We warned you and gave you plenty of time to sort yourself out, so if you’re still not onboard the Reliqa train, you’re missing out. We’ve had just over a month to get our earholes around the proggy goodness that is their newest single ‘Mr Magic’ and I was lucky enough to chat to charismatic frontwoman Monique Pym. We went deep, spoke about politics, world events and what we would say to Trump. Clapbacks, Kermit sipping tea, the song itself, signing to Destroy All Lines and whether we can expect an album soon.
Getting into it straight away, we talk about the inspiration behind ‘Mr Magic’. Written during the bushfires at the beginning of this year (yeah, that was this year, feels like a lifetime ago right?), the song talks of frustrations with world leaders and accountability. The sad reality is that things have only gotten worse with the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands (or knee) of a police officer, sparking racial tension and widespread protests causing America to go to war with its citizens.
“‘Mr Magic’ has a different interpretation every single day, but in a situation like this, we all have accountability to listen and improve and make sure that we are giving a voice to the oppressed voices. It’s very frustrating because it further reinforces exactly how I was feeling when I was writing the song. You’re looking to the people in power, in this case, police officers and political powers, to guide you out of a situation like this, not to put you in further danger. The purpose of their platform is to make sure that their people are not only heard, but they’re also respected and treated with care. We also need to accept accountability ourselves, and understand our privilege and use that to further our knowledge and be active and listening as well.” Monique explained.
While the first six months of 2020 have been crazy and we have no idea what the end of the year has in store, Monique explains that she is a glass half full person and hopes that everything the year is throwing at us will bring some change.
“I’m worried, and I’m scared, and I’m angry! But I see these obstacles and these continuous problems as something that’s going to make us stronger. There’s a lot of strength in community, so fingers crossed we can actually do something and make a difference this time.”
“I am just hoping that tomorrow will be better and then the next day and then 2021 as a whole is going to be the supportive big sister of 2020” she laughs.
Sticking with politics and the idea of calling world leaders out, I ask Monique if she could call out one world leader, what would she say to Donald Trump.
“Who’s the most problematic world leader, and why is it Donald Trump?” she laughs.
“In all seriousness, I have a little bit of trouble if I don’t know every side of a situation. But from what I do know, I would say ‘Trump! Wake up, look at your country, look at your people the way we are looking at them’. I do not have a degree in politics so I can’t articulate this in the way that I’m feeling it, but I really feel for those people who are on the frontline and who are experiencing this firsthand, those people who have been systematically oppressed forever without relief.”
To further this, Monique says she wants people to understand the privileges they have, like being a white person in Australia with access to healthcare and education. Recognising this does wonders, and helps us feel empathy and compassion. She jokes that the world needs The Black Eyed Peas ‘Where Is the Love?’ to be playing (but not the weird re-release that had Kendall Jenner in it for some reason).
To lighten the mood, I ask what Monique’s favourite social media clapback has been and offer that mine was Seth Rogen telling people commenting “All Lives Matter” on his Black Lives Matter Instagram post to “Fuck Off”.
“I will be honest; I don’t involve myself in social media as much as maybe I should. Of course, I make sure to use my platform and stay informed however I can through social media, but I’m really bad with the lingo and things when it comes to the drama and the ‘tea’. You’re basically talking to a young dinosaur.”
“But I’m seconding your answer about Seth Rogen because he did a fantastic job putting people those in line”
I offer that for someone who doesn’t know the lingo, knowing what ‘tea’ is, is pretty impressive.
“If drama happens it’s ‘ooh tea’ right? The way that I see it is Kermit the Frog sipping the Lipton tea and saying ‘Well, that’s none of my business.’ That’s me!”
We get to ‘Mr Magic’, and I ask Monique to tell me how the different parts and sounds came together.
“It was an active step in a different direction to what we’d done previously. With the music we’d put out before this new era, I suppose you could call it; the process was, very disjointed and very distracted. I’m proud of the product that we have brought out under that method, it ended up being best-case scenario, but there was a lot of stress in the writing process, and we felt a little bit disconnected from each other because we weren’t actively doing the sit and collaborate and put an active part equally into the songs. It worked for us then, but we thought, let’s do something different, something a bit more collaborative.”
