Sonic Masters Rare Monk Prove Portland Still Holds Indie Rock Secrets (INTERVIEW)

A sonic joy, Portland, Oregon-based Rare Monk have delivered a focused and evolved indie-rock proclamation on their new LP Never Really Over. Fusing tasteful arrangements and emotional vocal charisma, Never Really Over is an alt-rock triumph from start to finish; one of Glide’s essential discoveries in the past year.

As we navigate our new direction in the modern world we look to insightful and inviting sounds, pleasing audio arrangements that tickle our tendrils and provoke deep thought. When we truly reflect on the world that we have forged and the many aspects of existence that have been blatantly disregarded, we may become overwhelmed with our current position in the universe. Diving into Rare Monk’s new record, and its lush and foreboding complexion, with lyrics that tint colorful patterns of tone and Orwellian poetry contouring the very status quo that we have used to placate our selfish directives. Rare Monk urges us to breathe deep, set intention, and slow down. “Never Really Over” is an illuminated yet perfectly comforting and familiar brand of rock fusion. Glide was happy to sit down and chat with them about the new record, their influences, what’s ahead, and much more…

Tell us about your new record Never Really Over. what was the recording process like?

We started writing the album shortly after releasing our previous full-length “A Future” towards the beginning of 2018. And we went into the studio in the Summer of 2019 to start recording. We ended up writing most of the album during the six months leading up to the studio dates. The first three or four songs that we wrote for the album didn’t end making the cut because they didn’t fit as well as the songs we finished in quick succession.

We recorded with Victor Nash at Destination: Universe! over the course of about 10-12 days with another 5 days of mixing. We were aiming for a real organic, yet lush indie rock sound. I was sending Victor a bunch of inspiration for the sound we were looking for before we go into the studio. This included songs like: “Red Eyes” and “Pain” from The War On Drugs; “Mythological Beauty” and “Shark Smile” by Big Thief; “Sytar Roving” and “Sugar For The Pill” by Slowdive; also songs by Cigarettes After Sex, Lower Dens, Tame Impala, and Hovvdy.

We took our time getting the guitar tones just right, setting up what we lovingly called the “Quad Chorus” consisting of two Stereo guitar combos known for their on-board chorus and reverb channels, set up with separate mics for each speaker. We recorded and worked on several songs a day rather than tracking all the drums at once, then guitars, and so on. This kept everything fresh while in the studio and made sure each track got our full attention. Backing harmonies and synth parts were sprinkled and worked on throughout the process and used to fill out music.

Overall we had a great experience. We came prepared and were able to also allow time to experiment and make sure we were capturing everything we wanted to. Victor is really easy to work with in the studio and opens up a great atmosphere to create in his space. His input keeps us moving forward and feeling confident about the work we are doing.

Can you give us any insight into your creative and songwriting process? (does your songwriting process tend to vary or do you have a ‘go to’ method? 

We have always been a very collaborative band since the beginning. Most songs start with a riff or idea that we take to our practice space and jam on until we have the foundation of a song. Everyone contributes their own parts and when we get to a place where we think the song might be worth pushing further, we record a voice note and share it to the band email. Then Dorian writes the lyrics and melodies in the following weeks and then we write and rewrite around what he comes back with.

For this album, Hugh contributed the majority of the riffs and ideas that went on to become songs on the album. He was stuck at home after getting his appendix removed and ended up writing a prolific amount of songs and ideas. Most of that material provided the inspiration and cohesion that we needed to finish the album.

From a lyrical standpoint, Dorian really focused on what we were all going through politically at the time and ended up drawing on some darker narratives, he says:

“When these songs were written the future had not yet arrived. By no means is this album a gloomfest, but at its core is a central thread of ever-present looming dread at the end of the world. Of the bursting of bubbles, of the decline and devolution of America back into the dark ages, of book burnings, witch hunts, of vapors only releasable by exsanguination. Of a surveillance state, of the demonization of science, of persecution at scale, of the normalization of greed, idiocy, cruelty, and death. It’s insanity that in the time it’s taken us to release (to be fair we’ve been slow) so many of these at-the-time-hypothetical fears have already been realized. Worst year ever. Hope is definitely not lost, it’s just become more difficult. We’ll get through and hope the songs help.”

It’s been a challenging year for the collective consciousness — how has that affected your creative process? 

To be honest we haven’t got much done at all this year as a band. We haven’t been able to rehearse because of the pandemic and we have been focusing on getting the album out and closing that chapter so we can move onto the next. We were able to start getting back together for a couple months in the summer, but when things got bad again we decided to take a break until things were safe. Now Rick and Hugh have their second vaccines so we look forward to getting back to it.

Hugh put out an album with his solo project Soft Cheese around the same time as our album, it’s amazing

Please share some of your earlier influences?

Rick and I grew up listening to the late nineties and early aughts alternative rock radio in California, but Hugh and Dorian were listening to way cooler music. Hugh was growing up listening to UK punk bands and Dorian everything from classic violin concertos to the Flaming Lips

What’s ahead? 

We have some material that is almost finished. WE planned to finish it and record an EP last year, but now we are aiming to get into the studio before the summer to record 5 or 6 tracks for an ep. We also have several b-sides that we are thinking about releasing from the “Never Really Over” sessions.

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