With her 2016 debut Glorious Heights, Montaigne established herself as a reigning queen of Australian art pop. She won the ARIA award for Breakthrough Artist that same year and has been trying to take the world by storm ever since. Ahead of her second album, Complex, the Sydney artist sat down with Lennox Groove to discuss her new album, her upcoming tour, #STOPADANI, Björk and everything between.
LENNOX GROOVE: One of my favourite tracks on the new album is ‘READY’. What was going through your head when you wrote the words, “I’m out on the wind, so catch my wings”?
MONTAIGNE: What was going through my head? I need something to put here! Honestly, I was writing that song for someone else, to a theme that I wasn’t very emotionally connected to. Usually, if I feel connected to something, I can write the song in five minutes. We were talking about how [the artist I was writing the song for] just went on an international tour for 10 days in London, came back and it feels like she’s doing nothing with her life. It’s knowing you’re ready for opportunities to come your way but they’re not. The real challenge of the whole thing was to encapsulate that sentiment in a chorus in a non-corny way.
LG: You’ve cited Björk as an influence, do you remember the first time you heard her music?
M: I don’t remember the exact moment, but I remember thinking “This is fucked, I hate this.” I kept listening and watching [her] music videos, then I kind of acquired the taste for it and I was obsessed. It’s not necessarily easy music to listen to.
LG: Do you have a favourite Björk album or period? She’s been through a lot of eras…
M: I do, it depends on the mood. The thing I end up going back to the most is Vespertine. It’s the ‘twinkly’, pretty album. Very romantic – well, the most romantic that Björk gets.
LG: One thing that has set you apart from a lot of other Australian artists is your willingness to use your platform to address significant political debates. How do you look back on the #STOPADANI campaign at the ARIAS? Do you think there was a positive response?
M: Yeah, I think so. The only job I really have is to raise awareness and in doing so be able to put my fans onto big causes and do the research themselves to decide whether not they feel passionate about it. And I think I did! A lot of people I know came up to me afterward and said they’d never heard of #STOPADANI until I did that. Now they do.
LG: Your passion for the planet extends to renewable energy and education on climate change. What would you say are some changes or actions people can or should make to help support these movements?
M: The most important thing is to go to rallies, go to protests and all those things, especially the general climate strike on September 20 (which everyone should go to). The most important thing is to get the government at a legislative level to actually act and hear the people for their needs and demands. If there are enough people in the streets they would be obliged to act. It’s more tied into political economy and so many things that aren’t on the individual level. Not to say that you shouldn’t do things as an individual. For example, I’m vegan and that’s a really good thing to do individually. Just showing up to things like rallies and seeing what you can do with your council is worthwhile and effective. That’s my advice.
LG: I’m interested if you have any favourite artists with opposing political views to you? And if so, if they do something that goes against your beliefs, can you separate the art from the artist?
M: I don’t know, I don’t really look into the political side of music. I don’t deliberately separate art from the artist. I just don’t investigate that much. I live my life pretty divorced from current events. If I’m going to research artists, I’ll be watching live shows or music videos. I take a greater interest in artists creatively rather than what they are putting on Twitter. The kind of artists I listen to naturally more or less fall into the left-wing position.
LG: What is different about your new album COMPLEX compared to your previous one?
M: Almost everything except for the fact that I worked with Tony Buchan again. I changed as a human and my music influence has changed, along with my ability and knowledge of music has changed, and the way I write has improved. I did almost all of it in LA, travelling a lot and went through a lot of different experiences.
LG: Do you think being in a different setting influenced your writing?
M: Maybe, I don’t know. It’s very dependent on who I’m with and not so much about the setting. Different producers bring out different styles because we’re all cross-pollinating. Naturally, I would write according to the stream of influence they are providing. When you’re writing you’re in a room with no windows usually, so you could be anywhere in the world.
LG: What can we expect from the upcoming tour?
M: A bit of singing, a bit of dancing. No crazy surprises and if I did, would I tell you? Probably not!
LG: Do you have a favourite song to perform live?
M: I always really enjoy ‘Lonely’. I haven’t really played any of the new ones live yet, I have a feeling one of those will become my favourite, maybe ‘Losing My Mind’ I reckon.
LG: What’s coming next for Montaigne?
M: I don’t know. I’m doing a lot of art right now. I’ve just been writing a lot and singing a lot and painting and reading books, doing all that stuff. I want to release a book of poetry one day. I guess just heaps of shows and doing a lot of these interviews so it’s lots of introspection right now.
LG: Well it’s been such a pleasure to you. Is there anything big you’d like to add before we finish out the interview?
M: COMPLEX by Montaigne out August 30!