Proving what’s possible when a songwriter / vocal artist takes more control in the production process, Montaigne’s electronic record “making it!” is a tour-de-force of both lyrical and sonic expression.
As one of the biggest names in Australian pop music – numerous top 10 singles, ARIA awards and nominations, plus a swag of albums under their belt and some huge collabs on the books (Hilltop Hoods! David Byrne!!) – you might wonder if there are any boxes left to tick for this prolific artist.
As it turns out, for Montaigne the message seems to be that the end result or perceived success is beside the point. The title of their new album “making it!” cleverly plays on the traditional idea of how one might define musical success.
Is the key to succeeding in music “making it” in the traditional sense – gold records, world tours etc? Or is “making it” a reference to the process of “making”, the idea that the end result is irrelevant and the real success is in continuing to create music.
After years in the music industry, it’s not surprising that an artist might be questioning these ideas. In any long term creative pursuit, the main challenge is to keep that creative spark alive. For Montaigne, this has meant exploring uncharted musical territory and then facing down their preconceived notions about other genres.
During the first inklings of the pandemic I for some reason really tuned in to 100 Gecs and that served as a gateway to the music of their peers & other creative electronic pop out there, like Caroline Polachek’s solo work, Dorian Electra, SOPHIE…I was already aware of these artists but I’d never really given them the proper time of day bar one or two songs but I was suddenly ravenous for their sounds.
I used to be a bit of a music wanker without really understanding what I was being prescriptive about. I thought electronic music was lesser than band music without really understanding what electronic even meant or was or could sound like. As you grow older you learn more about musical history & lineage & it becomes harder and harder to judge anything realising what a miracle it is that people persist in being creative and learning from the things that inspire them. Anyway, I love and respect electronic music now and this album is my contribution to it.
One thing that these artists have in common over the typical “pop” act is an ability to produce their own tracks. Where a singer / songwriter might be expected to defer the sonics to a range of producers on a record, the new breed of electronic pop artists are co-producing or handling production duty themselves
It’s frustrating being a singer-songwriter doing sessions with producers and having strong aesthetic opinions but not being able to express them technically. The producer has no idea what you’re talking about and you aren’t even sure if what you’re saying is real or not.
After exploring these new artists, it’s no surprise that someone with the musical talent of Montaigne might be curious about what kind of creative freedom might come from getting more involved in the production side of things.
I’m producing my own stuff now and I’m loving it so much, I feel like I’m really authentically expressing myself and exploring my brain, it’s wonderful. Funny thing is I was actually taught (at Liveschool) by Ninajirachi who I’m now releasing a song with soon!
On creating the album ‘making it!’, this new confidence and control in the studio allowed for a proper creative collaboration between Montaigne as the artist and Dave Hammer on production duties.
The ability to give meaningful creative direction meant we could both work together, the songwriting and production all happening at the same time and have the vision fully realised by the end of the day.
The end result of this newfound interest in DIY electronic music is a record that sounds very different to what we have heard from Montaigne in the past. Most obvious is the new focus on electronic sounds, gone are guitars and drums, replaced with digital synths, buckets of effects, auto tuned vocals and glitched out drum machines. It’s an easy win for music writers to file this record under Hyperpop, but the truth of the matter is more nuanced, with Montaigne viewing the Hyperpop label as more than a style of production
I think one of the things that makes me uncomfortable about being classed as hyperpop is that it feels like it’s as much about community as it is about shared sound & I’m not really part of any of those online or local communities that learn from each other and collaborate. Increasingly I’m making friends with people who make this music but I’m not in the discord servers or digital spaces or even live spaces in which bonding between these artists happen. I think that’s a factor that really matters, as much as sound.
The sound and ethos behind “making it!” represent an interesting point in Montaigne’s career. With newfound confidence behind the controls of Ableton Live, the record is the most cohesive Montaigne record to date. What will we see as Montaigne continues to explore the sounds that resonate on a deep personal level? As Montaigne steps into this new phase of their creative practice we are excited to go along for the ride.