Manchester’s Monkeys In Love have all the hallmarks of a classic John Peel band, they plough their own musical furrow, primarily indie – think The Fall, not The 1975 – in nature but seeing no problem with finding inspiration in other musical and visual fields. As they prepare to release a new album, we caught up with the band to find out more about how the quirky quartet find art in the chaos of life.
Tell us a little bit about yourselves. What’s the story behind Monkeys In Love and how would you describe your sound?
I was introduced to Laura Simms-Luddington at a rave in a disused hospital a number of years ago. We hit it off, formed a band and did a couple of years as a shouty thing with a drum machine and a cheapo keyboard and had a bit of help at our gigs from people like our future guitarist Eamonn Murphy and our housemate Neil Francis (from GNOD and Terminal Cheesecake). We got a bit bored with how one-dimensional our music was and so we brought in Eamonn on guitar and Chris Binks on bass and it spiced things up a lot. Danielle McCullough came on board a little later and that was pretty much us for a few years.
We took a bit of a breather in early 2017 and then Chris decided he didn’t want to carry on for various reasons, so now the current full-time line-up is as follows:
- Eamonn Murphy- guitar
- Alex Colcombe – bass and FX
- Laura Simms-Luddington – singing, props and art direction
- Steve Simms-Luddington – drum programming, keys/synths and some of the singing.
Danielle also plays on most things we record, but she doesn’t do gigs any more, sadly. I’ve no idea how we’d describe our sound, ‘cos I feel like it’s always in a state of flux and I’m far too close to it to be objective. Or maybe we’re just a post-punk band with pretensions.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
Oh, all sorts of things. We live in… interesting times, so there’s never really any shortage of things to write songs about. There’s so many horrible people doing horrible and there’s so little you can do about it, so you might as well write sardonic songs about them to keep yourself from going postal.
What’s your song writing and production process? Are there specific roles assigned to band members, or do you swap and change roles more organically?
The song writing process used to be a lot more organic, as we’d all come in with a handful of song ideas and we’d jam them out. But I think things changed a lot when Danielle went part-time, ‘cos she had a seemingly endless reserve of riffs and she’d usually be the first to get in there with a good melody line when we were jamming. Nowadays the chord sequences tend to be written by Eamonn and the melodies are usually mine, although I think that’s already starting to change as Alex settles in.
The lyrics, on the other hand, have always been my thing. There’s usually some input from the rest of them (particularly Laura), but it’s my job to pull them into shape and flesh them out and I can’t think of a single song we’ve written where that hasn’t happened.
Your live performances incorporate visual effects and props – was that a deliberate decision? What do they bring to the live show and the music?
We thought using puppets and props would be a good way of engaging the audience, rather than have them watching a bunch of people staring at their instruments or whatever. Sometimes it works and sometimes it just sort of baffles them. Either result works for me.
It was definitely a conscious choice and it was one of Laura’s first suggestions when she joined. She makes all the props and costumes and they’re usually inspired by the lyrics, although sometimes it’s the other way round.
A lot of the bands we grew up with were very visual, so the idea of using props and costumes didn’t seem all that outlandish to us, but I can’t think of many bands that use them now. Obviously, people like Beyoncé have about 800 costume changes per show, but it’s not something that bands do so much anymore. Which is a shame. Although it’s good for us, ‘cos it makes us slightly more memorable to punters.
If you had to pitch your music to a complete stranger in ten words or under, what would they be?
We’re not indie landfill and we sometimes use flutes.
What’s up next for Monkeys In Love? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, radio shows, other projects?
We’re currently finishing off our next album, which is called Monkeys In Love Are Ready For The Mountain and will either be out later this year or very early next year. And we’re just about to start writing and recording some stuff with Lou Armer from Lou and the Llamas, which I’m massively looking forward to. If all goes according to plan, this will be the first stuff Alex records with us as well, ‘cos we’d already got the bass parts down for the album by the time he joined.
As far as gigging goes, there’ll be a launch party when the album comes out and we’ve a couple of other things in the pipeline which might happen before the end of the year. Or they might not. Beyond that, we’d quite like to do a few dates out and about in the UK, but we’ll see what happens. We’ve all got full-time jobs and kids, so it’s not as easy to play out and about as it used to be.
And I’m still doing Delirium Of The Senses for AT Radio. I was hoping to launch a second show called Magnetic Web but the sunshine seems to have evaporated a chunk of my audience, so that’s on hold unless my regular show’s listening stats improve once the typical Manchester weather returns.