Published Sep 26, 2009&affiliateIt has been over three years since Moneen released The Red Tree and nearly 18 months since they began penning its follow-up. In that time the Brampton, ON, foursome toured endlessly, contemplated the future of the band, added a new drummer and received a Juno nomination. On September 15, Moneen finally released their fourth full-length album, The World I Want To Leave Behind. Exclaim! sat down with lead singer Kenny Bridges before their CD release show at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, to talk about the new album, the band's longevity and Taylor Swift.
Whenever a band releases a new album they always say it's their best one yet, so why is The World I Want To Leave Behind Moneen's best album to date? If you back track to our very first EP, Smaller Chairs for the Early 1900's - even from that EP to our first full-length there was definite progression. I don't think our first full length was the record people thought we were going to put out. Smaller Chairs was a pretty rockin' record. I think a lot of people, when they got our first record, where like, "Wow, OK. This band isn't going to just stick to one thing." Because that first record was a really ambitious record. So I think that equally, as far as progressing, this new record from the last is the same.
We have had our sights set on something we've always wanted, but maybe up until this point we hadn't really known how to get there. I think there's a whole ambient, spacey, quiet side to Moneen that we've dipped in to but never truly embraced. So as intense as this record is at times - way more intense than we've ever been - it's equally as quiet and beautiful at the same time. I think as far as our favourite albums go, and the diversity of our favourite albums, we tried to capture that with our own interests and influences. We'd be jamming in our basement making weird noises, and there are parts of that in our songs. And I've also done really simple, stripped-down songwriting, and there've been hints of that in Moneen songs. But I think this is the first record where we tried to bring those two worlds together. We wanted some songs to just be an acoustic song and still work, and not rely on all the weird sounds. I think everything has a time and place. Musically, this is something we're really, really proud of as band.
The wide range is definitely noticeable on the album. There are songs like "The Long Count" that's heavier than anything Moneen has done before, but then there are songs such as "Waterfalls" that are on the other end of the spectrum.
That's the thing. Anyone who knows our band knows that you have to be ready for a little bit of a rollercoaster ride. We're never going to be straight-up one thing. But I don't think we're ADD as far as, "This band doesn't know who they are, or they're having an identity crisis." I don't feel that way at all. I'll be honest, I got into a lot of music that was full of riffs. I've been listening to a lot of of Meshuggah and just love heavy riffs. We've never had riffs before - but I think we definitely have some riffs on this record.
Lyrically, Are We Really Happy was a very personal record for you, but The Red Tree was more focused on the world at large. Where does this album land?
It's more following where The Red Tree left off, looking at the outside world but in a different way. Red Tree was more about how we felt the world was. This record is more about how feel about how we fit into the world around us. I knew by choosing the album title it could be taken two ways. If you take it the wrong way it can sound really dark and depressing - The World I Want To Leave Behind - but it has nothing to do with a jumper or anything. The way I look at it is that we all have a legacy - when we leave this earth, however that happens, how do we want to be remembered? It's a simple as that. That's really what this record is about. We have all gotten older. Our lives have changed immensely over the last ten years. Now, looking back at everything and how the world has changed as well - how do we fit into it all? How do our daily decisions affect our simple lives in this huge complex world?
It could be as simple as a boyfriend and girlfriend, 16 years old. They're young and barely know what love is, and then they break up. To them, that seems like the most catastrophic thing that could happen. But to their neighbour, who gives a shit? It doesn't freakin' matter. But at the same time, everything that makes tiny ripples also makes huge waves. This record is really about looking at how our lives fit into this crazy fucked up world.
When the record was finished, did you expect the final results?
No, not at all. We had so many songs - we wrote about 20 for this record. In the end we essentially put 11 on. We wrote a lot, but it was all about feeling what belonged together. It's funny, "Hold That Sound," which is our first single, (and it's the first video we've made that I've seen on MuchMusic a few times over a couple days) almost didn't go on the record. That was one of the first songs we wrote and we thought it was cool, but as we recorded it, it started to grow. But we never thought it would go on the album. As friends started coming in the studio though, that was the song that was getting a good reaction right away. Still, we thought it wouldn't go on the record. But after we played some shows with Saves the Day in the States and played "Hold That Song," we all said after, "I think this song is growing into something different than we first realized." And a lot of songs are like that actually. This was the toughest record in terms of sequencing goes. I don't think, for us at least, out of the batch of 15 we were deciding on, I don't think there's a bad song. The B-sides could have easily gone on the record. It was really how we want to shape it and what kind of feeling we wanted as we listened through it. There were some definite arguments and crying and hugging, but we got through it and made the right decisions.
