In 2020 we witnessed so many talented artists who choose to launch their careers. From the moment we heard Mone’s voice, we knew that we are onto something unique. She totally blew our minds away with her second single ‘Rat’ that managed to reach the top spot on our Weekly Music Chart and we just named her latest single ‘Big Brown Bear’ as the single of the week on New Music Sunday.
Mone describes her sound as a strange mix of dark folk and art-pop and we couldn’t agree more. She has an amazing mix of sound and visuals that took us places. We feel that it’s just the beginning for Mone. Each song comes as a statement and we can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for us.
We are so thrilled so share our conversation with one and only – Mone.
Congratulations on your upcoming release! Can you tell us about the journey you had up until your latest single ‘Big brown bear’?
Thank you very much. In the last year or two, I’ve been active in the Berlin underground folk scene. With my producers Gidon Carmel and Cameron James Laing I’ve been working on my debut album ‘Crocodile Kisses’, that I’m recording at the Famous Gold Watch Studio, a gorgeous studio that is becoming the basis of many underground Berlin folk musicians. Of this debut album, I’ve released two singles and now ‘Big Brown Bear’ is the third.
Before settling in Berlin to be a musician, I studied art in my country of origin, the Netherlands.
What does ‘Big Brown Bear’ mean to you?
‘Big Brown Bear’ is a special song that showed me that sharing certain struggles through music can make them easier to handle, and can turn them into a way of connecting to others.MONE
What was going on in your life when you wrote the song?
‘Big Brown Bear’ is a song born in a time of #metoo. It started as a reflection on my own experiences with sexual harassment and the experiences of my friends. It is a song about how complicated the relationship to one’s own body can be – the wish to simplify this relationship, shed the layers of human reflection and simply be like an animal.
I love watching nature documentaries, especially when I’m sad, and found myself envying the animals I was watching. The big brown bear, the baboon, the fishes and the birds. I envied the shamelessness and freedom in which they move their bodies. Shaking my booty, yawning widely; I wanted to be able to do all of that with the same ease as they could, unbothered by questions of how people would regard my body and mostly, unbothered by how I myself regard my body.
Despite this sombre theme, the song doesn’t only show the loneliness of the struggle but develops into a warm, string-laden embrace with a choir of friends. Singing this song with my friends, side by side, was so joyful. It showed me the power and warmness of sharing and made me realize that we are not alone in our struggles.
‘Big Brown Bear’ comes with a very cinematic music video. Tell us more about the idea behind it. How did you feel while shooting it?
The music video for ‘Big Brown Bear’ emphasizes the contrast between the clean, calculated human world and the organic, chaotic nature. I wanted to visualize my wish of reconnecting with nature in the most direct way: by physically becoming a part of it. The initial idea came from a key line in the song (below) which is a reference to being dead and buried.
Among the worms and the snails is where I’ll lose my shameMONE » Big BRown Bear
Me and Nick Scholey, an amazing videographer from Berlin, tried to create intimate shots that make this act tangible and sensory for the viewer and leaves them with a vague feeling of sadness and satisfaction, wondering if this is a desperate act of loneliness or a beautiful way of going back to where we came from.
Honestly, rolling around in the mud felt incredible. It was one of the hottest days of the year, the mud was so cool and soft and I really enjoyed being allowed to get my spotless white suit all dirty. Despite it being a controlled video-environment, it definitely had the desired effect of being liberating in some way.
I have a fascination with the more animalistic side of humans.MONE
So far you have released 3 singles ‘Crocodile Kisses’, ‘Rat’ and now ‘Big Brown Bear’. They all have an animal mentioned in their title. What is the hidden meaning behind this concept?
I have a fascination with the more animalistic side of humans. I think that is why animals are natural symbols for me to turn to. I use them to create characters in my songs, symbolize certain feelings or create certain atmospheres. The baby dove in ‘Crocodile Kisses’ is a symbol of newborn peace. The title itself is a wordplay on the expression Crocodile Tears. Rat is sort of the spirit-animal of the protagonist in the song ‘Rat’. Sometimes there isn’t even much symbolism going on: the bear and baboon I sing about in ‘Big Brown Bear’ is literally the animals I admired in a nature documentary and that’s why I wrote about them.
Would it be correct to say that you are challenging the audience while pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable and beautiful?
I definitely hope I am. My music isn’t always ‘easy-listening’ because I try to be honest foremost, and beauty only comes second. If a song is about anger, I will try to make my audience feel that anger rather than sing it beautifully. Of course, there’s lots of beautiful music about anger, sadness or madness, but my way of expressing myself is sometimes more direct and because of that not always so easy to listen to.
Your music videos are minimalistic but have the dark side. Can you tell us more about the concepts behind ‘Crocodile Kisses’ and ‘Rat’?
