words: Brittany Long
Montaigne is back, better and more Complex than ever.
The Sydney singer-songwriter is getting ready to release the follow up to her five-time ARIA Award-winning top five debut, Glorious Heights, later this month. Girl’s Brittany Long caught up with her to discuss inspiration, touring, and why she is so passionate about crediting artists for their work.
Hi Jess, how are you?
Yeah I’m good.
So where do I find you today?
I’m at home at the moment, I live in Sydney so I’ve just been rock climbing, and I’m just making some toast now.
Well Congratulations on the release of Ready, can I just say what a fantastic song that is!
So can you tell me a bit about it? What’s the inspiration behind it?
Well when we first wrote the song, because we wrote it in a day, it was called 50 songs in five days. It’s this program that gets put on for artists and creatives to meet each other for the first time and work on, like finish a song in a day. So we were writing the song for an artist named Eliott who’s from Melbourne. We were just talking about how she’d just gone on international support tour and then came back home and felt like she was doing nothing with her life. We sort of discussed how absurd that was, that so many musicians come to feel that nothing they ever do is enough. Or, what is making progress when you’re doing this career. Like talking to her and listening to her sing I was like ‘you’re incredible, like you’re very good at what you do, and it’s amazing that you got that international support, like not everyone gets those’. I currently empathise with that, that feeling of not being satisfied with where you’re at, and also feeling like you deserve more. So we sort of started writing from that perspective, of like I feel like I deserve more than the opportunities that are being afforded to me right now, and I’m sort of ready to go get them! That was sort of initially the take home for it. But to me it’s kind of evolved into this activistic song, like an anthem for people trying to change the world to hear, to get them fired up to do what they need to do. I feel like that’s really important at the moment.
Yeah it definitely feels like that, it feels like that call to action to just get up and do something. I guess, it’s like you can change the world one song at a time. Music can be so powerful!
So where do you typically find inspiration for your music?
My life, just things that happen to me, and things I feel. I usually write about myself or something that is familiar to me. In terms of style and the type of imagery I use, just wracking my brain; I read a lot of books, I listen to a lot of podcasts, I watch movies. You know, there’s always some sort of creative input that I suppose I sort of chew on and then at some point, decide ‘yes’ and then poop it out into a beautiful song haha.
I think that right there is the perfect description of a creative isn’t it! I’m a photographer myself so I totally get where you’re coming from.
Awesome! Yeah I take everything that I’ve ever experienced consciously and subconsciously that’s what becomes variety within expression.
Yeah amazing! So can you tell me the idea behind calling your album ‘complex’, where did that name come from?
I think from the titular song. One of the first songs that got written is the titular song Complex, so I wrote that about Messiah complexes, that saviour complex I suppose is the broad term, it’s a more secular term. I wrote it about that and I was thinking about some people I knew who have complexes, and also what my complexes were, and also just the way that humans and the way they relate to each other is complex and just word every facet of the word that can exist in itself is a complex word, it’s polysemous it has multiple meanings. So I think from my perspective it was an apt title for the album, because a lot of the things I was tackling in the expression involved many contradictions, and the feeling of wanting a certain thing and seeing the path to it but also not being able to adhere to the path or to, just to be able to understand what your goal is but just to have no idea how to get to that goal, and just how bizarre that is. You know you can know things intellectually but not actually achieve them in like full body-soul and mind you know. So I think Complex is a title that just summed everything up conveniently.
Yeah definitely. Like one word but yet you’ve put so much hidden meaning and feeling into it, it’s truly a remarkable piece of work.
So, you’re going on tour again in November, how are you feeling about that?
Good, I’m excited. I love being onstage, so always excited, I do also love home so that will be tough, but I’m keen.
So what can fans expect from your upcoming tour? Is there anything special? Obviously the new album of course.
I think that’s probably the biggest point of difference, I haven’t really thought about it. I’m not up to there. I’ve definitely got some ideas brewing. Like I’ve got ideas about costume and a new musician maybe as part of the touring crew. Also how to perform these songs because they’re so multi-layered, layered with instrumentation that I do not have the money to have live on stage haha. So yeah, I guess it’s mostly just challenges I’m going to have to navigate, which might not necessarily be apparent or obvious onstage but will definitely be part of all the moving parts behind it.
Yeah absolutely. So like I said I’m a photographer myself, I understand that you’re really passionate and vocal about artists crediting photographers, can you tell me what drives that?