“The song started with me and [lead guitarist] Brandon actually, and we don’t usually hang out outside of the band, so it was a really interesting dynamic, something really unique. We sat down, and we just put our minds to work. I had the chant in the bridge, so we wrote a riff, I had some piano parts, and that led into a verse, and then we got Miles and Shannon involved. We ended up just pretty much equally collaborating.”
About the twists and turns and different sections of the song, Monique says that it ended up that way because there is a taste of all four members, she says it is like a Reliqa EP condensed into one song.
“We all have our own particular niche, our particular style that we contribute to the band. So ‘Mr Magic’ was the first time we really harvested that.”
The inspiration for the film clip came after the bushfires with the band wanting to see what state the environment was in. They were happy to see that nature was repairing itself, but there was still some scorched trees and grass which helped channel the energy of the song. The location was scouted by Harry Vincent of Kangiten Productions who the band clicked with straight away, sharing the same values.
The band also wanted to experiment with the one-take style of video, as seen most recently in the movie 1917 and Harry did an incredible job pulling that together. There was a lot of choreography and sprinting involved. The band plan on releasing a behind the scenes look at the making of the video soon which will show the not so glamorous side, with things like wading through waist long grass and tripping over. Even with the summer heat and wet and squelching socks, the band enjoyed making the video and hope to work with Harry again soon.
Because of the old Rona, Reliqa hasn’t had the chance to play ‘Mr Magic’ to crowds yet, and Monique says she is looking forward to finally being able to. I muse that their songs are such a theatrical journey and I honestly don’t know how the band gets through them with such high energy.
“I don’t know either,” Monique laughs.
“I’ve gotta say, I think it comes down our to youth, we’re always being called babies amongst the rest of the scene because we’re in our early twenties, so I suppose we’ve got the elixir of youth on our side.”
Yeah alright, rub it in.
Speaking of playing live, Reliqa has just signed to Destroy All Lines, joining the likes of Polaris, Thornhill and Ebonivory. Monique says she feels comfortable that the company has the band’s best interests at heart and shares a common vision with them. They are excited to on the roster with incredible bands they look up to and hope to one day repay the favour to newer bands when they are veterans.
“I think your humility comes from that too because if you start from the ground when you do get to the level you always dreamed of, you can look back and say ‘we came from that’. There are a lot of bands who are at the bigger level who respect those small bands because it’s a cycle. It’s like the circle of life.”
Triple J Unearthed premiered ‘Mr Magic’, and Monique says they had a lot of praise for the song and the band felt very privileged to have that experience. Not only that but like songs before it, ‘Mr Magic’ has been added to the Heavy Queens playlist on Spotify joining the likes of Evanescence and Lacuna Coil.
“That’s a line-up right there, a heavy queens festival would be next level! It’s definitely so exciting to be part of that and be included with some female inspirations in metal, and it’s like, I’m one of those people, what? It’s ridiculous!”
To finish up, I fish for a scoop on new music because last time we spoke to Monique (read here) she said there was fresh goodness in the works.
“We’re definitely working hard on new music, and there’s one song that I just cannot wait to show you guys. But an album or an EP is on the table; It’s something that we’re really looking forward to getting into.” Monique explains.
“At the same time, we’ve also been considering changing up our release strategy, because there are bands that have been doing a fantastic job at what we call playing the single game. They just strategically release single after single, keeping their listeners active and engaged throughout the process leading up to a bigger release. We want to see where that could take us. ‘Mr Magic’ is one of a few standalone pieces, and we’re hoping to gauge interest for an album before we really commit to it, because it can be such a massive thing. And while we would be happy for any support we get, we want to think strategically. We’re just trying to stay involved and stay adaptable to the ever-changing industry, we’re noticing the popularity of playlists and algorithmic cycles, so singles play a big part in that.”
“Don’t get me wrong though, I’m a sucker for a good album, and I really hope that stays a delivery method of music being produced. Especially in the progressive metal industry, having conceptual albums is really important. We’re staying open-minded, but basically, it’s a matter of if you want an album, tell us, because that will help us decide whether or not we take that leap.”
So there you have it folks, start letting the Reliqa peeps know how keen you are for an album and they will deliver.
Interview by Caitlin MacDonald @cait_2tone