by Silke Hartung

Saint Martins: Christchurch Classics

by Silke Hartung

Saint Martins: Christchurch Classics

Ōtautahi trio Saint Martins includes singer-songwriter Monique Aiken, producer/songwriter Ryan Fisherman and bassist Chris Wethey. Their debut single, the delicate Daily Grind, is a harbinger of a debut EP planned for later this year. The trio recorded the foundation of the songs in a yurt and completed production at Fisherman’s home studio. Silke Hartung finds out more. 

Monique, you disappeared from the national stage after the release of your solo single Lovers in 2017. What have you been up to? 

I met Ryan in 2018 when I moved back to Christchurch and started writing and playing some shows with him. I guess my focus has been on this project which has been a slow burn. Some highlights over the last five years have been playing on RNZ Sofa Sessions with Melody Thomas and then again with Jesse Mulligan for First Song, singing Words which I wrote following the Christchurch mosque attacks. Recording the demos for our upcoming EP in a yurt over in Purau, Banks Peninsula was a dream. Also playing a series of shows in intimate settings was lovely. I’ve started writing a new album and feeling motivated to release our EP and play some live shows this year.

How did you pick the band name?

Monique: Well, it’s an answer to the classic Christchurch question of, “What school did you go to?” When Ryan and I met up for our first jam he was working from his home studio in Saint Martins. As we got talking we realised that we had grown up together at St Martins Primary School and my mum had been his teacher. Chris also went to St Martins, so once he came on board it just seemed like the obvious choice. Something worth mentioning is that it was a drum performance by Chris at a school assembly that inspired a young Ryan to pursue music. So it was our destiny to form a band I guess!

So early schooling provides a link and name, but how did you meet as musicians?

Monique: I met Ryan again as an adult at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton. We both opened for a Wellington artist called Nicole Andrews. I had just moved back from Auckland and was looking to build a music community in Christchurch. I was so impressed by Ryan it took me months to summon the courage to ask him for a jam.

I’ve known Chris my whole life. Our families were good friends and spent every school holiday together at music camps, which looking back seems full on, but we loved it, I think. Chris and Ryan knew each other through the music scene so it all came together easily.

How did that turn into, ‘Hey, let’s be a band’?

Ryan: We just all enjoyed being around one another. Monique and I had started working on some songs and we wanted to figure out some live arrangements and ways to perform together. Once Chris joined the band the three of us played a few low-key shows and house concerts to test the waters. People seemed to enjoy our music and would comment on how we complemented each other, so we decided to make it official and become a band.

What was the initial aesthetic concept for Saint Martins and how did it turn into what it is?

Monique: I am an introvert and quite shy so social media has been my biggest barrier. I guess in the beginning I would just post random pictures and write something because I felt like I had to. Then it clicked that I’m a visual person and I see imagery when I write songs. I started enjoying the process of capturing those visuals and sharing my inner world outside of songwriting. I’m also lucky to have very talented creative friends who help me execute my ideas.

What specific talents does each of you bring to the band’s creative process?

Ryan: Most of our songs start from ideas or concepts that Monique came up with. Then Chris and I  will play around with arrangement and production ideas.

Monique has an amazing voice and ear and can come up with interesting melodies or harmonies, which is something I struggle with when writing a song. Chris is an ex-jazz school musician who writes and produces a lot of music, so has plenty of great ideas to bring to the table. I attempt to assist in everything from songwriting to recording and production. Luckily we seem to have everything covered between the three of us, haha!

Who came up with Daily Grind?

Monique: Daily Grind speaks to the turbulent nature of navigating a long-distance relationship and the longing that constantly draws you out of the present moment. I wrote it as the relationship was falling apart due to my boyfriend’s job. Hence the name. The song is best described as joyfully melancholic, there is a sense of hopefulness that accompanies the sad lyrical content.

What’s coming up next for you, and longer-term?

Ryan: We are hoping to release an EP towards the end of 2023. I received the NewMusic Development fund that NZ On Air offer, so it was an amazing opportunity for us to kick-start our recording journey. We will definitely be releasing a few more singles before the year is over. The plan is to keep writing and recording as we go. Long term we would love to record an album and get it pressed to vinyl!

Fans of what other bands do you reckon will enjoy Saint Martins?

Ryan: I feel like anyone who follows or supports our individual projects will align with the music that Saint Martins creates, especially with our live shows. We all have a very similar taste in music. There are a lot of folk-inspired elements that we draw from. We love artists like Iron & Wine, Gillian Welch, Elliot Smith, Julia Jacklin, or Damien Rice. The list could go on, haha, but If you are a fan of any of those artists then you might like Saint Martins.

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