Interview: MONEY

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MONEY returned to their home turf in Manchester to close out their UK tour at the O2 Ritz, and it was sure to be an event for the books.

Earlier this year the band released their second album, Suicide Songs, a masterpiece of uplifting melancholy – which seems ludicrously oxymoronic, I know! But as the three-piece prepared to take to the stage for the final night of their tour, frontman Jamie Lee tentatively dished on all things music and perception.

After several poor mobile connections and dropped phone calls, Lee rewound time to explain the anticipation he had had after first signing with the band’s current label, Bella Union, in preparation for the release of their album The Shadow of Heaven. He explained that he had always considered it foolish that so many bands were desperate to make contacts within the music industry and, as a result, suffered adversely from their desperation. It was sheer luck that MONEY were approached by representation and ultimately brought into the spotlight. Lee said that it felt great to be recognized among all of the musical potential that the world had to offer: “We just made what we wanted to make and concentrated on making music, and then it was good to feel that [people] with a credible background wanted to work with us.”

Interestingly, Lee told me that he did not like to refer to music as ‘music’ – instead, he explained, to him music is much more of an art form than how it is presented at face-value, and is based more on self-expression than anything else. I found this confusing, as surely there must be inspiration to be found in other aspects of life?

It required some light-hearted digging, but Lee finally gave in and spoke of his inspirations from within that famous concrete jungle: Manchester.  He would spend a night at the pub, drinking heavily, and then spend time continuously reading his songs and poetry out loud to himself, adjusting them through his boozy haze. When finalizing his music (or ‘art’), Lee wanted his work to retain that “sensation of being embedded in the streets, bars and people of the city”. Duly admitting that it was indeed a horribly unhealthy routine, Lee continued to stand by it, saying that it was what worked for him and that’s all that mattered because, really, he would never know what other people wanted.  He slowly added: “It was actually something real.”

In regards to touring, Lee explained that it was all just a part of the job: “That’s the way that the industry wants you to work. If you want people to hear the record, you have to go and sell it.” However, Lee admitted that he was never “in it” for the tours or the fame. Surprisingly, he did not feel comfortable describing himself as a musician – he preferred to label himself as a writer, but even that had proved to be taxing. “The literary world is even worse than the music world, unfortunately,” he explained. He went on to say that he had, at times, been disillusioned with both the world of music and literature, but despite this his love for the art forms had continued to live on.

Lee told me: “I go through stages of hating and having respect for audiences.” It’s all a matter of perspective, but Lee firmly stuck to his standpoint that, where making music is concerned, “the only real audiences that I care about are our peers because I know that they have decent taste and I respect their opinion.’ In regards to the band’s ‘peers’ Lee said that he didn’t necessarily feel pressured to make music that pleased them either, but he certainly wanted them to respect MONEY for their musical efforts. He said that it was easiest for him to do what came naturally instead of spending countless hours worrying about external opinions.

According to Lee, the three tracks off Suicide Songs that best represented the bands talents were ‘I’ll Be the Night’, ‘A Cocaine Christmas And An Alcoholic’s New Year’ and ‘You Look Like a Sad Painting on Both Sides of the Sky’. When it came to performing these songs live, Lee said that it was never a ‘performance’ – it was simply “honest, real and truthful”.

I had to ask Lee: why make the band’s name MONEY? It is simplistic enough to be elusive while combing the internet looking for the group’s songs, lyrics and other such things, but it is also a word that (in terms of the industry) is commonly associated with rap artists. Dare I mention the tasteful dollar sign usage in Ke$ha and A$AP Rocky? How about 50 Cent? I could go on but my point is, based on their music (and their lack of a plethora of f-bombs), MONEY is not a rap group, so what’s with that name choice? This was Lee’s response: “It’s the opposite of money. And that’s basically it. In a material world, you can’t help being kind of wrapped up in status or commodification.”

Throughout the global journey that MONEY has embarked upon, Lee told me that he pertained to one key mantra that he offered up as advice for fellow musicians and bands: “Keep listening for music, keep searching for music, keep loving music and push yourself.”

As interesting as that was, my real burning question throughout the interview had been this: based on where the band is now, what’s next for MONEY? Another tour? Another album? What exactly do fans have to look forward to? Alas, Jamie Lee remained as unmovable an object as he had been at the start of our phone call, and instead charmingly answered my question with another question: “Well, where are we now? I don’t know.”

So even though the future of MONEY is kept under lock and key within the inner circle of the band, one thing is for sure: MONEY is one class act to keep an eye on, whether they’re on the stage, in a pub or roaming the streets of Manchester looking for their next flash of inspiration… which is probably right after the pub bit.

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