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By Silke Hartung

Daniel Armstrong & The Monsoons, October 24, Whammy Bar

by Silke Hartung

Daniel Armstrong & The Monsoons, October 24, Whammy Bar

Since the release of their self-titled debut album earlier this year, Daniel Armstrong & The Monsoons have been busy playing around Australasia and Europe. With further overseas touring on the horizon the alt-rock five-piece will be playing a lot over the next six months, to warm up for that and promote their second album, due out early 2020. Catch them live for their double single release party at Auckland’s Whammy Bar on October 24. NZM caught up with frontman Daniel Armstrong ahead of the show.

The press release promises “we will laugh, we will probably cry” together for one night at your upcoming gig. What’s your thought process when compiling a live setlist? 

We change our set every time we play. We like to write new interludes and connections for each song, almost like a medley of our songs. Sometimes you know a venue and know the type of crowd that will show up, so you can judge the intimacy of the show. If the crowd is into the quicker stuff then we’ll keep that going and try and keep the intensity up.

daniel armstrong gigIt generally seems easier to write a sincerely sad song than making a happy one not sound cheesy or an angry one, not over the top. Which comes easiest to you?

I think songs shouldn’t be categorised as happy or sad, although they are, it’s just a feeling or a subject matter that means something to you, people will interpret them however they want. I guess what comes easy to me is to write about social or current feelings. I can’t write love songs, they always come out sounding bitter… but maybe I’m just bitter, or false sounding unless it’s the love I have for my pet pig, Seamus. Then I seem to get away with it! 

You’ve been performing in Europe and Australia this year. How different were the audiences from place to place?

The difference I find with Australia, US and Europe, compared to NZ, is that there are scenes of music and art in each city, there’s passion about music and art among other creative outlets. I think it might be a cultural thing. For instance, if a band is playing on a Tuesday night in London or Dublin that no one has heard of, people will go along, because it’s a new band and they love live music. It’s also free to get into a lot of venues in Europe which is way more inviting to students and music lovers. I’ve asked venues to go down that avenue here but they don’t seem to want to try it. There is so much talent in Auckland that gets ignored maybe because of the entry price, maybe because they don’t get support from established artists or indie labels etc… maybe it is just a cultural thing?

Both your new singles have a currency, can you tell us a little about them?

Brainwashed is about a general shift in social behaviour, for the better and some for the worse. Living in NZ is very interesting in that it’s maybe far away from wider scale problems, but it’s not exempt from them. I wanted to talk about forming your own opinion on things and not being influenced so much by social media opinions which can be really hard if that’s where you’re getting your information.  

Rule Of It was written a while ago, when it was just myself and a drummer Nick Biltz. I played it to The Monsoons and they made it their own, Garth, Owen and Steve are really great at shaping songs and giving their own little twist in them. I kept meeting people with no idea what they wanted out of life and having every excuse in the book why they couldn’t do the things they wanted to do. From my point of view I couldn’t understand why they let their own ideals get in the way of very possible things… That might just be a London thing though, haha!

Why do you think we don’t have more songs about political subjects? 

Maybe because NZ has a really cool Prime Minister, with no complaints so far. I guess in the NZ mainstream and in mainstream indie/hip-hop/alt circles it’s not tackled. That said, I’ve seen quite a few cool artists in Auckland that can be quite political, Echo Children, Eliott Witters, and I’m sure there are more.

You just released an album earlier this year and you’re already well into planning for the next one to be out in early 2020. For fans of album number 1, how will this one be different? 

The new album will be very different. I really like being part of a band that moves fast. Garth (guitarist) and I write all the time, we both get bored playing the same songs all the time, so we like to keep it going. The new stuff is way more psychedelic and takes influence from older artists like Sharon Jones, Nina Simone, Velvet Underground, Talking Heads… and we’ve really honed our sound. We will probably make the third album even more different. We have all the tracks ready to go, we recorded it at a really cool new studio in Devonport with Martin Thomas called Two Dogs Studio. I highly recommend that place, Martin is so easy to work with and really gets what we’re trying to achieve.