monophona - 2013 - by Joel Nepper

Photo By Joell Nepper

Hailing from the tiny country of Luxembourg, MONOPHONA is the joint project of Claudine Muno and CHOOK (Philippe Schirrer), with Jorsch Kass on drums for live shows. They’ve just arrived in Germany for a tour, which kicked off in Magdeburg, Germany.  Claudine plays guitar and keyboards and comes from folk background, while CHOOK has been established for years as a drum and bass producer. The result is best described a folktronic; think of full-throated, confessional female vocals in the style of BJÖRK and PORTISHEAD over ethereal, downtempo electronica. Claudine’s voice is distinct and multi-toned, and CHOOK’s production complements and highlights her vocal uniqueness. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION sat down with the band to talk about time signatures, electronica audiences versus folk audiences, and MORRISSEY.

So tell me about the name?
C: It took us quite awhile to come up with the name. about six months. To find something that wasn’t taken.
CM: Each good idea we had, we would type it in and find it was already taken.
C: With six different spellings. [Laughs]

I read about how your background is more folk and yours is more electronic. Claudine, I want to hear your favorite electronic artist and Philippe, your favorite rock artist. [They both laugh]
C: It’s not really folk, but the first thing that she made me really discover was FINK.

You opened for them didn’t you?
C: We opened for them, as well and that sound, I really love.
CM: I like BJÖRK, like everybody else, and JAMES BLAKE.

With the different backgrounds, what is the songwriting process like?
CM: We send each other files over the Internet, sometimes I start, sometimes Philippe starts.  Our starting points are different: I’ll do something on the guitar or the piano and send that, and sometimes he’ll send something that’s a bit more finished and I’ll fit something into that. We basically send each other the files and it works.

Do you ever got something from each other and are like “What the hell is this…?”
C: It has happened, she sent me something once that was in, what do you call, three quarter…
CM: Yes this song that was in ¾ time signature, instead of a 4/4, he’d never seen that before.
C: You don’t have that ¾ in electronic music. I come from the dance floor, you know, 1-2-3-4….getting people to dance.

What are your live shows like?
CM: The songwriting is just the two of us, but at the live show we have the drummer, Jorsch, so that kind of adds to the dynamics.
C: We have a guy from Cologne who does visuals for us, that is synced to the music, which is quite cool.

What’s his name and what are the visuals like?
C: He’s name is Dmitri Zakharov. They are mostly graphic, abstract, or geometric shapes.
JK: It’s more dynamic, I mean with drums as a part. It’s difficult to explain the difference. There’s one more part in it, because you have electronics, folk guitar and drums. [Makes a non-descript hand motion]

What does that [hand motion] mean?
JK: How did that other guy say it, “a lot of noise…?”
CM: Somebody said “You’re a very good drummer, you make an awful lot of noise in a very short time.”
JK: That’s a good summary.

And a good compliment for a drummer.

What have been your previous projects?
C: I was a drum and bass producer for a long time.
CM: I played in this band called THE LUNA BOOTS. That was folk and French chansons, and we did that for ten years.

MONOPHONA is a big departure then?
CM: Yeah, that was really different with pedal steel and double bass. Not even an electric guitar.

[one_half last=”no”]

[looking at Jorsch] And you?
JK: I was trained in classical, playing the flute.

And you’re a drummer now?
JK: [laughs] Life is strange.

What are some of your previous projects?
JK: Like pop, rock stuff. That type of band.

Do you want to name them?
JK: But no one knows them. [We all laugh]

I know, but we can just write it and see.
JK: The last band I played in was TRAUMKAPITÄN.

Who would be your dream collaboration?
C: I would like to do a track with FINK, that would be cool.
CM: I would like to do a track with MORRISSEY, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

It might, he’ll read this and call you.
CM: I can tell him I’m a vegetarian.

Is he vegetarian or vegan?
CM: I don’t know, I think maybe vegan.
C: When he plays a show no one is allowed to sell or cook meat at the venue.


[one_half last=”yes”]

MONOPHONA‘s debut album “The Spy”.


Yeah, I heard at Coachella Festival he stomped off the stage because he could smell someone cooking meat.

Speaking of festivals are you guys playing this summer?
C: We will be at Sziget Festival and the Fusion Festival.

What do you guys think, as far as playing festivals versus little small venues?
C: Well, there’s one venue back in Luxembourg that is perfect for us, it’s 250 people and it always has a great atmosphere, it’s called EXIT07.

Tell me about that, that difference.  At a festival it’s more likely that someone who has never heard of you might stumble by and discover you, but on the other hand you have to work that much harder to be distinguished.
CM: I like small places, like yesterday, I was happy. You can just connect with people individually.  Maybe that comes from folk where you usually play in smaller venues. You tell your stories and you see people.  You tell them something and you see them, they’re like “Oh yeah, that happened to me.”  I kind of like that, of course it’s not very fun to have one person dancing for you but if one person’s talking to you, that’s okay. I actually like the smaller one better.
C: I’m not saying I don’t like small venues; I like small venues that are crowded.

It’s such a different thing, coming from an electronic background where you are trying to make people dance and trying to get people on the dance floor and get that huge wave of people to move.
C: At our first concert, I was like “Oh people hate us, they’re not dancing!” [Laughs]
CM: And me, I think, “Oh there’s a few people nodding their heads” and it’s like “Yay, they’re nodding their heads!”  Usually in folk they’re really bookish and knitting or something.

So, we always ask, what do hope and passion mean to you?
C: Well, we hope to get a lot of people at our next show [Hamburg], because we are passionate about what we do.
CM: We have one song, and the chorus goes “I’m hopeful and starry-eyed” and there’s my thought on that, because I’m hopeful and passionate and starry eyed.

Which track is that?
CM: It’s called “Let Me Go.”
JK: For me passion, it’s perhaps stupid but I’ve played music for a long time and it’s music, that’s my passion. I hope it will be my passion the next ten days, the next fifteen years. I can also say, I was in lots of bands, and they always ended because of personal problems with other band members and now with this group it’s really amazing, and not complicated.

Catch MONOPHONA the next few weeks while they are in Germany, and check out their debut LP The Spy


30.04.2013 – D – Hamburg
01.05.2013 – D – Lübeck
03.05.2013 – D – Lahnstein
04.05.2013 – D – Köln
07.04.2013 – D – Mannheim
11.05.2013 – FR – Lille
16.-18.05.2013 – UK – Brighton, The Great Escape