The Hudson Valley band’s debut EP draws on a range of genres to share a set of stories
For residents of the concrete jungle, ~upstate~ has always had some allure (fresh air! apples! is that… a tree?!) as a place to escape for space, scenery and serenity and to experience the kind of peace and quiet that doesn’t require noise-canceling headphones.
However, here’s the good news: You don’t have to hit up Hertz or hop on the Metro-North to experience everything this area has to offer. Our favorite Hudson Valley-based band Monarch. is here to deliver a taste of upstate—at least on the music front—in the form of their lovely debut EP Sweet Little Things, out everywhere as of last Friday!
Now, don’t let this particular Brooklynite’s (my) one-dimensional idea of upstate as some wholesome, humdrum rural eden—a perception based on approx 3.5 above-the-Bronx visits—mislead you. Monarch. isn’t serving up simple rustic sounds on a gingham-patterned platter but an eclectic indie fusion of rock, pop, jazz and more. Weaving together the styles and influences of all four members (Sarah Hartstein, Nick Pappalardo, Jesse Hartstein, Johnny Lu), Monarch.’s music feels less like a wholesome escape from the city and more like a sound that’s right at home here—one reflective of the beautifully diverse, unexpected and one-of-a-kind nature of NYC.
In writing their EP, Monarch. drew on a range of genres to capture a variety of moods, incorporating not just guitars and bass but saxophone and harp, and finding equal inspiration in Blink-182 and deep conversations with Grandma as over the course of five tracks they explore themes of love both sweet and toxic—touching on infatuation, manipulation, growing up and moving on.
As Nick of the band put it, “The songs that we wrote convey stories and that’s what the magic is all about.”
Here’s a sweet little story about each song on Sweet Little Things.
Sweet Little Things—track by track
“Just want you to be happy baby, but only if you’re with me”
“‘Morning Coffee’ was a fun one to write. Sarah says, ‘For the lyrics I got to dive into this fun analogy of toxic love and my crippling caffeine addiction.’ Jesse wrote this amazing bass part which really drives the whole song. We also got to experiment instrumentally here too with saxophone and keys, which added a really fun and upbeat attitude to the song.
“Sweet Little Things“
“I got distracted by your eyes, I know it’s so hard for me to see all of the signs.”
“‘Sweet Little Things’ has a very special place in my heart. When Johnny and I first started writing together, I brought this song to him and I was like ‘these are my favorite lyrics I’ve ever written, and I really want this to be bright and jazz inspired.’ That’s when he was like ‘I have the perfect guitarist for that,’ and then Nick joined the band! The lyrics of this song are focused on the type of person who will tell you anything to get what they want from you, but at the end of the day you really wanted to believe all of the things they said to you. The instrumentals reflect this, the longing, and the sweetness. This is the song that drove the theme and inspiration for the EP, love and pink and wearing your heart on your sleeve.
“There’s gotta be something above for you to exist”
“Sarah says, ‘I actually wrote the lyrics to this song after a conversation with my grandma. We were talking about human telepathy, and how connected humans truly are. Like the type of thing where you think about someone and they text you right in that moment? That kind of connection. I have always believed there is so much to be discovered, not really sure about what, but there’s something bigger than us to allow for all the beautiful things to exist, and also life is really short, it moves really fast, and nothing lasts forever.’ We experimented instrumentally with the risk, we even have some harps hidden in there, we wanted it to be loud, but also vintage and sweet.”
“Shake You Off“
“Let me tell you, the sun feels brighter without you in my light”
“Nick says, ‘Shake You Off’ was realized from the likes of a few different bands: Van Halen, Blink-182, and The 1975. The main guitar riff was stuck in my head for months and after workshopping it with Johnny for some time, we had Sarah add some lyrics for us to tweak. It stems from using arpeggios as opposed to scale figures, which guitarists tend to favor. This song is all about kicking love to the curb, with no hesitation.'”
“I was so young and so blind, never saw all the problems you had in your mind.”
“Ah, ‘Naive.’ This one goes hard. Most importantly, we really got to experiment with a breakdown here, which is so fun to play live. There’s this interlude Nick wrote too, he came up with it while we were literally recording scratch tracks, and we were like wait a minute, play that again please! It’s definitely one of our favorite songs on the EP now. The lyrics are simple, but they’re not the kindest.”
Celebrate the band’s EP LIVE at The Broadway THIS FRIDAY with New Myths, Real Burn and Hollye Bynum (of Razor Braids) & Friends!
Grab your tickets here. No transfer at Grand Central Station required.
Feature image provided by the band.