Artist Interview: Monroe Strongback
Tell us about yourself and your music
Monroe Strongback is my post-cinematic math/post rock solo project that’s been around since 2014. So far Monroe has released 2 albums (The Secret Squadron, Stranger Returns), an EP (We Are Creature), and various singles. In a previous incarnation, I was a Hollywood writer so Monroe Strongback’s music feels like a soundtrack to a movie inside your head. I look at music as a vast playground to run around in and Monroe isn’t afraid to explore genres and bend a few at the same time. I’ve managed to take the basic post-rock thing and add rap, world music, jazz, found voices, orchestrations, ambient sounds, electronica, EDM, even the blues… and somehow keep all this identifiable as Monroe Strongback.
Talk to us more about your latest release
“There Was Happiness, There Was Love” is the upcoming album for 2017. It’s a post-apocalyptic journey in 10 songs. They’re all instrumentals with a much more stripped down guitar-drum approach than the previous album (Stranger Returns) except for a long Zeppelin-ish piece called “Your Connection With The Server” that features the incredible rap artist, “Captain” Morgan Halperin. It’s being mastered in Sweden by Jonas of Distonarts and we’ve been sharing a few of the tunes with the fans on Jango Radio.
What inspired you to write this release?
My latest release is a single called “What Part of Sublime Don’t You Understand?” I recorded it after completing “There Was Happiness, There Was Love” and I was looking to do something with some crunch to it. The song was inspired by a straight-up rock riff (at about 1:54) which I thought would be the skeleton for some growling guitars… but then this whole other section emerged to the song (at 3:10 or so) that gave it a whole different tone. The challenge was to unify the parts and come full circle. It was a bear but I think it came off well. I sent it to Jonas to master and we’ve been playing it on Jango.
Any plans to release a video?
Monroe Strongback has released a few videos and, as a matter of fact, I just put a new one out based on the first half of a song I’m working on called “191 Million Miles And No End In Sight.” The song feels like it belongs with “What Part of Sublime Don’t You Understand?” so I may be on to a new album. I make all the videos myself so they have a home-made quality to them, for sure, but, on the other hand, I do have this Hollywood background, so I get to work out all my creative muscles.
Any plans to hit the road?
Not right now. I’m having too much recording!
As an indie artist, how do you brand yourself and your music to stand out from the rest of the artists out there?
I like to call my music post-cinematic but it plays with a lot of genres which I think keeps the music creative and fresh — if a little hard to peg down. Maybe it’s my Hollywood background but I think cinematically and I believe that comes across best in Monroe’s music. A lot of the pieces are instrumental stories for your head. “We Are Creature” featured 3 really long tracks themed around the American heartland and religious zeal. These are pretty complex, challenging pieces but really define the limits of the post-cinematic genre.
Who have you been listening to lately?
I’ve been listening to a lot of unknown but incredible math rock artists on a closed math rock Facebook group. I listen to Signal Hill, early Explosions in the Sky and early GSYBE. Just recently I went down the psychedelic rabbit hole with the pre-Deadhead Dead. Amazing stuff in the late 60’s, early 70’s.
Tell us about your passions
I’ve spent most of the last year teaching mindfulness meditation at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre in Antigua in the Caribbean. That has been a passion, especially helping people to make profound changes in their lives through recovery. I live on a lake when I am not on Antigua, so getting out on the water, or even just taking the time to sit by it and breathe is a reason to get up and be grateful. Doesn’t get much better than that.
What else is happening next in your world?
It’s snowing outside my window right now. Maybe I’ll go for a sleigh-ride.
Thanks for an awesome interview, Bruce!