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Cracking The Monuments Code With Chris Barretto

Written by Greg Moskovitch on September 1, 2014

For some bands, the natural reaction to getting pigeonholed or lumped in with a movement is to rebel and immediately contradict the critics, as well as their own previous output. But for proudly progressive internationalist outfit Monuments, it just makes more sense for them to stick to their own true north.

Speaking to frontman Chris Barretto, he’s more than aware of his band’s association with the djent movement, but he refers to it matter-of-factly. His enthusiasm peaks when he discusses the “free reign” spirit of Monuments, whose palette encompasses everything from clean guitars, to saxophones.

Recently announced as part of the Soundwave 2015 lineup, we spoke to Chris about what the band has planned for the festival, the band’s latest album, The Amanuensis, how he’s settled into this latest project, and how he views the inhabitants of today’s musical landscape – both the bands and the listeners.

Music Feeds: You’re a well-traveled musician, project-wise. How does Monuments compare to the bands you’ve previously been involved with?

Chris Barretto: It’s one of the sickest experiences I’ve had yet, musically. I’d like to think that in my career I’ve been able to work with some exceptional musicians and people. And this has been one of those situations that I’m just fortunate to have. John Browne is a great guitar player, Adam’s sick on bass, Mike is so sick on drums, Olly’s a great guitar player. It’s one of the best [projects] yet.

MF: When you first joined, was there something you felt you wanted or needed to bring to the group or did you see yourself as more of a hired hand?

CB: I just wanted to come in and do my thing. I hoped that they’d like it and they did. That’s it. It’s always been more about what I can bring to the table or I guess what any musical person can bring to the table.

Listen: Monuments – I, The Creator

MF: Have you found yourself at odds with any irate metalheads when playing saxophone solos in front of those crowds?

CB: It’s always been a good experience with that. This new generation, I guess, of ears, if you want to call it that, I mean… we’re predominantly called “djent” or whatever. But there’s really a broader set of ears out there [now] with both young and older audiences, and they’re open to cool stuff. So the saxophone goes over great. And it’s great for me too, because I love doing it.

MF: You were once asked about the current state of music and mentioned how it’s no wonder half the world thinks we’re mental. What can we do to restore a little sanity?

CB: I don’t really have a game plan for that one yet, still figuring it out [laughs] It’s a big world and I’m still figuring it out for myself. It’s certainly not a thing that’s going to change overnight.

MF: Are there any artists you see as sort of a beacon in today’s music world? Someone that’s doing it right?

CB: Unfortunately, I don’t look into a lot of contemporary stuff. I find myself sticking to the things that I grew up listening to – more jazz-based stuff and classical music, which is more my kind of thing. In terms of today’s scene, I don’t know. There are some bands out there doing great things.

MF: Some of the statements you’ve made in interviews are very ambitious and that’s great to hear. You’ve mentioned wanting to play the main stage at Download Festival as one of your goals with the band. Is there a game plan in place for that?

CB: Yeah, just keep on fucking doing it. Tour harder, write better stuff with the band. I mean, just shoot for the top.

MF: The lyrics of The Amanuensis were written around what you called a “living story”. When you write an album like that, are you explicitly hoping that fans pick up on the story?

CB: Yes, in this case it was like a first attempt at something. I’d never really tried it before. The lyrics were written around a story, and at a certain point it became a little harder to put things in I suppose a lyrical context – the actual story that I was thinking about in my head.

And that was probably one of the most challenging parts and I certainly hope that anyone who’s actually checking out the lyrics can connect with the story there. Hopefully at the end of this tour we can put out something that has the story of the record as well as the lyrics, with extra artwork and stuff that illustrates everything. We’re trying to bring the story to life and share it with people.

Listen: Monuments – The Alchemist

MF: Was it a foregone conclusion that you would be writing the lyrics for the album? Was there a conversation where you were like, ‘I got this, guys’?

CB: I pretty much just shared my ideas for what I wanted to do. The story thing came together and I decided to run it by the guys like, ‘I’m gonna try this.’ And the stuff that I was coming up with worked for everybody. I basically had free reign to do whatever I wanted and I totally took advantage of that in a way that I feel really good about.

It was fun to try something I hadn’t done before and that was the most exciting part.

MF: You guys seem to revel in complexity – John mentioned how the complexity of Cloud Atlas was the perfect analog for the band. As you contributed almost all of the vocal parts for the album, was it hard to find your own space in a song when so much is happening?

CB: I don’t think it’s complicated. There are certainly songs that are more challenging than others. It’s like a puzzle, you know? Cracking the code. There’s definitely ways to deal with the music, but the whole thing is to not only figure out [the song] but also take it somewhere else that you think is special.

MF: You guys were one of the first acts confirmed for Soundwave. What have you got planned for the festival? Have you talked about it?

CB: We haven’t talked about in a way that’s like, ‘Alright, guys. Here’s the game plan. We’re gonna go out and do it like this.’ We know exactly what’s coming up and the more that we tour, the more we feel like we’ve got something locked down.

MF: How do you guys approach a festival set or a show where you’re playing to people who are perhaps unfamiliar with the band? Is there a special effort to convert newcomers or do you approach these gigs like any other?

CB: Definitely approach those gigs like any other. A gig is a gig, whether it’s 40 people in a room or 40,000 or whatever. We’re gonna play like we’re trying to reach out to everybody in the room.

MF: How familiar are you guys with Soundwave?

CB: Well, our drummer, Mike, he played there last year with Periphery. So we’ve all had to live vicariously through him.

MF: AJ Maddah was actually getting requests to see you guys added to the lineup. How aware are you guys of your Australian fan base?

CB: You know, I’m not too sure. We’ve had a lot of outpour, at least online, with Australian fans. So I guess we’ll find out what it’s like when we get there.

Monuments’ latest album, ‘The Amanuensis’, is available now. The band will soon be in the country as part of Soundwave 2015 – full details here.

Watch: Monuments – Origin of Escape (Lyric Video)

Soundwave Festival 2015

Saturday, 21st February & Sunday, 22nd February 2015
Bonython Park, Adelaide, South Australia
Tickets: Soundwave

Saturday, 21st February & Sunday, 22nd February 2015
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, Victoria
Tickets: Soundwave

Saturday, 28th February & Sunday, 1st March 2015
Olympic Park, Sydney, New South Wales
Tickets: Soundwave

Saturday, 28th February & Sunday, 1st March 2015
RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane, Queensland
Tickets: Soundwave

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