If you’re looking for an injection of fresh energy dictated by some serious love for a broad variety of music influences – think rock, soul, a tinge of psychedelia and more than a bit of punk – look no further than MUNKY. The infectious enthusiasm the Dublin quartet puts in their stage appearance has recently shown its potential to translate to the studio with the 2019 release of their EP “Un, Deux, Trois, Cat”, and when covid-19 threw a spanner in they works they showed their versatility and ability to embrace any situation by incorporating lockdown visuals in their latest music video. It is pretty clear that MUNKY are a rather unstoppable force – which is good, because once you’ve seen what they’ve got to offer, you’re certainly not going to want them to stop.
Q. Tell us something about what inspires your creative process, and the mood you try to create with your music.
Conor: So, usually it involves us meeting in our beautiful space down at Yellow Door rehearsals, and kinda jamming out bits, and maybe getting a song structure hammered out.
Sam: Yeah, the mood isn’t something we actively seek, but more so, something that reveals itself in this lovely little moment of synergy when we hit the pocket of a jam.
Zac: Wow, that’s a big question. So many things inspire our creative process, it’s hard to maybe isolate an individual source. Mostly as Conor and Sam have said it’s jamming. My main thing would be chasing the feeling that other art or music has stirred in me. I listen to a bunch of different styles of music, which definitely is a source of inspiration. Recently it’s been Tom Waits, Mulatu Astake and Dua Lipa.
Q. How would you describe your sound in one sentence?
Zac: Iggy Pop and Roy Ayers wrestling intensely over a packet of fruit pastilles at 4am in a coastal Spanish town…
Q. Your music is quite unique,with elements of punk, soul, and psychedelic rock. You’ve also described yourselves as former emo kids. How did you come about this blend of different influences?
Conor: I think we all have such broad music tastes that when we all came together it was inevitable that it would sound unique, but there are some overlappings within the Venn diagram. Personally I have a big love for prog rock and funk, which don’t really have an intersection but I try my best to blend my two loves together. Which i suppose results in my psychedelic funk sound, that’s not funkadelic.
Sam: I guess it’s just our natural development from when we started. How can we make this groovier, and that edgier? Let’s bring Tool to a CHIC gig and see how they react.
Zac: I suppose it’s a combination of diverse tastes and a curious imagination. Asking questions like what would it sound like if the Cure made a track with Marvin Gaye? Experimenting with textures and contrasting styles in music. We each bring a different influence to a jam, and find sweet spots in the middle. That’s generally where the magic happens. The emo thing I guess comes out in the lyrics and tone of the singing. My instinct is to write crushingly depressing songs but sometimes they bum me out too much so I write songs about bottles of premium brand sparkling water. That’s not a joke, it’s a new song we’re working on called San Pelligrino.
Q. Have you been working on something new recently, and what are your plans for the second half of the year?
Zac: We’ve been working on some music recently, yes, finally getting to meet up and make progress with it. We’re going to attempt to record the whole thing DIY because we normally use the money we earn from gigs to fund recording but I guess that’s out the window. We’ve got the guts of an album written, the concept for it was born late last year, in around November. It’s almost entirely completely new material, about 14 songs long and is set in the year 2069. It will probably be awful but we’ll enjoy it.
Plans for the second half of the year are to stay safe and stay happy. Small steps on a big journey back to normal.
Q. If you could choose your dream venue to play after reopening, what would it be?
Sam: If I’m being modest, Saturday night Glastonbury 2021 would be alright.
Conor: Fibbers upstairs, always Fibbers upstairs, we have played some unbelievable venues in our time as a band but we have never graced the stage of Fibbers upstairs and I’m heartbroken because of it.
Zac: I think Whelans in Dublin. It’s just one of our favourite spots to play. Playing a gig in there after all this would be like the most wonderful hug. If we’re talking about what do I dream about playing years from now it would be the red rocks. I have always dreamed about visiting the American desert. Would love to roam around there before a show.
Q. What do you think about the music community’s response to the lockdown? Have you been taking part in any projects?
Sam: The socials have been flooded with musical performances of all shapes and sizes. Group Collabs, Live Streams, you name it. People seem to have adapted pretty quickly. And, yes we’ve done 1 or 2 projects. Similar craic with the live streams and having some fun with the videos. Mainly though we’re focused on busting out new material.
Zac: There’s been some positivity online from the community during all this, which is nice to see when truth be told it really is a bleak time for artists. The industry’s livelihood had become dependent on live shows. That’s all anyone has been saying about earning a living from music for the last few years: it’s all about live shows and merch. So it’s amazing to see people leading a positive response.
