Some time ago I met up with Julie Crawford, better known in creative circles as Monkoora, for a chat about her life and her art. Sometime later, sorry, I’ve composed a feature piece from the conversation which you can find below, hopefully giving some insight to the Glaswegian’s captivating crafts. Anchored around the release of her Nuclear BB EP, a record which is out now on Hotgem, this should give you a taste of what to expect. As such, right now if you are so inclined, you can read our review of that very EP, download it from iTunes, and as mentioned learn something about its conception in the paragraphs below.
From routine guitar lessons to self-taught piano as a teenager, the inclination to be an artist has always been with Julie Crawford, who now plies her eclectic and mind-bending trade under the moniker of Monkoora. Unable to find anyone with a similar musical mindset at high school with whom to form that dream garage band, she instead withdrew to creating music from a library of loops featuring vocals, pianos, distorted effects and whatever else seemed fitting. With the internet yet to be populated with a wealth of how to guides on the subject it was very much a DIY affair at the outset, an approach which permeates Crawford’s music to date. Skipping forward in time from those practice rooms, we find another musical accompaniment to education in the soundtrack that was generated for a degree show entitled WORSHIP. A concept imagined and realised in full by one person, it tells in stop motion the tale of an alternative dimension laced with powerful forbidden fruits, with a musical side that strikes the appropriate tone for this otherworldly saga. Fitting this under the Monkoora umbrella, these tracks and the other “initial” cuts which can be found on Bandcamp highlight a broken yet melodic nature to the overall aesthetic and sonic identity of the project.
This could certainly be a natural evolution from those grassroots beginnings, as layers of knowledge and experience are added like loops on a track to flesh out the enthralling final product. In terms of the basis of the overall audio-visual artefact of WORSHIP, this too was constructed as the sum of abstract parts to make a coherent yet warped whole. Inspired in part by a frequent and picturesque commute, dreams are also a pivotal part of Crawford’s art, once again flagging up the notion of incremental composition as tracks are originally formed based on experience rather than necessarily growing from the ground up on a defined path. This intrinsic inconsistency leads to a varied output which consequently fuels a longing for that “All your songs sound the same!” criticism, or some tangible common thread at the very least. Inverting the talk of dreams, there is no naivety here about attaining that self-sustaining employment position in the creative sector. Whilst she’s content to focus on her art, both Monkoora and beyond, for a time the treacherous and difficult path required has been mapped, but there's confidence in the rewards to be achieved, both in terms of money and indulging your passion.
Having both evolved and devolved several times as a composer, Crawford’s writing style has departed from layered loops through knowledge and experience as mentioned previous. With access to more equipment and information, the scope of possibility has expanded, but the tendency for inconsistent outcomes remains true. Now under the name of Monkoora, taken as an accidental misspell (more on that later) of the title of an exotica track called ‘Moon of Manakoora’ from the 1950s, which you can listen to on YouTube should the fancy it. With the notion of the exotica genre aligning with her own penchant for fantasy and escapism the name seemed particularly fitting, and more original with some rearranged letters. Following the independent releases you can find on the Bandcamp above, contact was eventually made with Clair Crawford of Glasgow-based management agency and record label Hotgem, which resulted initially in 2016’s Pale Slopes EP and now this year’s follow-up release Nuclear BB. Both releases are based in electronic sounds and consist of equal parts excitement and a haunting dread. However, it’s not just the music and amplified voice that this connection has brought, it’s experience and opportunity, with perhaps the most notable example being an inclusion at Anna Meredith’s graphene-related residency at the Manchester Science Museum, which is quite special as far as second live performances go.
Apart from “real world” Influences, two bands have a particularly significant hand in moulding the approach and sound of Monkoora, The Birthday Massacre and Mindless Self Indulgence, two conflicting artists held dear from teenage rebellion until now. From dreamy progressions to bombastic beats you can experience tinges of each on Nuclear BB. The title stems from Crawford’s proximity to the Faslane naval base and is a play on the idea of the nuclear family when the parents of that family are employed at that base. Enthused by the colours of the peace camp the aesthetic is suitably psychedelic and the music is as diverse as expected, it’s also imbued with a political edge which people are taking all too literally. Both ‘Bocx Wurld’ and ‘Straddlin’ The Fence’ (that’s not ‘Straddalin’, a mystery spelling mistake which we’re promised was not the artist’s fault) featured explicitly vocalised opinions, which certainly come across as such. However, the intention was almost the opposite, as the true purpose of those segments was to highlight a discontentment with the state of things and a desire to disengage, not to preach from a pedestal. This is not to say she’s devoid of opinion or prone to shying away from important topics, it’s just not what Nuclear BB is meant to convey. In this case and others it seems that Monkoora is an enjoyable outlet for the creative storm inside Julie Crawford, whilst remaining firmly rooted in reality despite its many fantastical elements. Garnering recognition and spreading the music is the next step, and with a Scottish Alternative Music Awards nomination under her belt already, the path onwards is surely vivid.