Moneen aren’t afraid of taking risks, and this couldn’t be more evident than on their newest release The Red Tree. To some, taking risks means becoming more long-winded and doing weirder things, but to Moneen, a greater risk was stripping down and keeping things more to the point. The Red Tree is the Canadian four-piece’s best sounding and crafted record to date. I had a chance to discuss the opus with the band’s vocalist, Kenny Bridges, a week before its release.
The Concordian: How are you feeling about the release of The Red Tree?
Bridges: We’ve been working on it for so long that we are at the point now where it’s a torture to wait for it to come out. This tour has been so good but at the same time, it just feels like a waiting game. We have been waiting for this date to come along for us to be able to release it.
The Concordian: What were your influences for this record?
Bridges: I was more influenced by not wanting to be influenced by the same things and anything in particular. Before, we would listen to a lot of punk rock and indie rock; anything from Jimmy Eat World to Radiohead. But now I just got sick of listening to all of the same stuff so I just started digging a little deeper and find tings that are a little different than what we would normally listen to. A lot of darker stuff and a lot of stuff that’s really good that I knew we would never be able to be as good as, and then I’d cry at night [laughs]. And it would just make me want to try harder the next day.
The Concordian: Did any other media like books, plays or even movies, influence the writing?
Bridges: Yah, definitely! On this record there are a lot of songs I’ve written from a much different perspective than I have ever written before. A lot of things that I didn’t personally go through, but that I would research on and write from a person’s point of view that did go through it, talking about some of the disasters and tragedies that have happened, I just try to look through the eyes of some of the people that have gone through these things, which is a lot different than I have ever written before.
The Concordian: Is it hard at times to find inspiration?
Bridges: From time to time; that can even change from day to day. Some days, you’ll just be really inspired and feel really creative, and feel like you’ve got a million things to write about. And then, the next day, you feel like you have nothing interesting to talk about. That’s why we let this record sit for a long time before we went into the studio. We took a year to write and record this. We didn’t want it to be, “let’s just get a quick record out.” We wanted to be as creative as we could be.
The Concordian: Are you guys perfectionists? Do you spend a lot of time nit picking?
Bridges: Before we would tour so much and be like, “ok we’ve got to write a new record, let’s take a month to write it, let’s go record it and now let’s go tour again.” But this time, we wrote probably more than 20 songs which is a lot for us because usually we will just write the exact amount we need. We wrote 20 songs, recorded them, re-recorded them, re-wrote them and then recorded them again over and over before we even got anywhere close to the studio.
The Concordian: What makes up a good song for Moneen? What will make you say, “we’re going to keep this one,”?
Bridges: It’s funny because it used to be if it was real long, six minutes, we’d be like, “OK, now we’re feeling good about it. Is there a verse, a chorus and then a weird part and then a bridge that never goes back to the chorus again, and then goes into a weird spacey part and makes you forget what the rest of the song is like and then ends?” That used to be a perfect song for us. Now I’m learning that I’m not as ADD as I used to be with songwriting. I just learned to take what we feel we’re good at as a band and make it more straight to the point. We basically turned our delay pedals down a bit.
The Concordian: I still think there seems to be more experimentation on this record.
Bridges: Basically every band is going to say that they don’t want to repeat themselves. It just basically comes down to how many risks you’re willing to take. For us, stripping down and trying to keep things more to the point was a bigger risk to us than it was doing weird things. I think when we started writing shorter songs and songs that I feel hit a little harder than some of our older songs did, that was scarier to me than just redoing what we have already done. But in the end, it did turn out great and I’m so glad that we tried everything we wanted to try on this record.
The Concordian: You have some really good guitar riffs in your music. Do you think that can help separate you from all the other bands out there?
Bridges: I don’t know because I don’t even know if we can pull it off [laughs]. That’s the one thing that I do enjoy about our music is that every part is a part. There’s no just like strumming chords and singing over it. We try to make sure that every single part that all of us do is important and relevant to the song. If you took something away, you would be like “whooo, where did that go?” Whereas with some music, it’s not as important; it’s more about the melody and some catchy words. But we try to maximize all of our goodness on this one [laughs].
The Concordian: On this record you have a good balance of up-tempo and slow songs. What kind of atmosphere did you want to create with that?
Bridges: We wanted to basically just capture a whole bunch of moods and atmospheres that we’ve been feeling within the last year of writing it. There are a lot of real good up times, and a lot of down times. Every song had to be different and capture a different mood, depending on the content of that song.
The Concordian: Your last song is definitely the most different track on the record: a piano-driven ballad. Why did you want to end off with that?
