Monkeys in Love are a rarity on the Greater Manchester music scene, their music and stage performances are unique, refreshing and highly entertaining. They do not sound or look like any other band you are likely to see. Blending a theatrical flair in the visual department with an eclectic line-up and fascinating lyrics, they are one of the most important bands on the North West music scene at the moment.
Recent gigs outside of the Manchester area have begun to spread awareness about this exceptional group of musicians and writers. In a world of boring industry clones it is vital that we have bands like this one to offer variety and quality. Their live performances are always exciting, bordering on the anarchic, charmingly self-deprecating at times, but very enjoyable. Their releases to date have proved to be essential listening for lovers of fine music, and with a penchant for the quirky and imaginative, their next album is highly anticipated.
Lyrically the band focus on those things in everyday life that both frustrate and confuse, everything from gin in cans, via irritating behaviour in supermarket queues, to Rod Hull’s Emu are covered. The subject matter moves between the surreal and the every day with consummate ease.
Their music combines intricate beats, indie guitars and 60s space-age keyboards to create a whirlwind of memorable sounds. The occasional use of flute or recorder also gives them a different sonic palette to work from. The twin lead vocal line-up of the band allows for variety and creates a great aural and visual impact. The groups grasp of song dynamics, excellent riffs and chord sequences, and instantly memorable melodies, together with their theatrical performance values make them a must see band.
During a lull in the bands live activities, and with finishing touches being put to a new album, I took the opportunity to ask the bands’ founder Steve Simms-Luddington a few questions about how they formed, their influences, and their plans for the future.
Who is in the band – what do they play – were they in any other bands before or since?
On bass… Chris Binks
On guitar, woodwinds and stylophone… Danielle McCullough
On guitar… Eamonn Murphy
On singing… Laura Simms-Luddington
And skulking at the back, trying to look useful… me (Steve actually plays keyboards, controls the drum machines and is the joint lead vocalist with Laura)
In addition, Andy Robertson sometimes plays percussion for us, but usually only in the studio.
Most of us have played in bands before, but they were not as fun as this one, except in Andy’s case, ‘cos he’s got a band going on where gets to sing and play guitar, which is obviously a lot more fun than shaking a tambourine.
When did you start the band?
I started Monkeys In Love nearly ten years ago and Laura joined me a few months later, after a chance encounter at a rave in a disused mental asylum. It was pretty much just us and a drum machine in those days and I suspect it probably wasn’t that great , we were usually pretty drunk when we played, so I’ve no idea. Over the next few years, Eamonn joined, then Chris and finally Danielle and I think that was the point when we went from messing around and occasionally playing gigs to actually being a band. So in a way, we’ve only really been going for about four years or so.
What have you released to date – and what have you got planned for the future?
We released a mini album through a local indie label a couple of years ago, which was called Death Jeans, and then we put out our first full length album The Monkeys In Love Will Pet And Cuddle You on our own label the following year. After that, we recorded a bunch of tracks for an EP , which is now available on Soundcloud, and a couple of those tracks have been re-recorded for our next full length album, which is titled The Monkeys In Love Take The Biscuit. After that there’s also our long-delayed split EP with our friends Werbeniuk (due out in April, I think) and a top secret digital EP that I’m not allowed to talk about just yet, which is coming out whenever it’s ready. If the wind’s fair, there might also be another mini album coming out next autumn or fairly soon after that.
Where do you get your ideas for the on-stage costumes – who makes them?
Laura makes the costumes and comes up with the majority of the ideas for them and the same goes for the slide projections and any other assorted stage props. Occasionally, the rest of us might make a few suggestions, but at least 90% of the time they come from her fevered imagination. They’re usually based on or related to our lyrics, although sometimes it might not necessarily seem that way at first glance.
What or who influences the band musically?
As far as I’m aware, we all like Stereolab , The Fall, Kim Deal, Serge Gainsbourg, strange 60s/70s library & soundtrack music, a couple of us are on the Trunk Records mailing list, Black Sabbath, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Board of Canada, krautrock and so on. As for individual members of the band some favourites are as follows:
- Chris: Slint and The Wipers
- Danielle: Human League and Iron Monkeys
- Eamonn: Bo Diddley and White Fence
- Laura: Devo and Crowded House
- Steve: Slapp Happy and Jane Birkin in the 70s
Any gigs planned?
We’re playing with Taser Puppets and Salford Media City at the Crescent in Salford on 29th November and there’ll be a launch party for the new album on February 6th at Gulliver’s in Manchester. After that, I imagine there’ll be a bit of a tour in the spring, although we haven’t actually booked any dates as yet.
Which current bands on the Manchester scene would you recommend?
I’m not going to list bands in case we forget anyone, or deliberately don’t include someone, and they get offended, but our favourite band that we’ve seen playing in Manchester of late was West Coast Sickline
Some of your lyrics dwell on the darker side of suburban life – do you agree?
I’d say some of them do, yeah. That said, I can only think of one song on the new album that fits that description. There’s even a song where, if only for a moment, we eschew our trademark flippancy for something close to genuine emotion. A real “hearts on our sleeves” moment. I kid you not. But the rest are pretty snidey thistime round. We’ve got a few axes to grind. Our half of the split EP, and the mini album that follows on from it will be a bit more suburban, though.
A companion podcast to this interview with music from Monkeys In Love and the bands mentioned above is available here