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Shadow Monster is the solo project of Gillian Visco, a staple of the Brooklyn music scene since 2007, having played in bands including Photon Dynamo and the Shiny Pieces and The Glitch. Since 2012 Gillian has played solo under the Shadow Monster moniker, writing introspective tunes until she paired up with drummer John Swanson (also of Sic Tic and The Glitch) in 2017, evolving their sound to heavier, moody (yet minimal) grunge. Shadow Monster is an exercise in exploring your shadow side and exorcising inner demons through songwriting. Their debut record Punching Bag was released in October 2019 via Dadstache Records, they played a ton of shows in 2019, and had plans to tour to SXSW this year (which were unfortunately canceled due to Covid-19). You can still see Gillian of Shadow Monster from the comfort of your quarantine on Saturday, playing a solo set live streamed from The Footlight Instagram alongside sets by Nathan Xander, and Kiril of Bears. We chatted with Gillian about her quarantine routine, the effects of isolation on her creative process, and what to expect from her live stream performance.
AF: You’ve been in NYC since 2007, and I’m sure have seen it change a lot. Have the changes in NYC affected how you’ve written music and performed over the years?
SM: It’s true – New York is always morphing and venues that I thought would be here forever are already gone. I tend to be a nostalgia-hoarder, so the art of letting go has been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned while living and playing music here. When you strangle the past like it’s the best thing that’s ever going to happen to you, you leave no room for the unexpected. The years I played solo I wrote quiet fingerpicking songs, and now I thrash around onstage and scream. But the root of it remains the same. I think an artist’s entire career is like chasing after something you remember vaguely from a dream. Maybe we never get it perfect – but perhaps the value lies in the passion for going after it at all. New York has taught me that patient joy in reveling in the rollercoaster and allowing myself to evolve into the most authentic version of the artist I am at this moment in time.
AF: What was the process for writing and recording your debut album Punching Bag?
SM: The songs on Punching Bag were written over a two year period while I was dealing with a bad breakup. I lost myself in a cave of turmoil and felt completely disconnected to the world around me. John Swanson started playing drums with me in the summer of 2017. Playing shows and arranging these songs with John was the main thing that pulled me out of the dark place I was writing them from. In March of 2018 I lost my job and we decided to spend every day working on getting our best seven songs recorded. We recorded everything on our own in John’s room and once finished, we brought the tracks to Brian Speaker at Speakersonic where they were mixed and mastered.
AF: Do you have a quarantine routine? What albums, movies, and shows have you been getting into?
SM: The first thing I do every morning since I’ve been in quarantine is try to get out of bed. This usually takes around an hour… It’s a habit I’m going to break… next week. So after I climb that mountain, I start my day by having a coffee, watching some news, drinking lemon water and meditating. I meditate before bed too. I find it’s a really great way to bookend the day, especially during times of high stress and anxiety. I’m a Virgo so naturally I have an ongoing list of things I’d like to accomplish during this time at home. Something that has stuck is a quarantine art series I’ve been posting on Instagram featuring a character I call NoName. I normally never have much time to devote to visual art so I’m just diving in head first now. Drawing is great for anxiety.
Shows I’m watching: Tiger King, Sex Education, High Fidelity, Preacher, 30 Rock
Shows on my list: The Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter
AF: Has being in quarantine helped or hindered your creative process?
SM: Being in quarantine has been interesting to navigate creatively. There’s a whole aspect of my personality that loves being locked in my room, working for hours on a song, writing poetry, playing records, lighting candles, enjoying my space. But then there’s this other half of me that loves people and music and loud bars and dancing and staying out too late and escaping the confines of my mind. I’m figuring out how to adapt. We have essentially lost our social life so everything feels a bit off-balance to me. But feeling off is a great place to make art from. It’s the cabin in the woods trip I always talk about taking. And I don’t even need to pack.
AF: What’s your livestream set going to be like?
SM: I’m super excited to do a livestream show on Saturday through The Footlight’s Instagram page. I’ve done a couple of livestream sets over the past two weeks, (000ze.digital, Left Bank Magazine, Bands Do BK) but this one is going to be a longer set. I plan to give a couple brand new songs a shot that I’ve written during quarantine. I’ll play some songs from our album, and I’m working on a cover. I’m implementing a drinking game in the set too. Get your quarantine drink of choice ready and bring your pets.
AF: What is the first thing you’d like to do if and when everything goes back to normal?
SM: I WANNA GO TO A SHOW. So bad. So so bad.
RSVP HERE for Gillian of Shadow Monster, Nathan Xander, and Kiril of Bears livestream on The Footlight’s Instagram 8PM EST. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday tune into to their page for an hour long show. Donations accepted through the link in their bio to help support the artists and the staff of The Footlight.
More great live streams this week…
4/5 Sunday Silent Film: Salome w/ live accordion music via YouTube. 2:30pm EST RSVP HERE