Electronic pop, garage rock, soul, funk, Americana, folk, experimental – there are plenty of words that can, and have, been used to describe NYC-based duo paris_monster. But Geoff Kraly (bass, modular synth) and Josh Dion (drums, keyboard synth, vocals) aren’t too concerned with how people describe them. “I guess there’s a lot of influences that come through that make it hard to pin down what you’d call us,” Kraly concedes. “Which – I kinda like that. I like our influences showing – it doesn’t matter to me what you call it, really.” Dion explains, “We’re still trying to find the right couple of words… but most of the time when people get extremely detailed about calling a style of music something, to me it just ends up sounding like something you’ve heard already but just another way to call the same thing something different, you know. I guess it really just falls under the alternative style.”
Kraly and Dion met over fifteen years ago. They’d both moved to New York City – Kraly from Upstate New York, Dion from Connecticut – to pursue music, and played together often in other people’s projects. paris_monster came to be when they were both looking to start a new project. Kraly thinks back, “I guess [we] liked playing together enough that we got to some point that we were both looking to start a new project and decided to join up.”
The most recent release from paris_monster is the single “Hot Canyon Air”, which follows “Moles” as the second track released off their upcoming debut album Lamplight (another single and video, “Andalusia”, will be out in November). The track “is supposed to feel like it’s set out west in a canyon”, Kraly offers, though they wrote it at home in New York. To date, paris_monster have released an EP, It Once Had Been Kind, in 2013, as well as a string of singles, and they’re understandably excited for their first full-length release. Dion agrees: “It feels good, artistically, to do something like that, rather than just one song here and there – it feels different to spend that kinda time on something.”
When asked how their sound has changed, Kraly says, “It’s a little moodier, it’s kinda dark, and it’s storytelling-based. It has a few instrumental pieces that hopefully set up a certain type of mood to kind of frame the songs and we’re really proud of it. It feels good to have a full-length, finally.” He acknowledges that though in today’s music business “it kinda doesn’t matter if you put out albums anymore”, it still feels great to do so because “that’s why people made albums, because they were these gathering of songs that made sense together, that told something, that had a significance together and that kinda tells the story of the band or the evolution of the band and whatever story the album tells.”
An artist has value in curation: choosing to share only the best, most representative pieces of their work with their audience in order to present the most complete picture of who they are and what they’re about. Kraly mentions that they’d initially recorded five other songs which ended up being cut from the album. Those tracks will eventually be released in some way, but for Lamplight, they were cut because “it felt like these seven songs with the three instrumentals, those worked as one unit better. I guess there’s power in deleting things to get to one unit.” When discussing how they chose which songs to include on the final album, Dion reflects that “every song has a color. Some of the other songs we had, you could just tell that they were a different animal, so once we took those away and focused on the similarities between the ones that made sense together, we were like ‘Oh, okay – this is the album.'” Kraly ruminated on wanting commonalities in the types of performances, production, and lyrical content on the album, and Dion further shared that while “sometimes our songs can be humorous”, Lamplight is “pretty serious.”
Typically, Dion will write the music and Kraly will write lyrics, though there’s some overlap and they’ll often switch up their approach when they need inspiration. Kraly recalls, “we’ll get together in the rehearsal room and Josh will show me the music he’s working on and I’ll give feedback and vice versa, Josh might write some lyrics that he hands to me that I can change, or not change, or whatever – and we’ve done some of the songs where I’ll write a lyric first and hand it to him, and then the opposite way, where he writes the music first and hands it over to me.” He mentions that some of the songs on Lamplight were created in the studio, “where we went in without much of a plan. Maybe the melodies and words were finished going in, but in terms of the performances, we figured it out while the take was rolling, which was fun, to keep it fresh that way.” They’ll often mix up how they play things live, and Dior shares, “Even last night, I can recall on many songs it being completely different. Our opener song, I remember from Chicago and Detroit, was completely different. And there’s an improv section where it sounded like a different song, which I like.”
Following a recent tour in Europe, paris_monster are currently on the road in the US supporting Louis Cole (Knower). They’ll head back to Europe in November and will return stateside beginning on New Year’s Eve, with dates stretching through February with Turkauz. An online release date for Lamplight hasn’t been set, though they anticipate it coming out in early 2019. With so many dates lined up overseas, Kraly feels there was “no reason to wait”, and they chose to have physical copies of Lamplight available at their shows.
For the most part, listeners have responded positively to what paris_monster is doing. When it comes to negative feedback, Dion admits that while he used to care what people thought, “I’ve just come too far in my life to care. I really, really don’t care now.” He adds that “The greatest thing you can do is create your own existence through music…. When you really put your all into a band, you’re creating your own universe – your sound and your songs and you’re telling your own story. If you’ve done that and you know what that is to do, even if you don’t like someone else’s music, there’s no room for hatred.” At the end of the day, he feels the key is to “remain level-headed regardless of your success”, regardless of who is commenting – negatively or positively – on what you’re doing, and says, “You just gotta… remain a vessel. Keep your eye on the prize. Whatever other cliche statement, I guess.”
For a full list of paris_monster’s upcoming tour dates, head to their Facebook page.