The video for ‘Crocodile Kisses’ is filmed in a taxidermy workshop. Making something dead look alive is what they do in a taxidermy workshop. When you are not ready to let go of your pet when they die you can just stuff them and kind of pretend they are still alive. I feel that state of denial is something that happens in love or life sometimes too when you are not ready to accept certain truths yet. Being surrounded by animals was also a nice way to introduce all of the animal characters in the album.
The video was shot during the first Corona lockdown. I created the concept, directed and edited my own video, working together with one trusted friend, Floor Milou Smit, behind a 100 euro camera.
The primary focus for the video was simply to adhere to the song’s core attributes; to be chaotic, laden with attitude, to present itself with a gritty and dirty facade, and to throw the audience into a few minutes of mania. The loss of my two front teeth due to injury pushed the video in an even more mad and playful direction.
The way you pronounce the word ‘Rat’ sounds more like ‘Rot’. Was that intentional?
First of all, how amazing that you’ve noticed this detail. That makes me smile cause it’s quite a funny story. So actually I do not once mention the word ‘rat’ in the song ‘Rat’ at all. I say ‘rot’ indeed: ‘left my body in the dirt and left it there to rot’. The title Rat evolved because my drummer (and one of the producers) Gidon Carmel mistook the word ‘rot’ for ‘rat’ when I first showed him the song. He actually based the very distinctive drum arrangements that are so important to the song on the image of a rat being chased in the city. I loved this image because it suits the song perfectly, so I decided to stick with it.
You are recording music at The Famous Gold Watch. Would you say that the mood, history and the energy of the building are influencing your music?
You feel like you enter a different world when you enter the studio, a world where time doesn’t really exist, weirdness is celebrated and surreal things happen. Exploring the abandoned basements is an exciting and scary trip where I’ve discovered perfectly preserved animals bones, fungus infected spiders, leopard slugs and a room full of spades that must’ve been there for years, untouched, given the incredible amount of dust and spider webs on them. One of those spades I actually used in the Big Brown Bear video. The actual studio, however, is decorated incredibly beautifully and attentively by it’s owner, Cameron James Laing. It feels like a kind of 20’s jazz club, with lush interior, beautiful lightning and a cocktail bar in the singing booth. The Famous Goldwatch Studio is rough and dark yet lush and warm. It’s the perfect home for the sweet, fun weirdos in my songs.
Can you tell us more about the concept for your debut album ‘Crocodile Kisses’ and do you already know when it will be released?
‘Crocodile Kisses’ is essentially the diary of a relationship and my reflections in that time on love, desire and heartbreak. I want to give a raw and intimate view on the messy, dark and beautiful processes that happen in the human mind when being in love, when struggling, when being sad or angry or all of those things at the same time.
What does it mean for you to be releasing music during this historic time?
I believe it requires a flexible and patient attitude and creative solutions to not get too frustrated about plans changing and dreams being cancelled. My first single release show was cancelled, as was the tour connected to it. The two video shoots were postponed and their concepts had to be changed because of Corona-related reasons. It is frustrating to lose some of the fruits of my labor, but there are things more important in life than everything going according to plan. I’m very grateful the people close to me are still okay and I live in a country that offers different ways of support..
Finding creative solutions can be fun too: since playing concerts is quite uncertain now, the Big Brown Bear video – alongside the debut single ‘Made For You’ by my friend Olivia Void – premiered in a cinema, with everyone seated three seats apart. For 4 minutes I felt like a true movie star.
What do you want to achieve with your music?
I want to move people and make them feel less alone.
Music to me is essentialMone
Where do ideas for songs come from? Tell us more about your creative process.
My basic rule for songwriting is: if it moves me, I’m onto something. For me, the process of writing a song starts with playing around with my voice and guitar or piano in a very loose way. I generally find one specific line or melody that touches my heart and will sing lots of gibberish around it. Later I listen back to that gibberish and write down the first words or sentences that come to mind. This to me feels like a way of writing that is rooted in the subconscious and a method of dragging out a kind of poetry that keeps me engaged with my own work, for I often do not know exactly what a song is about until long after it’s finished.
Do you have a song, that when you hear it, you’d say, “I wish I’d written that”?
Heaven is ‘Empty’ by Aldous Harding. She describes things in a very specific yet alienation way and I love the images she creates so much. “If a big, cold bird tried to bring me a baby / I feel I would get on his back / Kissing his neck / (…) / And whisper softly / I don’t want entry / That place is empty”
To me those lines are so incredibly beautiful.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
There’s many people I’d love to collaborate with. At the moment I’m very excited about the spark of the idea that Freddie Dickson and I had recently, which is to write a murder ballad together.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and 2021?
I will be releasing two more singles with videos and then my debut album ‘Crocodile Kisses’ in the beginning of 2021. I’m busy writing new songs as well and I am getting a fixed band together to be well prepared when I can tour again.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
It’s very confusing times for most of us and I hope you are all hanging in there. And if you feel like you’re going a bit crazy, know you are not alone.