“vague imagery and gut feelings”: the monkoora interview;

“Bocx Wurld”, the opening track from Monkoora’s Nuclear BB EP, is the kind of song that catches you off-guard. Inspired, in the words of the artist herself, by the frustrations of being 17 and discovering the way the world works, it is a glitchy, breathless electro-pop tapestry – the kind that expands to fill all the spaces in your brain with a hook that you won’t be able to dislodge.

Glasgow-based Julie Fern Crawford’s second EP under the Monkoora name was released in April, but it’s hard to imagine her having been particularly still in that time. Like the music she creates, Crawford is hard to put in a box: she’s an artist, a musician and a videographer, whose most recent work includes an animated video for Hot Gem labelmates Perfume.

I spoke to Crawford far longer ago than I care to admit, touching on her 2016 residency at Manchester’s Science in the City festival with last year’s SAY Award winner Anna Meredith and her recent work with Rape Crisis. Check it out below, then go track down the magnificent EP on iTunes.

LYG: How did you get started writing music and performing?
JULIE FERN CRAWFORD: I started writing songs when I was 11 but it didn’t get good until I was about 17 and I started performing in June last year.

Three words to describe your sound…
Evolving – Experimental – Enigmatic

What influences you – both musically and otherwise?
I’m inspired mostly by vague imagery and gut feelings that once simmered, could be transformed into partially fledged out mysterious worlds with gaps to be filled with other imaginations. That’s what I like to create.

As a kind of multi-platform artist I am really inspired by Clive Barker. He’s been one of my favourite authors since I was a young teenager and a very special writer because for me his work is about the blurring of lines not just with themes of Pleasure/Pain as showcased in his movie Hellraiser but with the remarkable way he would describe the most grotesque things imaginable and make them sound beautiful and sensual. He is a constant creative force that keeps putting huge fantastical and ambitious stories in books and paintings and I think he is unbelievably underrated.

Monkoora promo photo by Kris Kesiak

Monkoora promo photo by Kris Kesiak.

You’ve got some really high profile supporters, for example SAY Award winner Anna Meredith. Did that change how you approached the Nuclear BB EP – did you feel you were under more pressure, for example?
Not at all. My work progresses and digresses constantly, like everybody as you go in and out of inspiration, motivation, etc. and I have different ideas for new projects all the time but I wanted to strike when the iron was HOT and put out an emotion, to get it out of the way before I shoot off in a different direction. I wanted it to be fun, angsty and crusty as a reflection to how I felt at the time of making it.

I know you did the artwork for the release yourself. Is that something you feel it’s important to have personal control over?
Absolutely, the cover art is just one small part of the visual side to any music project I embark on. The sound and vision bounce off each other come to my head as images, melodies and stories. The work that goes into the process is a lot more substantial than the end product.

Monkoora - Nuclear BB EP artwork

I love learning more about the names of musical projects. Where did Monkoora come from, and why did you decide to give the music its own identity rather than releasing it under your own name?
I was walking home in the rain listening to Martin Denny’s “Moon of Manakoora” and had an epiphany moment when the rain drops distorted my screen and I read it as “monkoora” and from then on I decided it would be my name. Martin Denny was an exotica composer and his music was like a tropical escapism for white suburban Americans who dreamed of Hawaii and fantasised about what the Caribbean would be like. This essentially created tiki culture in the 1950s. It was fitting because at the time I was very inspired by this idea of a fantastical island that I would create the music for.

While there’s definitely a political element to your lyrics, I was particularly interested to read about your work composing music for a Rape Crisis Scotland video series. How did that work come about, and what was it that drew you to the project?
I was told about the film project by my manager who sent some of my songs to Phoebe Cottam the filmmaker, who was looking for something beat-heavy and female empowered. As it turned out she dug my stuff so from then on we were just emailing cuts of the film back and forth.

I think it’s really important that survivors of sexual abuse report it. Report it and not give in to fear of judgment or of the rapist itself. They need someone to listen to them, make them as comfortable as possible and to support them through the process of prosecution which is what Rape Crisis does and these films represent and de-stigmatise that whole process.

Do you have any gigs planned around the launch of the EP, or anything else that you would like to tell us about?
I’m playing the Hidden Door Festival in Edinburgh on the 3rd of June, which I’m really excited about because I will be playing in an old derelict theatre that hasn’t seen anyone perform in it for 28 years. I’ve also got the Clamjamfry Festival coming up in August. ?

And what are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment I have barely any space on my phone so I’ve just been listening to the same shit over and over. But I’m lovin Princess Nokia; Gazelle Twin; Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN; Tank and the Bangas; Life With Buildings – Any Other City; Mitski – Puberty 2; Angelspit – Nurse Grenade; Amanda Palmer’s collaboration with Edward KaSpell, “I Can Spin A Rainbow”; Clarence Clarity – No Now; and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool.

Monkoora’s Nuclear BB EP is out now on Hot Gem Records. She plays the Flying Duck, Glasgow next Friday (7th July).

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