Trying to get noticed as an indie band in Australia usually goes in hand in hand with more than a few compromises, some minor, some scarring for the rest of your life and not all of them artistic. Montpelier however are a band who defy this unfortunate trend, having not only garnered praise from press and industry alike, but hooked in big name American producer Kevin Augunas (Cold War Kids, Edward Sharpe & The Zeros) to record and produce their latest EP.
Listening to their music it all becomes clear. Sporting a diverse range of influences spanning from the uplifting pop rock of acts such as Elton John or Coldplay all the way through to the adventurous and introspective indie of bands like Death Cab For Cutie and Doves, Montpelier aren’t afraid of walking in the shoes of those who have come before them while always trying to tread new ground.
Eager to get to the bottom of this story and expecting to find a trail of lost innocence, integrity and anal virginity, I caught up with singer/bassist Greg Chiapello and instead uncovered a tale of chance encounters and unbridled enthusiasm. You can’t always get what you want I guess.
Music Feeds: So tell me about how you guys ended up working with Kevin Augunas?
Greg Chiapello: Well, Andrew sort of took the initiative to go over and suss out South By South West, just on his own back. At that stage he just wanted to learn more about what was going on in the industry, and obviously it would be quite beneficial to the band, so he just went over. He didn’t really have any plans (laughs). But yeah, just from going out and meeting people in bars and all that sort of thing, we ended up getting led to Kevin.
He met this girl in a bar in Austin, and they got on pretty well and she told him he should come meet her in New York if he made it out there. Turns out the address she gave him to meet her was her office, so he rocks up and it turns out she works for a group that manages some of the bigger producers in America. Next thing you know she’s asking for the band’s demos and putting them on the loudspeaker through the office. People are coming in going ‘who’s this, who’s this’, and Andrew’s feeling a bit blown away by it all.
Anyway she sent off our demos to a few producers she had in mind so Andrew then went off on a trip around America to meet them all. We ended up choosing Kevin, if you can say we really had that much of choice, because out of all the produces we thought he was the best. At the same time he was surprisingly keen to work on our music, and willing to work with an independent band with an absolutely independent budget (laughs), and that was exactly what we needed.
MF: What was it about how he produces that attracted you to work with though?
GC: Oh… well in terms of his work I think what drew us to Kevin was basically just how well he records sounds and captures the natural sound of an instrument. We really wanted the album to sound organic and natural and I think that’s really come across in the work we’ve done. We’re just stoked, really excited to finally get it out and see what people think.
MF: Where did you record?
GC: We recorded in North Hollywood in this place called Fairfax Studios, which just blew us away hey, it was like no studio we had seen before, just massive. It was an old soundstage for television, so it’s this one big room with everything in it and it’s just like this museum of beautiful recording equipment you know. You had the sound desk from Abbey Road and all these wonderful instruments that some of our idols have played on, it was just amazing you know, really really exciting.
MF: With all the work you’ve done in the studio, how are you shaping up for the upcoming tour?
GC: That’s something we’ve really taken pride in since we got back, really putting hard work into our live show and bringing that up for the EP launch. I guess it’s taken a while to release it but I think it’s prefect timing cos I think we’re really finding ourselves on the stage right now.
MF: How are you feeling about having to face life on the road again? Anxious? Excited?
GC: Well, this is our biggest tour so far, and we’re just really excited for it as well as the opportunity to share the EP with people from other cities and all that sort of thing.
MF: Anything special planned you can let us in on?
GC: Every show we try to plan some special moments in there and this tour will be the pinnacle of that and we’ll really try to push what we do forward in the best way we can. I will say watch Johnny on the drums though, but yeah I can’t really tell you anymore than that, other than if you come to the show you’ll understand.
MF: How do you guys deal with each other on the road, any issues with cabin fever?
GC: Being in the same fucking house over in LA for a month was a good test of that. What came out of it is that we can get on and we can be mates and we know when to give each other space and all that sort of thing, we can certainly tolerate each other.
MF: How do you feel about some of the labels that have been thrown at you, like ‘piano-indie’ for instance, do you feel any of them capture what you’re trying to do?
GC: Piano Indie? (laughs). I mean yeah, we don’t really have much in mind about classifying ourselves or what we’re doing.
MF: How would you describe the music then?
GC: I’d rather let it speak for itself but if I had to I guess at the core of it, the music is driven by pop melodies. We take pride in our melodies, which is something we really focus on as a band, having strong melodies. But again with trying to put a label on it at this stage it’s a pretty free environment when were’ writing and we’re not really putting any boundaries on it cos we’ve only been together for a year.
The way I think about it is right now it’s just the four us coming together to fuse our different playing styles, ideas and tastes together and whatever comes from that comes from that. We’re not trying to push it into like ‘piano-indie’ or whatever, we’re just trying to do what we do, you know stay natural, which is good cos it’ keeps things sort of exciting and creative from day to day.
MF: Well with the EP done and dusted, when can we expect the album?
GC: We’re not sure about that yet, we’re actually going to start recording during the tour. We’ve got three days off and we’ll be down with our producer down Sydney way, sort of starting to track on the new record. At the moment we’re trying to focus on four tracks, but we’re still very open about where it can go.