In last month’s Bido Lito! Dansette column we waxed lyrical about one of our current favourite, and for now lesser known, Liverpool lovelies on the folk pop scene. This month, Naters Philip has the pleasure of roaming a comfortable word count and expanding into the world of adverbs in order to tempt you into loving NON, MONSIEUR as much as she does. This will be easy.
Unlike many of our musical geniuses, Non, Monsieur are not intent on restricting themselves to the realms of obscurity at the point of contrition. Not a bit of it. When I meet Craig Lamb (vocals, percussion) and David Mooney (guitar), clad in suits with pocket watches and hip flasks, they are keen to tell me everything about themselves, both as a band, and also as people. Naturally, trying to understand the characters behind the music is where I start and they’re the first band to genuinely shock me with an answer as Craig beams, “We’re radiographers.” Well of course. “This all started because we worked together, we actually listened to a lot of Crystal Castles and thought about doing some electro stuff but when we went for a jam we were going through a folky time with Jay Jay Pistolet and Simon & Garfunkel, so we decided to go with it!”
Every exclamation mark is a true testament to Craig’s effervescent personality; he’s wonderfully excitable about, well everything and you’ll feel that seeping through when listening to the first song they recorded together, I Wish We Were Young.
It’s impossible not to beam when listening to his tangents, and simultaneously it’s as easy to wonder how on earth they get any music written at all. Craig explains they practise regimentally and are complete perfectionists, “Those samples of Picturebook [the band’s new single] I sent you are so far from done – it nearly killed me to let you have them!”
In fact the boys recently spent some time in the studio to record an EP, to give their old four-track machine a rest. But in the style of a true perfectionist Craig assures me that, “The engineer was bloody useless and they won’t let me mix the tracks at all!” So back to their four-track they went to record If Only To Be With You. Another pretty little ditty with husky, stripped-back vocals and an antiquated quality to set them apart from other bands on the folk market.
Folk pop might actually be the perfect phrase for these two, not only as musicians but as friends. Dave, who is as charmingly soft spoken as Craig is exuberant, seems a bit more folk than pop. As he’s the shy one I was interested to glean some more about his music background, and it seems that folk pop may actually be the antithesis of his usual music taste. He talks much of his love for Metallica (hey, someone has to) and classic rock favourites Thin Lizzy. He tells us, “I was in a band with the bassist out of The La’s – we didn’t have a name and we played one gig. It was more like Foo Fighters stuff and because of uni I wanted to put things on the back burner.” Which, by the sounds of it, was probably for the best.
It’s a pesky necessity bands are faced with: The Name, and it was a problem plaguing our boys, too. So when I ask why French, Craig comes into his own: “Things just look sexy in French! English words are dead dull, I spent so much time on Babbel French, trying to come up with something that made sense. But honestly, Non, Monsieur sounds so much better than No, Mister – I’m a fan of the antiquity it has and I want that across all of the stuff we do with our music.”
It’s a good enough reason as any, and sets their name apart from others on the current Liverpool music scene. But what of the folk genre: where do they sit within that? The boys explain that they see folk music as something quite individual, as Craig reels, “It’s a different thing: when you play acoustic instruments or go to an acoustic gig, you don’t see the same thing five times over, it isn’t like reggae or ska.” They herald Slow Club as one of their biggest folk influences: “That first album is delightful; it’s like two people just want to make nice songs together, which is so lovely.”
And perhaps there’s something to that: do you have to be so damn artistically tortured in order to make excellent music, or is there room for a bit of nice? Surely, it doesn’t have to exclusively be a paradoxical experiment, perpetually lost up the arse of a character in Pan’s Labyrinth. Sometimes, it’s has to be okay for it to be as simple as, “I was listening to Jay Jay Pistolet’s Only To Be Young Again and thought the notion of it was really sweet and decided to re-write the chorus, from my point of view.” Craig cites this as the creative process for I Wish We Were Young, and gives a nod to professional poet Mark Grist (@montygristo) as the fuel for this particular inspiration.
All of their hard work and frustration over recording saw its first live outing at the start of November at Lime Street’s, The Head Of Steam. An interesting choice of venue for a first outing but the band assure me the night was faultless and, for a first gig, surprisingly well received.
I can’t say I’m surprised though, Non, Monsieur’s songs are designed to chirp you up and actually leave you with little choice in the matter. Songs like I Wish We Were Young are the kind to grab everyone; even if you decide you hate it you’ll probably be caught listening to it on your own while your head does happy little bobs in time. Luckily you’ll get an opportunity to fall for their infectious energy and dulcet tones soon enough as they’re playing support for Admiral Fallow at The Kazimier on 4th December. Craig’s rocket-fuelled personality mixed with David’s ‘Tim from The Office’ sense of humour leaves me to describe their music in one sentence: Non, Monsieur are like a relaxing Sunday afternoon, eating an entire bag of Skittles and washing them down with a bourbon whiskey. J’aime beaucoup.
For a free download go to nonmonsieur.bandcamp.com