Canadian-born singer songwriter Monique Angele discusses the move from opera to pop, finding inspiration in a Queensland Wallaby Sanctuary and recording her latest EP in a closet.
From travelling around hometown Canada, then Australia to setting her feet on new homeground Melbourne gave Monique is quick to admit that her EP Answers, released in February this year, was recorded in a rather unusual way.
“It’s homemade!” she exclaims, which sends us both into laughter. “I wrote the songs on the EP about a year beforehand but I didn’t get to record it until later because I was moving around so much. I also wanted to record it in Australia. I got my boyfriend to help because he’d been in a band in Toronto and understood the process better than I did. We recorded the vocals in a closet and then added the instrumentals later in Queensland. We had to make sure the outside sound was ‘dead’,’ so we put a bunch of clothes on the hangers and around so that there was no echo or anything and I just shoved my face and body into the closet and went from there.”
One would think that such a method is unnecessary, but this wasn’t the case for Monique who is no stranger to doing whatever it takes to get her name and her music out there. Starting her music career at the young age of seven undertaking classical piano. Monique went on to study that and Opera singing at the University of Ottawa.
“I went and undertook a workshop in Germany but decided the lifestyle [opera] wasn’t for me. I was fishing out hundreds of dollars for every audition, and was constantly auditioning. It became too much. I was writing my own music during this time, so I decided to go down that path and pursue my own music instead.”
Hailing from Ottawa, Monique came to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. After loving it so much, she found herself wanting to stay so she set up in Sydney where she did a few shows.
“I then went from Sydney to Queensland, where I had to do some ‘farm work’ for my Visa. I worked at a Wallaby Sanctuary and started compiling my EP there because it was super quiet and peaceful, and just a really cool place to write and work on it. And then last November I moved to Melbourne and did a few shows before releasing the EP in February.”
She admits that she has a hard time describing her music, but that it is “definitely evolving right now.” Despite being described as a mixture of classic and pop elements, she believes her music is a hybrid of classical, indie and pop amongst others, but definitely not ‘popera’. “The music I’m writing is definitely more on the pop side.” Even then, she believes that her background in Opera and musical theatre has helped her along the way.
“When you’re doing more theatrical stuff, it allows you to get outside of your box. I’m not saying that playing an instrument doesn’t do this, but the overdramatic stuff allows you to go for it and not really care as much. It allows you to be ridiculous at times.”
The theatrical element of Monique’s work is also prevalent in her songwriting, as she confesses that her best method of songwriting is when she’s angry or facing turmoil.
“I try to write as organically as possible, especially when in some kind of emotional state. If I’m really upset and sad then it’s generally a lot easier for me to write. I tend to doodle on the piano first and just play some chords and then if I have some kind of emotion or scene I could write towards those chords, then I start with the music there. If I do write happy songs, they tend to come to me when I’m in a silly mood, rather than a happy mood, because I try not to write really heavy music.”
Influenced by classic-rock, her inspirations in songwriting range from Queen to prog-rock artists such as Coheed and Cambria, to Tori Amos and The Beatles. Monique suggests that it was the fact that these artists incorporated classical elements in rock that drew her to them.
“With ‘prog-rock’ artists like Coheed and Cambria and So I Watch You From Afar. They’re a bit on the metal side, but they’re virtuosic and classical music as that as well.”
If there’s one song that showcases Monique talent, her love for theatrics and all-round creativity, it’s Complete, which was released on the Answers EP. Despite being one of her less serious songs, it is supported by an over-the-top yet equally unique and creative music video, I had no choice but to ask her about it.
“I just wanted to have fun with it. I was like ‘oh what about if there was this groupie that was obsessed with a musician or something.’ I was going for a really comical feel and I was trying to picture a girl that was almost like an anime character.”
Alongside Monique, her fellow-musician friend Jordan features as the male character that the girl fawns over, with her boyfriend filming and producing it. Monique confesses that they were aiming to make it completely ridiculous, which they definitely achieved.
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Written by Jordyn Hoekstra