Interview by Robin Stryker
With a sound described as the love child of James Hetfield (Metallica) and Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), UK hard rock trio Le Monnier brings you their no-holds-barred debut release, “Cynic Sister”. Vocalist/bassist Alexandra Le Monnier sat down with Femme Metal to tell us all about this new band. Read on to learn more.
Hi, Alex, we’re glad you could join us today! Please start off by telling us about Le Monnier’s new album, “Cynic Sister”.
“Cynic Sister” has 14 tracks that bring you a new taste of gratifying hard rock and metal. It’s jammed with spine tingling riffs, with our classical influence creeping in here and there. I think “Cynic Sister” is a great insight of what’s to come from us.
If you were forced to label the album’s sound, how would you describe it?
I would say it’s a fair assumption that we would fall in to the categories of rock and metal. The sound is a combination of hard rock and metal influences.
What has the response to “Cynic Sister” been like?
We have had nothing but excellent comments and support from fans and reviewers, which has made the task of continuing to publicise this album all the more easier. “Cynic Sister” was born last year in Matt Keil’s (guitarist) spare bedroom. We wanted this album to be the foundation we build upon; therefore, we experimented and learnt a lot in that time about each other and our music.
Which bands have influenced Le Monnier‘s sound the most?
Individually it’s all very different. For the band’s sound, we definitely have been affected by bands such as Alice In Chains, Avenged Sevenfold, Metallica, Alter Bridge, Paramore … the list goes on.
Are there any themes running that run through “Cynic Sister”?
Mainly frustration with dramatic experiences, also anger, loss, struggle and love.
As I understand it, your educational background is in Fine Arts with an emphasis on abstract paintings and photography. Which was your first love — music or painting or something else?
My first love would have to be music, as there are countless videos of me as a child singing. Music and films were a big part of my family life that we shared together. I didn’t realise my creativeness for art until my secondary school art teacher encouraged me. I chose to pursue art at school simply because I enjoying the freedom within that subject. I have learnt several instruments and never enjoyed the regimented theory approach to music. I wanted to keep both in my life, but in very different ways. I find art as well as music extremely therapeutic, and when I went onto university I knew by day I wanted to do art and by night I wanted to be a musician — entwining the two together when I can, for example, the album art work etc.
Would you tell us a bit about your musical background? Did you have a watershed moment when you knew that being a musician was the right path for you?
14 was definitely the age when I said I want to do this. When I was younger, I was first influenced by a lot of female singers my father introduced me to such as Nina Simone, The Pretenders, Whitney Houston and especially Tracy Chapman, one of my favourites to this day. My dad informed me that many of the greats began in choirs. I soon joined a church choir at age 10 which gave me a lot of vocal confidence, and I started to learn piano and the double bass. At age 13, my sister’s rock/grunge influence easily took hold of me, and I soon went on to begging my parents that Christmas for a bass guitar which resulted with me ending the choir and then orchestra so that I could start gigging at age 14 in rocks bands.
How did you and Matt Keil (guitarist) meet?
It was through the other two members of the earlier line up of Le Monnier. We needed a drummer, and I was introduced to Matt at the back of a Fiat Punto on the way to his audition. I made up my mind, and he joined us that night. We got on well, and it is a friendship that has grown stronger over the past few years. When the band broke up in 2007, I had no doubt who I wanted to continue working with. Although I was not expecting Matt to give up the drums, thankfully he wanted to become the guitarist. I knew Matt was a great pianist but had no idea about his love for the guitar. We started the new Le Monnier with writing “Drawing the Line” which is on the album “Cynic Sister”.
In its early days, Le Monnier had the standard four-person set up, and Matt was the drummer. Why did you shift to a trio, with Matt on guitar and Terry Anderson on drums?
Matt felt restricted behind the drums. He wanted to be a bigger part of the song-writing process and tofeed his melodic side more than that rhythmical side. So we needed to find someone who loved hitting the shit out of the drums with a committed attitude. With the help of our local rehearsal studio, we quickly got a call from Terry Anderson, a drummer who had just moved to town. Terry Anderson brought that raw energy which helped complete the metal direction we wanted. This helped open a new perspective for us, and we began to move faster towards what we wanted.
What do you think readers would be most surprised to learn about each of you?
I ashamedly can’t whistle; Terry’s middle name might as well be OCD; and Matt unbelievably only discovered pasta a couple years ago.
Are any members of Le Monnier involved in side projects, musical or otherwise?
We are all 100% focused on Le Monnier right now, but Matt has film scoring interests which he dabbles in here and there.
What is the band’s song-writing process like? Is it a team effort, or is there one mastermind behind the music?
We all take part in the writing process by communicating where we think the song is going and what it needs. We all bring songs to the table and work away at serving each. I usually write the lyrics and vocals. The material I write usually happens on my couch, I find a riff on my bass and then the vocal melody follows. I have no strict pattern, as it can be vice versa writing the lyrics/melody first and the music comes after. I love bringing it to life with the band finalising its structure and ornamenting it, really animating it and making it more powerful.
Your paintings and photographs combines beauty and fear in what is often an unsettling way. Is that same duality also reflected in your lyrics?
I use my artwork and my songs as a way to deal with whatever problems I am dealing with and record it in my own way. Once that piece is made, it really helps to move on having expressed it in a creative way. Whatever happened, something still good and beautiful came out of it. I naturally find links in life to things that are completely unrelated, and I enjoy trying to express that in my own weird and wonderful way. It is extremely therapeutic and more rewarding when it is appreciated by others.
Which song has the most personal meaning to you and why?
They all tell a different story but I would like to discuss “Ballet”, the first ballad on the album. I had only ever known one grandparent and that was my French grandmother. When she past away, it was very sad even though I had not been very close to her for a long time. I wrote this song about her. She could barely speak, but her last words to me and my family were “c’est long” (translation “it’s long”), meaning she was tired of waiting for the pain and her life to end. This was a very different take on death that I had not yet experienced. Whether you have time to say goodbye or not, it didn’t make it any easier.
If you could go back in time, what would one thing would you change and what would you leave the same?
I am not as nostalgic as I used to be, as it can be slippery slope to overcome. I couldn’t and wouldn’t change anything as I have grown into who I am because of the love, losses and pain that I have felt. I try to concentrate on what is in front of me and look to the future.
What’s Le Monnier biggest dream?
To play to sold-out arenas, write amazing life changing albums and be one of the biggest female fronted rock metal bands in the world.
Which was your most memorable live show, either good or bad?
Halloween 2009, we played to massive rockin’ crowd that we had never played to before, and all our merchandise including our albums flew out the door. We all had a great time and it felt great having such a lively audience.
What are Le Monnier‘s plans for the future?
We are currently promoting/touring “Cynic Sister” and we are looking for a booking agent. We plan to have our next album material ready by the end of 2010. We hope to tour “Cynic Sister” at festivals and get our music video broadcasted everywhere.
Thank you so much, Alex! Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
Make sure you check out our music video for our new single “Black Dot”. You can also hear “Cynic Sister” in its entirety and also get free tracks out our official site (links below). Thanks for your support, and hopefully see you out on the road soon!