After The Red Tree, was there a point where you thought there wouldn't be another Moneen record?
Well...no. But there was a point where I thought there was only going to be one more Moneen album. Things definitely got intense at times and touring took a toll on us as friends. And when it came down to it, the four of us had to make a decision and that was for Peter [Krpan, drummer] to go his separate way. And really, that saved our friendship and sanity. And then we reunited with Steve [Nunnaro] who was a really good friend of ours back in the day. It really worked out for the best. There are no bad feelings at all. It's not like there was a huge fight and we took it to the streets.
That would make a better story though.
It does. There's no good gossip in me telling you that as soon as we decided that we're going to go our separate ways - in terms of Peter and the band - that we all went out for food.
These days it seems like most bands are lucky to release two albums, are you surprised by Moneen's longevity?
Ya, for real. I don't even know where the time went. We've been a band for ten years now. We've been lucky to work with the people we've worked with. There's been no reason for us to implode or for a label to push us off to the side. The friendship means more to us than the business side. That's the same with Dine Alone. Joel [Carriere, founder of Dine Alone] is likeminded with us about that. Putting out records is a business, yes. But at the end of the day what's more important - business decisions or how you feel and live your life? It's such a family on Dine Alone. I think as far as Moneen goes, we're in a better place than we've ever been. We were driving down the street, and I will say on record that I hate driving in Toronto more than anything in the world, and I see Moneen posters plastered everywhere. I'm thinking, "What's going on? This is crazy?" Dine Alone is working hard.
Side note: Did you also notice that the Jay-Z posters for his new record looks very much like our last record, and especially our last record's promo photos? Go look it up. It's very similar.
I smell a lawsuit.
[Laughs] I'm sure that would go well for us.
Ok, time for some word/phrase/thought association: Kayne West (after his MTV Awards show blunder):
Mean guy. Just a mean, mean guy. I know people are saying it might have been a set-up. But that seems like a weird thing to have semi-planned. Lisa, my girlfriend, and I were watching it and so many times we were sitting there silent, speechless, in awe, horrified.
I have a soft spot for her. If there's a guilty pleasure, I don't know how guilty that is, but I think as far as a country star gone pop, I like how her linear-style songs (I'm not sure if she writes them or not) aren't lyrically so linear. I like how she tells a story. I'm probably going to get stoned for saying I appreciate her songs.
I must admit, I heard her "Love Story" song last week and its still stuck in my head.
I know. It's funny how certain pop music, you want to hate it, but at the same thing you're like, "Why do I want to hate this? It's not so bad."
Why does Kenny rock so hard?
Because I was a young child with ADD and hyperactivity problems, and my mom before school (Eric has told this story before) made me run ten laps around the house to get my energy out or I would have been trouble. It's just in my nature to do weird things and push myself really hard.
Comment on Moneen now having "Juno nominated" stuck before its name?
I don't think about it that much as far as Moneen being Juno nominated, but moreso as Greg Benedetto, who helped put that DVD (It All Started With a Red Stripe) together, as being Juno nominated. Anything he does for us I put "Juno nominated" before his name. I know it probably drives him insane. But, it's cool. We're in a good place these days to know that a lot of our friend's bands, like Alexisonfire, can be Juno nominated. It's crazy that the doors are smashed in enough for that to happen. If we won it would have been crazy.
Why should Moneen's new album be nominated for the Polaris Prize?
Is that the one where you win money?
Yes, that's the big one.
Then that's why, because we need money. We're good artists and we work really hard.
Why won't it be nominated?
Because we're cursed.
Is there anything about Moneen that most people don't know?
Hm, I'm not sure. If it's something people don't know, then I probably don't want them to know. I feel we're pretty open and honest, so any secrets we keep there are reasons for it. There aren't many things that we hide, and that's a problem. Maybe we're too honest.