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The Mons Whaler - MNZ Interview: Cross Section S02 - E01 The Mons Whaler

30 Jan 2024 // An interview by Shannon Coulomb

Aiming to dissect the cross section between the creative process and the industry side, Cross Section is an exciting interview series hosted by Shannon Coulomb.

The Mons Whaler bring their swampy alt-blues fuzz tones and tight velvet vocals to their signature neo-vintage sound. Their music will transport you to a time and place when the sonic vibrations we chose to listen to spoke directly to our deepest desires and unyielding need for self-expression. There are a myriad of infectiously sticky accents running through their catalogue of songs. From the wandering fuzzy guitar riffs and experimental keyboard sounds to the four-part vocal harmonies and thundering backline holding the energising and dynamic rhythm section together.

The band members hail from the Taranaki region in New Zealand. There is a sense of common vision and creative discipline among the band. Everything that should be in this music is, and nothing more. In a cultural sense, the members of The Mons Whaler themselves are deeply connected to their indigenous Maori roots. They have broken the socialised stereotypes by writing and performing music typically outside their expected genre furthermore bridging the gap between what is expected from what we see and what just works.

What does your creative process look like?

Creativity for me personally is a pillar in my own spiritual and mental health. Being busy, in general life, forces me to approach a creative process with a degree of structure and a short time constraint. Also, when listening to a new song I tend to focus on the music, melodies and elements of a song ahead of the lyrics and stories. So, when it came to writing music, it felt right to approach it in this same order. My process usually starts with my guitar, playing around for usually 30/40 mins, maybe longer until ideas start flowing, I record the riff or chord progression, put a logic beat over it then find a vocal or guitar melody or hook. The lyrics are formed by either finding inspiration from my own life or putting myself into the shoes of others and seeing what comes out. It’s important for me to make the words sound good as I sing them. If not I change the word or sentence until it does. From there I take the base idea to my band, and we flesh out all the parts. Waka does his thing on drums, Phil on bass and Courtney helps with structure and guitar parts. Harmonies are worked out as we feel it’s needed. Most of the album was written this way. Some songs take longer than others. For example, Won’t Let You Go took an hour to write. Paper Heat is a mash of 3 x songs I have been sitting on for over 10 years.

Do you apply the same creative processes to other aspects of the Music Industry, for example, in your approach to marketing yourself?

Marketing ourselves has been a fun but definitely time-consuming process. Same as our creative process I start with a structure and an idea and work forwards. We have a list of things to tick off and do before each release. This usually includes a recording of a live jam, photos, teaser videos, lyric videos, and if it calls for it, official music videos. I have a few questions I always ask myself before I put anything out into the world. Is it on theme? Is it quality? Will it resonate with our audience? Does it help the band. If not don't bother.

What did the creative process look like in creating Hold My Gun? Is the process something you feel to have locked down or does it generally change on a song by song/release by release basis?

As mentioned the process is usually the same for each song. I’m personally NOT one of those crazy instrumentalists musicians that can do everything, and totally I’m ok with that. We all have our strengths individually and collectively as a band. I believe that if we feel valued and own what we bring to the songs the outcome will come from a place of passion which we know always feels better. Everything we do, or don’t do, is in service to the song as a whole, not ourselves.

What qualities do you appreciate the most in other musicians?

Thinking differently and being themselves. Not necessarily avoiding cliches or popular genres for the sake of it but just doing what they love in a new way that is interesting and uniquely them.

If you could collaborate with another NZ musician/band, who would it be?

Troy Kingi, Tami Neilson, Tom Scott, Dallas Tamaira.

How do you keep an eye to the future in regards to your work and work ethic? Do you generally focus on just the project at hand or are you considering how it fits into a larger plan?

We are already over halfway through writing the next album. In fact, band practice usually consists of us intending to go over the set but get too excited and spend most of the time fleshing out new ideas. We do work to an overall vision and have goals and milestones to help us along. It's all big picture stuff but are still finding the best way to paint the numbers while navigating the industry.

Where have you had the most success in terms of marketing to the Aotearoa audience? If applicable, has this translated well to an international market?

We are totally making things up as we go and fully understand there isn't a sure-fire way to knock down the door anymore, especially with a sound like ours which sits a little outside of the norm for NZ top 40. BUT, the music is good, we are behind it 100% and are slowly dipping our toes into the upper circles of the industry. We are looking forward to the international stuff happening. As a band we've got some lofty ambitions but ultimately music all starts and ends with people and each other. If we are happy and enjoying the process of creative music we are succeeding.

There are so many resources available to musicians in Aotearoa, such as muzic.net.nz, Music Managers Forum Aotearoa and APRA/AMCOS. Have any of these (or other) NZ resources played a significant role in your journey so far?

The resources are great thanks.

Has having access to these resources led to any break-through moments for you, particularly in regards to crafting a successful narrative in your online presence?

Not yet but hopefully this is just the start!

Are there any resources that you would recommend to NZ musicians who are coming to terms with the business side of the craft?

Other bands and musicians. Go grab a coffee or a beer with your fellow local musos. Go to each other’s gigs and support their journeys too without expecting anything in return.


*****

Shannon Coulomb is the co-songwriter, guitarist and producer for Auckland Based band Impostor Syndrome. He also plays bass for Swerve City and is currently the Head of Music at Birkenhead College, Auckland, as well as a tutor for Music Education at AUT University.

Impostor Syndrome:
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Swerve City:
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About The Mons Whaler

The Mons Whaler bring their swampy alt-blues fuzz tones and tight velvet vocals to their signature neo-vintage sound. Their music will transport you to a time and place when the sonic vibrations we chose to listen to spoke directly to our deepest desires and unyielding need for self-expression.

There are a myriad of infectiously sticky accents running through their catalogue of songs. From the wandering fuzzy guitar riffs and experimental keyboard sounds to the four part vocal harmonies and thundering backline holding the energising and dynamic rhythm section together.

The Mons Whaler band members hail from the Taranaki region in New Zealand and was founded by Hemi Coates (vocals & guitar), Andre Peri (percussion & backing vocals) and Phil Hoskin (bass, guitar backing vocals). They had the pleasure of the ever talented Courtnay Low joining them for live performances and studio sessions on keys, backing vocals and lead guitar. There is a sense of common vision and creative discipline among the band. Everything that should be in this music is, and nothing more. Hemi wraps you in his warm velvet vibrato vocals and provokes deeper thought as you try to navigate his melancholic and emotive storytelling. Andre and Phil intuitively speak a secret language through rhythm, locking into each other's movements, anticipating and complementing every beat and note.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Mons Whaler

Releases

Hold My Gun
Year: 2024
Type: Album
Won't Let You Go
Year: 2023
Type: EP

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