ARTIST INTERVIEW: Monograms Discuss New ‘Silencer’ EP

Originally a solo project created by Brooklyn musician Ian Jacobs, Monograms is now a fully fledged band. Their latest release, Silencer, explores a grittier side of hook-filled pop music by distilling it with elements of lo-fi garage rock. There’s a sense of dreaminess that hangs over the entire EP, akin to looking through the haze of a smoky room. It gives Silencer a cohesive feeling, though the four songs were each recorded in different studios with varying lineups.

It begins with the surfy guitar riff of “Sharp Teeth,” with angsty, drawn out vocals that float dreamily over fuzzy guitars and a solid beat, as they reiterate a romantic plight: “Your smile, my disaster.” “Ok Promises” falls on the opposite side of the spectrum as an upbeat, dancey track with a breathless chorus. “Radio Controller” is slightly toned down in comparison, but still retains some of its energy in nervously descending guitar lines, while “Trails” is a straight ahead ode to late night living that ominously declares, “I’m just a vampire.”

Ian filled us in on how Monograms became a band, recorded Silencer and found the EP’s awesome cover art. Read on below:

AudioFemme: Monograms originally started as a solo bedroom project. How did you make the transition to a full band?

Ian Jabcobs: I wrote the songs that ended up becoming the first EP and recorded them as just a whatever-fun-get-some-songs-out-of-my-head kind of thing. I played a few shows solo with drum machines, and a buddy of mine asked if he could play some real drums. It took me about two seconds to realize the songs were a lot more fun with others in the room, so I just kept adding people and now Monograms is a four-piece band. 

I’m still the main song writer, but the other dudes in the band create a lot of things, especially during the live show, that I could never replicate. We have some new songs that have been much more collaborative, which I’m super stoked about.

AF: Each song on this EP represents a different lineup of Monograms, and was recorded during a different session. Can you elaborate on the different lineups, and your recording process/experience?

IJ: The four songs are a mix of about a year and a half of recording sessions, most of which started at home and then finished at different studios around Brooklyn. It was an interesting ride, because this was all during that time the lineup was changing and expanding.  All the tracks are from really different landscapes and head spaces, but I was just writing stuff, not thinking about a release. A couple of the tunes are from the drum machine days and some were written as a full band. It really wasn’t until just a few months before the EP was even released that I thought, hey, maybe I can make an EP out of these four tunes. So I did.

AF: Can you tell me about the Silencer cover art?

IJ: I follow a bunch of mixed media visual artists online… when I saw that image I knew right away I wanted it to be the cover. I liked that it was a person that’s there… but not really there. Also the theme of a few songs on Silencer are about how words and talking can be sort of meaningless sometimes. And I think that the imagery goes along with the EP title. 

I’m actually way more interested in what it means to other people. I think that’s honestly the biggest reason why I liked it so much. It’s simple but says something loud that’s open to interpretation.

AF: What are your major influences, musically and otherwise?

IJ: That’s kind of a tough one to answer cause I honestly think everything you do or see is an influence. For better or worse, it’s in there somewhere. I also listen to a lot of things all the time – modern hip-hop and books on tape not excluded.

AF: I feel like there’s a sense of dreaminess that connects the entire EP – is this intentional? To what extent are the songs inspired by your own life and experiences?

IJ: I don’t know if the psych/dreamy stuff is intentional but it’s definitely there. It’s a huge part of a lot of the music I listen to, but it’s probably just a sense of me trying to get my subconscious to write, it’s easier to do that when you can zone out a little. I think that’s where I want to be. Thinking but not too much, or at least not realizing it. Thinking is overrated. That said, all the songs are about my life experience, currently in progress.

Silencer is out now; listen below and download the EP here.