Bridges: That was a hard one. That’s probably my favorite song on that whole record. That just started off with me in my basement. I just have a bunch of piano songs that I write on my own and at one point, want to put out a piano record of some sort. But I had no time. I showed the guys and they happened to like it, so we used it as a Moneen song. The hard thing about that song is that we all liked it so much but we didn’t know where to put it in the record. It just felt like a fitting spot to put it last. I know there’s a lot of people who don’t listen to records the whole way through, and it would be sad if people didn’t get to this song if they turned the record off before they got there. It was a hard decision. At one point, we were even thinking of opening up the record with that but I was like, “what are we thinking? That would be crazy. We can’t do that.” And we couldn’t put it in the middle because then it’s just another song. So it had to close the record, and it’s really fitting too.
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The Concordian: What kind of environment did you guys record in?
Bridges: It was in this nice studio in Baltimore. It was so laid back and relaxed: it was amazing. We had some pretty crazy times when we did the pre-recording in the summer with Brian. It was one week being the worst week of my life and the second week being the best week of my life. We hadn’t worked with anyone in that capacity, so it got really weird, but the actual recording was amazing. I’ve never laughed that much in my whole life, I don’t think. We tried any stupid idea we could think of. We blew up amplifiers; pedals were dying. I couldn’t believe what was going on, but it turned out so good.
The Concordian: Do you think that that experience translated onto the record?
Bridges: Definitely, because when you think about it, the way you feel directly translates to how you are doing to perform. If you’re really bummed and just really stressed, it’s going to come out in your playing. If you can be really relaxed and love what you are doing, you are going to be that much more creative and pull out some things that you would be scared of trying normally. There was no like “this is the exact way this has to be played.” Instead, we were changing things along the way. We didn’t care.
The Concordian: What would you say is your main goal with The Red Tree? What are your aspirations?
Bridges: We don’t have any goals or anything. I think it would be bad for my kind of personality to be thinking of any kind of expectations. Really, honestly, I want people to enjoy the record as much as we do.
The Concordian: Do you think that this record will attract a new fan base for you?
Bridges: I think if we ever had a chance to expand our fan base, this would be the record to do it.
The Concordian: I know you guys are with Vagrant now. How has this changed your band?
Bridges: I think the biggest thing was they just allowed us to feel comfortable and do everything we wanted to do, but on a bigger level now. Before we always knew we had the freedom, but now we have the freedom and also have this really good family behind us too.
The Concordian: Has it helped the band get more visibility?
Bridges: 100 per cent. There’s no question about that.
The Concordian: Protest The Hero just signed with Vagrant recently, and are the second Canadian band to join the label. Why do you think there are so many Canadian bands looking to sign with American labels?
Bridges: I just think there’s a lot of opportunities and labels that have done really well in the States. There are also labels that have done really well in Canada, but to be honest, it’s a little harder. We were on Smallman Records for a long time up until this point, and it’s not even like we made the choice to not work with them, it’s just what happened. We signed with Vagrant, so now we’re with Vagrant. There are very few labels in Canada that have gotten the chance to expand their label to the point where they can compete with labels in the States that aren’t completely affiliated with a major. Because really, the labels that do the biggest numbers in Canada right now are all either major labels or affiliated with majors. So it’s kind of like just inbred into one now. And even with labels in the States, when they work in Canada, they work with major labels. There’s nothing wrong with that. We didn’t want to be with a major label because at that time we didn’t think that was where we wanted to be, and that was true.
Now, it’s different. When you get to that point where you work with a major label, not as your label, but as they’re helping you, it’s not as big of an evil as everyone thinks it is. It can be. If you don’t keep yourself in check and you don’t allow yourself to keep an eye on everything, there’s going to be people and labels that do things that you don’t want them to do. You just have to be in control enough to say, “listen, we don’t want to do that. That’s not the way we want to be seen. We want to do things this way,” and really, whatever label you’re on it really doesn’t matter. The sad thing is, is that it’s harder in Canada to make an impact on a Canadian label.
The Concordian: Have you guys received any criticism for that move?
Bridges: Funny enough, we haven’t received any criticism at all. On our first record we were working with Vagrant, and we still kept it on Smallman in Canada. But as far as contracts go, we couldn’t do that this time. We’ve been on Smallman ever since we started, so I’m not afraid to go and try something different now.
The Concordidan: Does Moneen have a mission? What kind of an impact does the band want to have?
Bridges: I don’t really think of that kind of stuff at all, but I would want to leave a little bit of a mark. Our songs might not be changing the world, but they’re different enough and we’ve taken some chances, so people can respect that.
For more information on Moneen visit www.moneen.com.
Moneen play with Saves The Day and Circa Survive on May 2 at The Spectrum. Tickets are $20, and the show is at 7:30 p.m.