• Q&A

Q&A: Keith Kelly of Monogold

written by: on October 21, 2014

Brooklyn-based, dreamy indie-pop band Monogold hasn’t released any new music since its 2011 debut The Softest Glow, but the trio is about to make it up to fans in a big way with three brand new releases—an EP, a seven-song acoustic album, and a full-length—all of which will be coming out in the short span of less than six months.

Lead singer and guitarist Keith Kelly, who also paints all of Monogold’s album art, spoke with Pop ’stache over the phone about the band’s history, what it’s like to release so much new material in such a short time, and getting the band’s teeth checked at the fifth annual O+ Festival in Kingston, N.Y., a music and art showcase inspired by the band that connects musicians and artists with healthcare services.

P ’s: Your website describes Monogold’s sound as “psychedelic indie-pop”—how else would you describe your music?

KK: Right now, we’re kind of putting all of our influences into a pot and seeing if they taste good. Some of the new stuff is getting a little more of an edge to it, which is cool. Our drummer Jared is really into world music, so he’s always bringing in a lot of strange, different, acculturated beats. Sometimes they’re completely odd, but sometimes they really work together in kind of a familiar way.

Someone at one of our last shows said something I was totally obsessed with. They said, “Hey, you guys sound like what would happen if Talking Heads and My Bloody Valentine had a baby.” I was stoked at that; we love both of those bands!

P ’s: When did you feel like people started to pay attention to the band? 

KK: Oddly enough, it happened kind of quick. We were just talking about this the other day; we don’t really know how that happened. All of a sudden, at our second show, we were playing [CMJ Music Marathon] and it was packed. I was shitting a brick, really, because it felt like,  “Oh man, now if we screw up, we’re going to screw up in front of 300 people.”

But it went well, really well, and then one of the singles off We Animals called “Feel Animal” made it on Spin’s Top 10 Songs of 2010 list. It all kind of happened really fast, and the next thing we knew, we were on tour.

P ’s: What was it like to have so much success so early on?

KK: It was a trial by fire, really. The coolest thing about that kind of stuff is that Jared, Mike, and I are all best buds, even when we’re not making music. If you’re going to travel the country, you want it to be with people you get along with, who you can eat some weird food and drink weird beer and write some really good, weird music with. When we learned we could do all three of those things together, we were stoked. It felt like, “This could actually be a thing!”

P ’s: What was that first tour like? You hadn’t done anything like that before, right?

KK: No, not really. It was all new for us, and Mike was kind of new to the equation, so it was a cool way for us all to jump off the dock at the same time. Then we started immediately with [the first record] The Softest Glow. The record went over really well, and we were really happy with it. What we decided with the new stuff is that we were going to really take our time with it, so it’s been two years of us playing live and writing and recording, but now we have three records coming out this year, so it kind of worked out.

This Bloom comes out in November, and around January, we’re releasing a seven-song acoustic record called Good Heavens. Around March/April, we’ll have our next full-length out.

P ’s: That’s so much to release in a year! How are you guys doing all this at once?

KK: I know. [Laughs] I feel relieved. But it’s all it’s kind of a mirage. It seems like all of the stuff is a lot of productivity all at once, but the truth is that we’ve had this music for a while. We wanted to put everything out continuously for a year, just ride that out and then start completely new. We just wanted to come out running, you know?

P ’s:  What has changed musically for you guys since your last release?

KK: The new releases are definitely a bit of a departure for us. We tried a lot of new things and a lot of new sounds. This Bloom starts off with a saxophone and a bunch of loops. We incorporated some weird stuff like that with some straight up catchy indie-pop, so it’s definitely the best of both worlds with this one.

P ’s:  What have you been hearing from fans who have been waiting for you to release new music?

KK: We’ve been playing a lot of the new songs live for a while, so I think the people who know us and see us live are fine. They know the songs, and they want to own the songs, but there’s also the other people who haven’t heard us live who are like, “What the hell have you guys been doing?” So hopefully it will be well-received and then they’ll have three records to choose from at the end of the year.

And since we’re almost done with all three, then we can start writing the new stuff again, and the cycle continues forever and ever and ever.

P ’s: What’s your favorite part of the process, between touring, recording and releasing new things, and starting over?

KK: I’ve come up with a cardinal rule to not write anything new while we’re recording, because the newest song you wrote is always the best song, and the oldest song that you have is always the worst. It’s a never-ending record then, you know? So my favorite part is when the record order is sent, we know exactly what the songs are, and I can start writing new stuff. Because then I’m just happy to have that out, and happy to start new again.

You always feel like whatever you’re doing now is better than what you did, hopefully. That’s my favorite thing about the whole process—trying to compete with yourself.

P ’s: You’re all from Brooklyn, right? How has the music scene there influenced you throughout the years?

KK: Yeah, we’re all born New Yorkers—kind of rarities at this point. [Laughs] Brooklyn has definitely had a huge impact, at least in the immediate sense that I met Mike here. We both worked at the same bar in Williamsburg. Aside from that,  Brooklyn is such an ever-evolving kind of force in terms of music and art and film and stuff like that. There’s just so much to constantly see and so much to constantly reference that if you’re any kind of artist,  it’s hard not to be constantly inspired and influenced when you walk out your front door.

P ’s: Were you at all surprised when music became the main thing for you, after pursuing art in college? It does seem like you’ve found a good marriage between art and music with all the painting you do for the band.

KK: I think it was always kind of a marriage, art in itself. As a kid, I used to love to dance [and] I wrote a lot, so whatever it was—drawing, comic books, music—they were all kind of an omnipresence in my life. I figured if I just rolled the dice, whichever one I ended up doing would be fine. But I was a drummer for 10 years; I didn’t play guitar or sing. That was a new thing that happened because Jared is a much better drummer than I am.

P ’s: Can you talk about the O+ Festival you’re playing this weekend in Kingston, N.Y.?

KK: We actually were the catalyst for that, in a really funny way. We were talking to the guys who run it a few years ago and I was saying how amazing it would be if we could be a bartering society again. Instead of currency, an artist would be able to paint a picture for the chiropractor, and the chiropractor could fix his back, for example.

One of the founders, who’s the town dentist in Kingston, they ran with that idea and started a whole festival based on providing healthcare for artists and musicians, and it took off. I think the guys and I are going to go get our teeth cleaned. In New York, it’s hard to not have insurance. But knowing there are things like this out there is pretty amazing. I know a lot of musicians and artists who will go to the festival, not even to perform, but just to sign up for free healthcare.

P ’s: And it all started from an offhand comment you made?

KK:  Yeah. We were the first band they asked to play it. It was totally, totally random, totally amazing. It’s a really great idea and I hope it sparks off a lot more like it. In this day and age, something like that seems revolutionary to me. There’s a lot more options and power than people realize.