Before their headline show at The Borderline in September, I interviewed Switzerland’s Monkey3. The cult favourite psych band were back in London for the first time in three years, so I had to go down and see them. Before the show – in a Starbucks of all places – I interviewed Boris and Karl to talk about the tour, Astra Symmetry, the writing and recording process of their albums and their future plans, among other things.
Jack: How are you doing?
Boris (Guitar): Yeah, we’re okay.
Jack: How’s the tour gone so far?
Boris: Well we are at the beginning, so it’s like the fourth show of the tour, but so far it’s been really good.
Kevin (Bass): Good people, packed.
Boris: So let’s see what happens tonight.
Jack: You’ve only played three shows but has any show stood out so far?
Kevin: Any one of the three shows could have been the best for us.
Boris: It’s always difficult one personally as each situation is different and the crowds are different. Each show has its own story so it’s difficult to pick just one.
Kevin: They were all good man, I think we played well, we gave a lot, maximum, 101%. Good crowds, very intentative and very reactive to us. Good energy and packed shows. Lots of love from the fans, it means a lot to us.
Jack: You’ve played with a lot of interesting bands on this tour. Have any of the bands you’ve played with stood out for you?
Kevin: For the first two shows we played with The Necromancers from Poitiers, France. We are going to tour with The Necromancers from tomorrow onwards for most of the dates. We didn’t know them before and we just met them and we did two shows with them. Cool guys, new band on the scene. Nothing to say, they play well and kick ass.
Jack: Tonight you’re supported by The Fierce and the Dead and Lo Chief. Did you know these bands before?
Kevin: I hadn’t no.
Boris: Me neither. When we heard the news that they were playing tonight, we checked the bands out and they’re cool bands.
Jack: This is the first time you’ve been back to the UK in three years I believe.
Boris: Yeah, the last time we played here was three years ago at Desertfest London.
Jack: How does it feel to be back in the UK after three years?
Boris: It’s good, happy to be here. We are kind of new in England so hopefully we’ll come back more often. So we’ll see if people like it tonight, maybe we’ll come more often.
Jack: You’ve only been here a few times, what makes the UK unique and different?
Kevin: Your accent.
Boris: Your accent. But I would say it’s the home of…
Kevin: Many bands that we enjoy
Boris: We’ve been influenced by a lot of bands coming from here so it’s good to be in this place.
Jack: Three years ago you played Desertfest in London, how was that?
Boris: Well we had fun playing there, the venue which was the Electric Ballroom was a really nice venue. We were used to playing Desertfest but not the one in London, but it is kind of the same family. All Desertfests are different because of different cities and the vibe is different, but it felt like family and playing at home.
Kevin: It was packed at five when we opened the day so that was cool. The venue was beautiful and we enjoyed it.
Boris: The whole show is on YouTube.
Jack: A lot of your shows are put on YouTube. Do you mind the fact whole shows are put on YouTube?
Boris: We have no problem with that at all. It’s cool because now it is part of the game, everyone has smartphones, filming the shows, taking pictures. In the end you have always have someone putting stuff on the internet so do it. It’s good promotion for the band but you can’t do anything about it anyway so do it.
Kevin: Sometimes the sound is a little sad but that’s the way it is. What are you going to do with your phone, there’s no proper recording system so you can’t ask for it. But it’s still free promotion.
Boris: It’s why we released an official live record.
Jack: Astra Symmetry came out last year, how do you feel about the album looking back on it and how it was received?
Boris: Well we’d say the album sucks, it’s a shitty record. Mainly it’s because the bass player isn’t a good one.
Boris: No on that record we tried some new things that we haven’t done in the past, some vocals and different sounding instruments. We tried that to see if we could open the door, a new door for us, in order to evolve our music a bit. We had the idea of a concept record so we tried to create the story.
Kevin: It was a big piece of work.
Boris: I don’t know if we succeeded or not, it’s always difficult to say. Also because we’re still touring for that record, we’re still playing those tracks live or part of me. It’s difficult to say now. We have in the media some really good response, but also some bad responses. Some people were disappointed that we tried new stuff which is okay. Some others were really happy to hear that. As always when you try to do something a bit different than you used to do it, people might be a bit disappointed so they’ll be a mixed reaction.
Jack: What made you want to put vocals on the album?
Kevin: I believe the concept art by itself asked for lyrics. Lyrics have to be sung or spoken and we chose to sing them. Boris did a really good job and I believe it serves the record really well because of the concept that is behind it. It needed clarification or explanation behind it through text and it works as a whole. You have to see the vocal as a new instrument, not as a lead vocal and that’s what it is like adding a trumpet to a jazz section or a brass section. That’s the way we see it and I’m very happy about that record.
Jack: I thought it was a good record and I really enjoyed it. Are the vocals done as a backing track or sung live?
Boris: No we do it live. The album was recorded live in the studio and what you hear in the record is what you hear when you go to see the band.
Kevin: 100% live.
Boris: Maybe a bit more heavier live, a bit more powerful. Everything is played, no backing tracks and stuff. We never did that and we won’t do that in the future.
Jack: When you came to write the album, did you look at it differently to The 5th Sun or did you come at it in the same way but with vocals?
Boris: When we started to write the record we basically did the same things that we do usual, but at some point we found a connection between ideas and it’s where we started to think about the concept record and then we started to write in that direction.
Jack: Was it a hard write and recording the album?
Boris: It was recorded pretty fast and we were really aware of what we were working for. I’m not saying we are 100% happy about the final result but at least we did it way we thought it was right.
Jack: Would you change anything about the album or are you happy with it as it is?
Boris: Mostly we are happy about it, but maybe we did it too long or not too long but too much on the same rhythm level. A lack of rhythmic changes are a bit too flat on the overall length. Maybe if we would have done it now, maybe we tried to have a bit more…
Kevin: Temp changes, stuff like that. But it doesn’t matter as it’s going to be on the next record.
Boris: Exactly! (Laughs) Now we know.
Jack: What are you doing after the tour?
Boris: Work on a new record.
Jack: Do you know when we will see this record?
Boris: No it’s too soon to say.
Jack: What’s it like working with Napalm Records?
Boris: We’ve done two records with them.
Kevin: Three with the live record.
Boris: Yeah the third one was the live one. So far they’ve been pretty easy to work with, we have a good relationship with them so nothing special to say about it. We’re happy with that.
Jack: Do you have day jobs outside of the band or is Monkey3 the only thing you do?
Boris: We have day jobs, we have to. Basically we all work part-time, it’s Switzerland. Switzerland is tough when you don’t have much money.
Jack: Finally, how do you prepare for the show, what is your warm up routine?
Boris: Not really, we just wait for the beginning of the show. Doing nothing special, but when the intro starts then we are in the trippy mode. But nothing special, no special rituals. We’re just regular guys.
Jack: Thank you for your time and I’ll see you on stage.
Boris and Kevin: You’re welcome.