I really enjoyed The Scratch’s live streams they have been doing during lockdown. Felt as close as a live stream could make me feel like I was standing in a field at 1am dancing my ass off. The Irish women in harmony was an amazing and beautiful thing to see as well, despite the devastating report about the airplay of female Irish Artists on Irish radio.
Blogs like Underscore and initiatives like Felt Cute as well as Transmission Festival at home are lovely efforts to bring a festival atmosphere to the Internet. We’re delighted to be involved in both.
Q. The lockdown has been an occasion to reflect collectively on mental health, especially for those who drew strength and support from live music. Have these themes been part of your reflections and songwriting recently?
Zac: Truth be told they haven’t really come into the song writing as subjects. As I’m sure many other people experienced, my mental health went through hell and back and back again during lockdown. It wasn’t my vibe to be honest. I’d rather move past those 3 months and look to the future. I’d go through some days of good work and some days of crippling existential dread. I started meditating, reading, exercising to really work on my inner peace which has helped me hugely in most aspects of life. It’s a never ending effort though, I have to work to keep it up.
My songwriting has always been a reflection on my mental health in some ways. Not in the literal content of the songs but in some sort of symbolic way, like a really deep sneeze from my unconscious. Sometimes songs just sneeze out of your brain, mostly formed in one spontaneous moment and you don’t even have the faintest understanding of them, and sometimes they develop in your mind over time. The sneeze type songs often turn out to be the best but they require a certain level of shutting off. A dropping of any defences you might have, and that requires being at peace with your mind, even if it’s just for the first 10 minutes of writing a song. So while not as subjects my mental health and mental health rituals will certainly come into all that we write now, even if we’re writing a song about the now shrivelled limes that you wanted to make guacamole with, creativity and mental health are intrinsically linked.
Sam: There’s been a lot of time for reflection. Personally I found myself wondering ‘Is music REALLY what I want to dedicate my life to pursuing as a career?’ I worried that by having all the time in the world to play, I mightn’t enjoy it as much. Luckily my concerns were nothing to dwell on as I have been practising, writing or jamming every day for the last 10 weeks and loving it all.
Q. You recently released a single featuring a music video filmed during the lockdown. How was your experience of working on that? How did the idea come about?
Zac: So that was a funny one. It was very early on in the lockdown. We decided we would release the tune ahead of time to give fans and friends something to enjoy in their kitchens. Conor lives in town so he was actually the only person who filmed the footage. Conor then sent the footage to me and I edited it remotely. More than anything the idea was to illustrate the parallels between the content of the song and the strange global reality. The song was written from a place of reclusiveness, shutting your emotions off from those closes to you. Our whole city became a perfect symbol or representation of that feeling.
Conor: Yeah, that was totally weird, I went out over two days to shoot the footage for that video and the streets were pretty empty, now I live in the city so I know that it’s not normally like that. So it was a bit surreal and harrowing but with a weird peaceful feeling to it without all the hustle and bustle.
Q. What have grassroots venues meant for you in your personal experience? Can you tell us something about a grassroots music venue that is particularly dear to you, or that helped shape your love of music?
Conor: When it comes to grassroots venues in Dublin that are very dear to me I can only mention Whelan’s and Sweeney’s. The latter being the one that had the biggest effect on me, unfortunately it closed down a few years ago, but it is definitely where I had my most formative years in the industry. I saw so many bands that I looked up to there like New Secret Weapon, The Eskies, Megacone and Vernon Jane. Man, I miss that place sooooo much.
Sam: Whelan’s in Dublin is very special. It’s just got it all. Like everyone has played in there. It’s where the majority of artists in Ireland cut their teeth…. I dunno, Dave Allen who runs the gigs there just has this integrity that will never budge. There’s bands on there every night and you get the feeling that the establishment isn’t just a machine. There’s lots of passion behind the scenes working to give artists at any level the chance to perform to a good crowd, whilst also scouring the continents for touring bands to come play.
Q. What is, to you, the most exciting thing about playing in a digital festival?
Conor: I don’t know, its definitely new territory for us, I suppose it’s going to be different because obviously you don’t have a tangible audience who are in the same space with you, but it’s almost like the pressure is off somewhat because you are in your own space and playing to yourself and somebody operating a camera.
Zac: What’s exciting about it too is that it’s so accessible. Anyone around the world can tune in and discover some new artists. I’m really looking forward to tuning in and watching the other acts.
MUNKY are playing on Friday, July 24th, at 7:00 PM on Underscore Part 3 Stage 1.
Words: Chiara Strazzulla @thestrazzulla