Well I think it’s just, just. I think it’s just to photographers to give them credit, because in this day and age with Instagram, and everyone having a phone and a device that takes photographs, there is less and less and less money in photography, and that is also an artform that we need, and that is important. We all know the way that economy and business works and you can’t continue to maintain business if there is no money coming through. One of the ways to maintain business is to do marketing, and again photographers don’t have many options for marketing except to just try and get their photos out there as much as possible so as many people can see them. If a musician uses someone’s photo, for free, usually, reposts them and doesn’t credit them, that is a total disservice to an adjacent economy to music and art, and to the people who actually are helping in that regard. Whose service or product they’re actually using. I think crediting your photographer just allows people, for that photographer to become very easily visible in a way that otherwise they would not be. It’s not necessarily 1000 people calling them up for work. But if like a f**king huge popstar like Halsey or Ed Sheeran or whoever puts a photo up and then credits a photographer, like I can only imagine the level of traffic to that person’s page or website or Instagram account or whatever. There’s gotta be a few people in there who wanna throw their money at that and that’s like important and it’s that flow on effect that determines people’s livelihood. So that’s why I think it’s really important.
Well us photographers appreciate artists like you so much Jess. I’m actually a photographer in a wheelchair, so things are often a bit more difficult for me. A lot of the photo pits are teeny tiny so I shoot from the barrier platforms, I lie on the floor, I do anything for my shots.
Honestly the way I say it to people, like you said it’s an economy, and half the time we’re not getting paid. I myself don’t get paid. But like it’s literally an @ symbol and tagging someone’s username but it makes a massive difference. That exposure when you’re working for free has the potential to lead you to a new client even.
Yeah absolutely, agreed.
So let’s go big. If you had the chance to tour with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Arcade Fire or David Byrne, or Björk, I think they’re my three.
If you were chatting to them side stage what’s something that you’d ask them?
I don’t really know, I haven’t really thought about that. I’ve never thought about what I’d ask them. Like if it was just like that one question.
Yeah if you could only ask one single thing.
I feel like I’d just want to hang with them and just get a feel for them. I don’t feel like I have a burning desire to know about any one thing about these people. I think if you wind back a year or two ago I definitely would have. I think I would have asked something along the lines of would you consider yourself as introverted or extroverted or how much space between the two, and is it difficult for you to get onstage or do you thrive or is there an in between there. I’d be interested to know about their confidence levels about what they do, and if previously they’ve had difficulties with confidence and if that has changed and what happened to make that happen, like that whole trajectory of, I guess their belief in themself, I’d be interested in that. But I don’t know that I’m so curious anymore about that with these people. Because I’ve kind of done a lot of my research and my reading on that kind of thing and, I’ve also found myself in this place where I am myself self-confident and can see what the trajectory has been and that is kind of enough for me now. But a couple years ago I definitely think I maybe would’ve asked that.
Wow! So now it’s time for what I’m calling fan faves in a minute. I’m just going to fire them at you. Ready. Favourite;
Movie: Swiss Army Man
Artist: David Byrne
Biggest inspiration: I actually don’t know the answer, probably David Byrne again
Dream place to tour: I’d love to do the whole of Europe thing one day, I think that would be fun
Disney Film: My immediate response, the first thing that comes to mind is Tangled, so let’s go with Tangled.
Amazing! Well I’d like to really thank you Jess for taking the time out to speak to me today.
No, thank you.
I’ve had the chance to listen to your entire album and I may have only played it like five times in the past two days, I love it.
I wish you all the very best and can’t wait to hopefully come see and shoot one of your shows one day.
Thankyou. Hell yeah!
Watch: Montaigne – Ready
Tickets to Montaigne’s upcoming Complex Tour can be purchased here.
COMPLEX AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES
Friday November 1 The Beery, Terrigal N.S.W
Thursday November 7 The Gov, Adelaide S.A.
Friday November 8 Badlands, Perth, W.A.
Saturday November 9 Mojo’s, North Perth, W.A.
Thursday November 14 Solbar, Maroocyhdore, Q.L.D
Friday November 15 The Zoo, Fortitude Valley, Q.L.D
Saturday November 16 The Northern, Byron Bay, N.S.W
Thursday November 21 Tap House, Bendigo, VIC
Friday November 22 Torquay Hotel, Torquay, VIC
Saturday November 23 The Croxton, Thornbury, VIC
Thursday November 28 UC Hub, Canberra, A.C.T
Friday November 29 The Metro, Sydney, N.S.W
Saturday November 30 UOW UniBar, Gwynneville, Wollongong, N.S.W