New York indie experimental duo Paris Monster has a hard sound to classify. With a sound that is beat driven and groove-based, the band incorporates elements of funk, soul, synth-pop and garage sounds to create a unique sound that has garnered them a growing fan base and critical acclaim. Consisting of only two members, Josh Dion (vocals/drums/keyboard) and Geoff Kraly (bass/modular synth), the duo formed Paris Monster in 2012 and continue to wow audiences with their live show. Although it is just the two of them performing, many people could swear they were watching a full band! The band has toured the US and Europe extensively and were invited by Questlove to perform a set at the 9th Annual Roots Picnic. The band released their first EP It Once Had Been Kind in 2013, followed by several singles and a music video, as well as several live-performance videos in partnership with Meinl Cymbals. On January 25th, Paris Monster will release their debut full length album entitled Lamplight. Make sure you catch them on their upcoming tour which starts tonight in Nashville! Staff writer Emily May spoke recently with Josh and Geoff by email and discussed the new album, creating their live show and what’s next for them. You can find all tour dates HERE. You can follow the band and stream and purchase their music via the following links. Check out the video for their latest single “Andalusia” below.
What went into creating your live show in order to make the two of you sound like a full band?
The modular synth fills out our sound while keeping the band analog and simple. Plus, we are both multitasking. That being said, embracing the fact that we are only two people–and not trying to sound like 4 or 5–taught us the importance and power of having effective and efficient arrangements. And how simplicity and clarity of ideas can yield the biggest results–the biggest sound.
You have both been involved in various other projects over the years. How busy do you stay outside of Paris Monster? What other projects are you involved in?
These days we don’t have much time outside of p_m. Josh still plays with the Jim Campilongo Trio, Wayne Krantz and many others when time permits. Geoff produces other artists–from singer-songwriters to avant-garde jazz musicians. But more and more we’re on the road and in the studio as paris_monster.
Josh- You have said that when you performed in the Josh Dion Band, that being a frontman and singing from the drums helped you to define your personal style…that you had found your thing. What do you think it was about the drumming/singing combo that resonated with you?
When I discovered the power of singing with the drums, I gained a deeper understanding of energy. I felt the audience in a new way. I was responsible for more than just the groove. I was delivering a song and leading a band. All of this growth helped me come to terms with what I actually had to offer on drums. I started to get back into these old swingy, shuffly feels. One sound feeds the other. The voice and drums are powerful together. One can riff off the other. I’ve even sung songs by myself with only a drum set. You can reach people with melody and rhythm.
Josh-You have said that while you were in the band Ulu you began writing in a journal, which prompted you to start writing lyrics, and that around the same time Geoff had become an amazing writer. What is your writing process like? How do you feel that your writing styles differ, as well as compliment each other?
Those were the first songs I ever wrote in my life. It was my first attempt at expressing myself, constructing songs and studying other song forms. There was a certain honesty that came out in those first few years. When I started working with Geoff, I was challenged to grow as a lyricist. He had a concept and code that I had never encountered. While I longed to be the conduit for lightning to strike, Geoff showed a true writers patience and work ethic.
You guys have talked about how you often perform songs differently live then how they sound recorded. What inspired that decision?
We feel that as long as the melody and song as intact, we can play around with the arrangement any way that inspires us. We might change which instrument plays the bass part, which would open up another avenue for some other sound to come into play. It’s fun to have different ways we can present the songs. Sometimes I’ll just go out front and sing and Geoff will cover all the music. It can happen many ways. We often leave intros and outros open for improvisation, too.
You have said that your live show has changed a lot since your first show. In what ways do you feel your live shows, as well as you as musicians, have grown and evolved since that first show?
With our set ups being so unorthodox, I think it took some time to come back around to feeling as comfortable as we do on our natural instruments (singing & drums for Josh; bass for Geoff). Once you start doing something every night, you get up to speed. It’s a great feeling. As a drummer and singer, now I’m making harmonic and sonic choices as well. That’s quite an evolution on my end.
The two of you have published a series of live performance videos that you created with Meinl Cymbals Company. How did your collaboration with them come about and what do you have planned with them going forward?
I recently began using Meinl Cymbals in my set up. I was excited to find out that they were interested in my band as well as my drumming. They shot some high quality videos of us down in Nashville. It was great because we were just starting to develop content. We have a great relationship with them.
Your single “Andalusia” was inspired by the French singer Tino Rossi. How often are the songs you write inspired by other artists? Who are some of the artists that you both have been most influenced by?
Tino Rossi revealed the original vibe for what I wanted Andalusia to be. Often times we hear a piece of music and it triggers something inside the creative mind. The outcome may sound nothing like it, but that original sentiment is there.
You will be releasing your debut album Lamplight on January 25th. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the album and the recording process? You wrote some of the songs in the studio. What led to that decision and how does writing songs in the studio differ for you from writing them beforehand?
This particular collection of songs is an interesting collections rural themes in the lyrics set against the electronic sound of the modular synth, the synth bass, and the modern studio techniques used. All of these particular songs were composed ahead of time though–some of the arrangements and instrumentation took place in the studio through the recording process however. The most clear example of this is “Andalusia”, where Josh’s live drum performance was used to trigger sounds created by the modular. So the result is a human performance of synthetic sounds. That idea, in it’s fully-realized form, came about in the studio. It was a nice day of the baton being passed between Geoff, Josh, and Josh Kaler and Owen Biddle–the album’s other co-producers. The songs who’s writing was truly finished in the studio will come out as a later release. So hopefully we’ll have even more new music for you very soon!
Geoff- You have said that, with regards to the long wait for the album, you both had a collection of songs that didn’t really work in a group in any way but that you were proud of them and wanted to release them. What was your process for writing/selecting songs for the album that did fit together and were cohesive?
We recorded as many songs as possible, and then along the way, as the recordings took shape we able to have more of a sense of what direction we were heading in in a general sense. From there maybe a tune or two fell off. Or a new one or two were written and added to the mix and that showed other in a new light. And then some point comes where the recording is done and you have a pile to look at and assess. And we ended up choosing the songs that had enough sonic and lyrical connections to feel like they belonged together, and had enough difference to remain interesting across their duration.
You have said that it feels great to put out an album because musicians make albums, among other things, to tell the story and evolution of the band. What story are you hoping Lamplight tells about Paris Monster?
Lamplight is a snapshot of a moment in our development. It shows our collective interests–our current interests. It makes us excited to keep working and exploring. We definitely stumbled upon ideas worth exploring further throughout the process of making Lamplight. And we definitely have new ideas that we’re excited to get beyond just being “ideas”.
You will be heading out on tour on January 22nd, with a mix of headlining shows and as support for Turkuaz. What are you most looking forward to?
We are looking forward to finally traveling coast and coast, while playing some fantastic venues. We feel lucky. It will be our first trip to the west coast with this band–many many new cities for us. That’s a thrill–you obviously only get to play a city for the first time…once.
Besides the upcoming tour, what’s next for you?
We are already writing and recording new music.