Interview with Brennan Strawn Of
By: Anthony P. Hanna
Who are some of your musical influences?
Brennan: This is a funny question to me, I'm not your typical rock and roll kind of guy. I grew up in a home where my parents were very cautious of what I would and could listen to. I never went through a Nirvana phase or a punk rock phase or a classic rock phase. I was influenced by whatever music would touch me directly in my life, whatever was hip on MTV, or cool on the radio never affected me because I was not really a part of it. I think as a writer I was blessed to be set apart from those trends. I remember the bands that I grew up playing with were so different than the other bands around me, not that I was any better, it's just that I wanted to be original. I think that God has always been directing me somewhere a little different than everyone around me, not that I'm any better or more worthy, because I know I'm not.....it's just that I have always had a heart after God, but somehow I struggle more than anyone I've met, so for me to write or create music that follows a trend or a popular hook, doesn't seem honest, I always want to be honest.
I think that I've drifted from the topic, if you want some specific bands that helped me find my place as a musician, I believe I can think of a few. I was never into the grunge thing, nor the heavy metal thing, although I do see what others liked about it, it has it's cool flavor. I remember one night when I was about 12 years old, I was up late watching American Movie Classics and the Beatles film "A Hard Days Night" was playing. Like most men of my fathers age, I too was captured, it took me 12 years to find the Beatles, and I loved their songs. I'm more of an early Beatles kind of guy. Songs, it's all about songs for me, growing up I listened to some Christian music, nothing really sticks out today, it hurts to say that. There are a few records that felt real to me, the first Jars Of Clay record I heard when I was in grade school, and PFR "Great Lengths". I felt they came from the heart, not like today when I hear more catch phrases than a desperate need for the love of our Father. I hope you don't misunderstand, I think that Christian music today is a wonderful thing and I feel God might be stirring me to fall more into that market. I would just love to hear more honesty, maybe it's there and I haven't heard it.
My major influences today are probably an Icelandic group called Sigur Ros. Year after year I am touched every time I play their music, none of it gets old or dated to me. In my most recent years I'm influenced, more so, listen to Radiohead, Air, Kent, some others. Those are probably my favorite right now, maybe I'm wrong, it's hard to remember what my influences are without looking at my record collection, which is in my car.
What artists are you listening to these days?
Brennan: These days I'm listening to things that are going to inspire me. I'm starting to be in the writing process again, to which I do not listen to anything so I have to cram all my listening time within a month. I'm listening right now to "Cast Of Thousands" by Elbow. There is a group called Snow Patrol that played close to us in South by Southwest this year that has a nice sounding record. Lola Ray, a lot of Portishead recently, Air's latest, Lassie Foundation's latest.
What's the writing process like for the band?
Brennan: This all depends, usually I'll have a song or a melody. Then Brett and myself go into the studio and arrange it, then we let the band hear it. They find their moments and it falls into place. But each song has its own personal battle, I don't think that I write love songs or catchy pop songs, so when a song is finished, it's more like a mood to me. It's hard to explain, that's why it's difficult to get through an entire performance. With every lyric I'm pouring my heart out to my Father in Heaven, longing for his forgiveness, so within each moment of my life, the writing process reflects my walk with God.
So what inspires you when you write the lyrics?
Brennan: I'm inspired to write how I feel. Sometimes I feel love and hope, sometimes I feel lonely and abandoned. My failures as a Christian man struggling to be close to my Savior always overshadows everything else, I don't know if I'll ever understand the mercy that I need so much in my life.
Where do you think the future of Monarch is heading?
Brennan: I'm not sure, I don't even know if I'll be here tomorrow. Hopefully in the future, we will be in a city near you. One thing I can say is that wherever music is going, I want to be one step ahead of it. I never want to follow the trends, or replicate pop music, that's all great and I love some of the stuff, but I want more, I want depth. What all that music is missing, is the beauty of God.
What's your favorite part of playing live?
Brennan: Probably the moments that I can feel God, it's a wonderful time to humble myself because when I'm on stage, I'm very vulnerable and I look pretty bizarre in front of the crowd. I guess it's my way of saying to God, I don't care what others around me say or how I look, you are the realness in my life. Though I feel that sometimes I become selfish and fixated on looking cool or a pretty girl in the audience, I lose myself and become lost in the moment, then before I know it, the show is over and I can't remember one thing that I was saying. Those are terrible shows for me, and it's always my fault.
Now I noticed that in a few days you guys are opening up for Alanis Morissette and the Barenaked Ladies. How did that come about, and are you guys excited to see how a mainstream audience will perceive Monarch?
Brennan: We've always been intrigued by reactions of the mainstream, usually it's surprisingly good. We figured that we would be accepted more by the skinny cool kids, but we seem to be attracting more of your average mom and dad, son and daughter. I'm not too sure what I meant by that, it's just that we tend to relate to everyone, not just hipsters!
Has Monarch ever covered any other bands material, and if so, have you ever performed any of them at a show?
Brennan: We play around with a song or two at sound check, but have yet to play a cover song. I don't know if you will ever hear one at our show. We almost put together "Power Of Love" by Huey Lewis, that didn't quite work out.
So have you heard much feedback from other bands about "The Grandeur That Was Rome"?
Brennan: Yes, some, were only close
to a handful of bands.
Well thanks for taking the time to do this.
Brennan: So I hope that I didn't ramble, I tried to open up as much as I could. I normally don t, so hopefully this is what you wanted. -thanks a lot