The Mono LPs have announced their new album and deal with Fretsore Records, we quizzed them about life and the future of the arts. They didn’t hold back.
We weren’t quite expecting this one. It started off as usual with a typically British style, cup of tea and biscuits type chat. But then it got fiery.
The Mono LPs have been around for a while. Their trademark slogan is “Rock and Roll with a cello“, but that doesn’t really do the band justice.
Their first album, States of Decay is a proper piece of classy rock. Best consumed in a basement underneath a scruffy bar with a pint of something a bit cloudy.
Their big news is a second album – Shuffle / Play set for a release sometime in 2021 and a single teaser, Hell, Save My Soul, for a Halloween present, to be released on 30 October.
Oh, and a new label deal with Fretsore Records. There’s a lot going on the land of The Mono LPs. Let’s find out a bit more. We spoke to Ste and Vicky.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Ste: I’m in Aintree School of Music at the minute and Vicky’s at home.
P3dro: What do you teach?
Ste: Music. Guitar, piano, a bit of drums. I’m not a very good drummer, but I can teach a bit. And Vicky’s also a teacher.
P3dro: So, the big news in the Mono LPs’ world is the band has signed to Fretsore Records for the second album, coming out next year. How did that come about? What was the attraction of that label?
Ste: Well, we’ve had the album recorded for over a year and we didn’t know quite what to do. We self-released our first album and that came with its own bonuses and challenges. As we decided to just go for it and release [the second album] ourselves, then lockdown happened. Vicky and I started to do online gigs, as a lot of musicians were forced to do.
Through that we made a video with Elvis Costello – he recorded an online thing for Artists4NHS. He was self-isolating at the time, but we made the backing track for him. As it happened, Artists4NHS was run by his brother, Ronan McManus, who is also signed to the label. That’s how the opportunity opened up.
Knowing the people at the label, we felt we could trust them. The music industry is full of vipers, but with Ronan being involved, we had a good feeling about it. We sent the album off to them for a listen. Within weeks they were all excited about it. So, that’s how it came about.
P3dro: Fretsore are based in London, but you’re a band based in Liverpool. How does that feel, going with a London label?
Ste: Well, it’s a difficult question. We did send the album to [name], but I don’t know if the lockdown put a few things in perspective, plus, this new album is a quite “concepty” album. I don’t know whether it fits every label. But the main guy [at Fretsore], Ian Sephton, is a scouser, so there is that link as well. There’s a scouse lineage.
P3dro: We were going to ask you what the album sounds like. You’ve already described it as a “concept” album. We would say your first album is no nonsense rock and roll, with added cello, of course. How do you describe [the new] album? Is the sound different?
Ste: Yeah. It’s such a kind of cliché to say “it’s eclectic” – it’s like a get out word, isn’t it? What does that mean? But, saying that, the idea came about from me making a playlist on Spotify and I just thought about the industry suffering because [people don’t listen to albums]. I had Royal Blood next to Sam Cooke, The Mamas and Papas, next to Zero 7. It was all random. Just music I liked.
When you craft an album you put the songs in an order, you make it so that it flows. But now, the younger generation is just smashing songs left, right and centre. So, imagine if the band were the playlist – the 10 different bands on the playlist. So, to try and make it flow as one album, but also with a random set of songs. That was the concept. So, it’s random, but hopefully kind of connected, with the cello, my voice and the writing style. It’s my version of an Ibiza track, my version of a country track, my version of whatever. That’s imprinted on the whole album.
P3dro: That kind of pre-empts the next question we were about to ask. The album is called Shuffle / Play. Is this a comment on the Spotify generation?
Ste: Yeah. It kind of pokes fun at the whole thing. The title is a non-descript name, it’s a nod to the fact that people just shuffle and play songs. But great albums have cool, iconic names, like, say Sargeant Peppers. I thought, calling this one Shuffle / Play is a most generic thing because it doesn’t explain. Yet, it does explain it, if you see what I mean. It doesn’t give anything away about the music.
P3dro: I think it absolutely explains what you’re on about.
Ste: I wanted to explain [the concept] without explaining the music. Some albums have names that explain their genre. I wanted to be overtly explicit as well as being non-descript, so you don’t know what you’re getting until you listen to the album.
