There is a certain amount of pride that you feel when you start listening to a band that is pretty much from your back garden, and they sound like a band that has regular world tours. Okay, Monark are from Johannesberg but on a global spectrum that is pretty much my back garden. It is when South African bands start sounding like alt-pop heavyweights, like One Republic, that I get a bit teary eyed and rather excited.
Monark crept onto my radar at the beginning of this year when I heard their song “Build Me Up” playing on one of our premier radio stations – 5FM. I got a bit excited because I thought this was some cool, new international band that everybody was getting hyped up over. The simple piano melody, the aloof string instruments in the back, the soft kick-drum and the catchy chorus all pointed towards this being one of those cool new indie-ish alt pop bands that everybody seemed to be loving at the time. When the DJ announced that Monark was a local band – my jaw dropped slightly. There was no way that this kind of musical beauty was local. I’m used to the local bands being gritty rock bands or upbeat indie, not carefully orchestrated alt-pop beauty. Suffice to say that I immediately became besotted with the band.
The thing that I love about Monark, and their debut album Negative, is the simplicity. A piano, drums, synth and few string instruments are all they need to immerse you in a sea of inexplicable beauty. Also, let us not forget the outstanding beauty that is Eugene Coetzer’s voice. There are no fancy production twists or an entire orchestra playing in the background. They grab your attention by being the kind of band you want to listen to when you’re in a relaxed mood, the kind you listen to when you want your spirits lifted, but don’t want to be greeted with ferocious energy and incredibly upbeat music. That being said, Monark do have some songs that are upbeat like “Something”, “Build It Up”, “Own the Night” and “You Make” but there are also rather slower songs like “Over Now”, “Wait” and “Beginnings”. The band deals out songs to suit your every mood – except perhaps the more aggressive moods – while still being an easy to listen to and ridiculously catchy band.
Maybe the only detriment to the band is that their lyrics are not the most creative, although that is not actually a detriment. Yes, they do deliver the same themes in each song – themes of love and also a religious sentiment in “Beginnings”, but there is strength in these lyrics. Once again, I turn to the simplicity. There is not much incredibly unique within the lyrics but it is Monark’s simplistic approach that works in their favour. Choruses like “We build it up / when you’re losing all control / so give a little bit oh / give a little bit of your soul” and “Come, and, come and take me over / ‘cause I’m going under / could you stand by me?” are destined to be catchy and remain stuck in your head for days on end.
Monark are causally cruising into the South African music scene, and hopefully the international music scene, with a resounding success of a debut album. Delivering unmistakably catchy alt-pop tunes like some underground version of One Republic, Monark are fated to make an imprint on the hearts of all South Africans.