Music Interview: Moneen has a religious experience

By Kate Foote

Religious experiences have come to signify increasingly bizarre things. The term has recently been used to describe the emotion felt upon discovering a grilled cheese sandwich with the likeness of the Virgin Mary on it. However, the archetypal religious experience, many would argue, was Moses’ encounter with the burning bush that spoke to him in the desert.

Moneen’s Kenny Bridges had a similar experience while taking photos in the wilderness north of Toronto in search of inspiration for the cover of their upcoming album.

“I just kept seeing all these single trees out in these pure, lonely-looking snowy fields,” explains Bridges. “Little by little [the ideas] started coming together and then I stumbled upon this one bush that was such a vibrant red.”

Although the discovery of the burning bush struck Bridges, granting the album the suggestive title The Red Bush was unlikely to fly with record executives, or even his bandmates for that matter. Luckily for Bridges, divine inspiration soon hit.

“It just kind of struck me,” he says. “The world is so big and there’s so many things going on, but to that one tree that’s standing there, that’s all that really matters. If it’s not there, then that’s a piece of the puzzle that’s gone. So, long story short, I saw a friggin’ bush, thought it was cool, couldn’t call the album The Red Bush, so I called it The Red Tree.”

Armed with the wisdom of the burning bush, Bridges returned to the promised land to work on the new album–an arduous undertaking which took nearly a year to write. While Moneen is known for their proclivity to produce innovative music, as evidenced by the 10-minute epic, “The Last Song I Will Ever Want to Sing” on their most recent album, none of their previous releases had taken over a month to write. After incessant touring, they decided it was time to write a new album without stringent time restraints.

“We’d play shows here and there just to make sure we didn’t go insane, but we really just let this record write itself,” Bridges explains of the band’s shift in songwriting. “It was stressful at times because we didn’t know what direction we were going in at all, but we didn’t want to put any borders on the new stuff.”

In fact, writing their own material is, in itself, a change for Moneen since their last release, the Switcheroo EP with Alexisonfire. As the name suggests, the two bands covered a selection of each others’ songs, while attempting to maintain their own style in the process. Having decided early on to do “Accidents,” selecting a second song proved more difficult.

“Picking the other song was impossible,” laughs Bridges. “We wanted to do ‘.44 Calibre,’ but when we learned it and started, we were like, ‘dude, we can’t turn this into a Moneen song.’”

Attempting to perform “Water Wings” also proved unsuccessful. Forgetting about the project until the afternoon before the recording session didn’t help either. After trashing several ideas, Moneen finally settled on “Sharks and Danger.”

“We ended up [choosing ‘Sharks’] because it’s a song I can really relate to, [it’s] a song that we would maybe end up writing at some point,” says Bridges. “Not with all the screaming and everything, but as far as all the delay and spacing.”

Ultimately this was a wise choice for Moneen. As anyone who has heard both versions can attest to, the raspy, almost-mechanical screaming as performed by Moneen is downright hilarious. The Switcheroo allowed two of Canada’s most talented bands to poke fun at each other, and themselves. Hearing another band perform their songs, according to Bridges, was a surreal, yet enjoyable, experience.

“It was weird, but really cool,” he remarks. “You’d just never think that you’d hear someone doing your songs, so when you do hear someone doing them and they’re done really well, it’s pretty cool.”

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