Vicky: Hi, sorry I’m late!
P3dro: There’s a new single, Hell, Save My Soul to be released on Halloween. Is that another kind of signal you’re putting out?
Vicky: Ha! No, it was just a coincidence, I think.
Ste: The idea for that song [as a single] was that it sounds most like our old stuff, although with a Gospel Choir. So it’s like a bridge between the old album and the new album. We didn’t want to throw something mad or completely alien at the audience. We wanted to tease them in. Show them we still do the rock stuff, but we are going to go down a rabbit hole. When the label got hold of it, they thought it would be a good song for Halloween, but, like Vicky said, it really is a happy coincidence.
Vicky: It was a good idea, even though it wasn’t our idea. It works, I think.
P3dro: What’s your take on the current Liverpool music scene? Where do you think you fit in?
Vicky: Well, we definitely have Beatles elements, that’s for sure. But I don’t know if we have a Liverpool sound. I’m not sure I even know what that means.
Ste: We’ve been around a while. I always think of us as an elder statesman – we’ve being doing this since we were 15, so we’ve been around the block, a lot, and played all the venues. But the new surge of artists [makes] the Liverpool sound even more eclectic than it was when we first started out.
When we started it was the tail end of [bands] like The Zutons and the scouse rock type stuff. But, now there’s loads. I think synth music is becoming more popular.
I think LIPA has a lot of influence on the Liverpool scene. It’s not like the old days when you learn 4 chords on a guitar and bash it out. They get trained to do more [technical things]. So, I’ve noticed more people using things like machine pads and stuff. The sound is changing, but it’s all cyclical. There will be a punk / rock era to come back. And I hope that’s us!
Vicky: I feel like there’s quite a bit of folky stuff going on. Singer / Songwriters for whom I’ve played strings and they get guest string players in for some gigs. Maybe that’s just one part of it. Maybe that’s just the part I see, because they’re the people I get asked to play the cello for.
Ste: There is diverse music all over the country. I think the reason why people say we sound like a scouse band is to do with the attitude. It’s friendly and cheeky. That’s what I think I’m like as a front man, rather than saying “You’re gonna fucking love this song”. We’re more open and that comes across as the stage presence and then the music is heard through those types of ears.
P3dro: There has been a lot on Facebook [today] about the music industry, and generally arts institutions, being neglected by the Government … What’s your take on the future?
Ste: I can understand the economics of things, but at the same time music is such a part of humanity’s soul. If we don’t have the arts in general, then we’re just biological blobs, churning out stuff every day for no reason. Music, the arts, poetry reflects humanity. If you let it die, then you’re letting a part of humanity die.
It expresses us, from years and years down the line. We listen to classical music and how that expresses love or anger or whatever. And then the next generation and the next generation will do their own thing. It’s a continuation of how you express humanity, it has to be protected in some form. I’m sure, with technology, it will help, but again the live performance can’t be replicated.
We’ve done a few online gigs and they were great, and you speak to people on chat and stuff, but the human to human connection of an audience appreciating you, or not, it may have been a bad gig, is vital.
I don’t know what the solution is, but [Rishi Sunak] seems to be pulling out a lot of money for other things that are questionable. For his mates. It’s naughty. If you want to take it down to the Tories angle, then their mansions are full of art. People are still making art. If they had the same idea years ago, then they wouldn’t have had mansions, full of art. The whole point of them being called “Conservatives” is that they conserve things, so they need to conserve the arts.
P3dro: Are you in a position to make plans for new music or gigs?
Vicky: Well, there’s the new album, but, gig-wise, it’s depressing really.
Ste: We’ve just been trying to do online stuff, but it’s difficult. We’d like to approach venues … let’s try a gig, social distance, charge more, do the gig twice? The human brain is amazing because it will find a solution, but its also jumping into the great unknown.
P3dro: Last question. Recommend a band or an album that you think we should be listening to right now.
Ste: Oh. OK. We always mention Katie Mac. We love her voice. She’s like a scouse troubadour.
Vicky: Rob Vincent. Beautiful music.
Ste: Also The Cheap Thrills. Psych rock band from Liverpool. They’re great.
Lead image – credit – Steven Reid