time. He wrote this book of poetry, and it has his illustrations in it as well.
They're all different languages, right? It’s like learning different languages: the more you're able to communicate, the more people you are able to communicate with.
That makes sense. Now I’m thinking about poetry and illustrations, music and music videos…
I just read a really good essay on music videos. I'll send it to you after. [ed. note: here it is]
Oh, amazing. I love music videos so much.
I mean, they're like a language of their own. I was reading about Lady Gaga “Bad Romance” and how specific production choices in the song are articulated through objects or set design in the video. For me, it's a matter of engagement — it shows a level of mastery in communication, not only making music, but articulating it in a way that would make an academic sweat. Like, this could be someone’s thesis!
The reason why it took me so long to even get the EP out there is I'm spending as much time composing as I am going on JSTOR to look up academic research on Afro-Peruvian music, or the rhythms in Uruguayan drumming. And as a bit of an academic, I get so caught up the theory of things, of being stuck in the endless cycle. Like with the ‘60s, we have psychedelia, all peace and love. Then it’s done. In the ‘90s we have have grunge, post-grunge, Hoobastank, we’re done, moving on.
So where do you think we are in that kind of cycle right now? And how do you think your music relates to that? That's kind of a big question, but I feel like you've maybe been thinking about it.
I think with the Internet, there’s a million things going on at once, right? For one, where something is ending or something is in the middle, another three things are beginning. It's like a hydra, you can cut one head off and three are going to sprout in its place. The conclusion I come to on this EP, especially with the name Laurels of the End of History — what are the laurels of the end of history? We can see hundreds and hundreds of years of history in an instant. While that's terrifying, I think it’s also liberating. And that means we are doomed to repeat ourselves in some ways. The EP begins with a pun in Spanish:
El espejo del Pueblo que Pierde
Refleja laureles que alumbre
La Avenida de nuestro historia
Que a todos nos espera
It means “the mirror of the community both that loses and is lost, reflects laurels that light the path of our history which awaits us all.” And on the last song, “The Lost Last Man,” there is a line:
Will your light guide our way or will we worship its refraction?
Will reflection lead to pain instead of the right direction?
Even with the album cover — there were these pulp magazines of the 1940s and 50s in the U.S, and I forget the name of the one magazine, but it had a story from this very sensationalist American huckster saying he went to “the Lost City of the Monkey God” which had a megalith, a structure like the Chichén Itzá or the Mayan Acropolis. The temple came to be a kind of cultural fixation by the Pech Indians in Honduras, and by Honduras as a whole, but it was never found. It became a lost history thing, representing a lost autonomy in the same way that people in the U.S. might look at Reconstruction after the Civil War, like the Koreans have the concept of Han, or the Japanese experienced Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not only as a physical bomb, but an emotional one. And by playing into the exotica, the album focuses on healing these cycles.
See, I knew I was going to enjoy talking with you because I feel like there's so many layers to what you do. It’s a universe in and of itself, and I think it’s so interesting.
Absolutely. If you don’t approach an album with a concept, you're not making the best use of the medium. The album cover, what you’re trying to convey in the production…for me, that is something I'm always trying to look into. Even if it's not something where I can do it perfectly — like, if I had my way, this EP would have released back in April to align with a particular anniversary, like I did with my last project. Even something as subtle as that can convey so much. One of my favorite albums is Hang by by Foxygen. They put it out on January 20th, 2017 — the day of Donald Trump's inauguration. You know, that's a purposeful thing to be done.
Recent blog posts from I Enjoy Music that you should look at
In addition to this intermittent longform interview newsletter, I have also been blogging at I Enjoy Music, which recently switched to a spiffy .net domain after Meta blocked it for daring to end with .xyz. They said it was spam! Can you even believe?
Click or tap on the photos for some recent blog posts you might enjoy:
I pondered perennial millennial aesthetics ‘through the lens’ of the “Planet of the Bass” song and the Canadian funk band My Son the Hurricane
I interviewed Heather Jones, who has a sick recording studio / biz called So Big Auditory, about their engineering / producing / mastering work
I explored some recent music marketing choices from Mitski, Madelline, and terrible pop-punkers Our Last Night