Monsoon x Vinyl Mag

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In a music town like Athens, GA, with an endless spread of bands accessible for your listening – and viewing – pleasure, it’s rare to find one that can distinguish itself from the pack.  What’s even rarer is doing it before the members even graduate from high school!

Monsoon has done just that.  Started by Sienna Chandler (vocalist/guitarist) and a pick-up band at an Elliot Smith tribute show, Monsoon quickly gained notice and recognition by some of the Athens bigwigs and grew into a full-fledged band, consistently playing shows and major festivals in the town.  I grabbed a few minutes with Chandler to talk about growing up in the Classic City, plans post-graduation, and their big upcoming show.

Vinyl Mag: How did you form? Can you tell us the story of how you started and got on the Wuxtry Record Store Day comp?

Sienna Chandler: I was hanging outside at the 40 Watt after a B-53’s show. Jake Franzen had just made introductions and asked if I’d like to play an Elliot Smith tribute show he was putting together. I didn’t have a band at the time but said yes anyway. Jake is where it all began. He gave me the green light to do something I’d always wanted to do but wasn’t quite sure how to go about. I called up two friends, and we played the show a week or two later. Shortly after that, we were asked to play a show at Flicker – which I played on my 17th birthday – and a house show at the Plush Palace. Unlike the Elliot Smith tribute show, the songs I played at Flicker and at the house show were all my own. Everyone was really great, especially the Plush Palace folks. They were super supportive, super responsive, and we had a really great time. It was then we decided to become an official band.

Because we were unnamed at the time, the videos that my dad shot of the Plush Palace show were loaded onto YouTube by song title (vs. band name). Wuxtry man Mike Turner saw Monsoon (the song) on Facebook, and that’s how we were introduced. He liked the song and asked if he could put it on the compilation album.

VM: So few bands ever get “discovered” anymore. The bands that get recognition these days usually all have hired a publicist to get their name out there. How did it feel to have someone seek you out before you were even fully established?

SC: It’s really nice. I can’t say that we’ll always be able to handle it without a publicist, but for now, I like the fact that we’re out there without a filter. What you see is what you get. There isn’t a go-between. If we’re liked, I love being the one that gets the call to talk about our band, because that person actually wants to hear our story or is interested in our sound. Vinyl Mag for example. Thank you for seeking us out. Nice to meet you.

VM: What are your plans for when you graduate? College? Full-time band?

SC: I’m happy to announce I’m officially a High School graduate. I took the long walk across the stage, dressed in Oconee blue back in June. I hope to start college next semester after we get the album out.

VM: Where are headed for college? Are you going to keep up the band?

SC: Staying local for school and ABSOLUTELY!

VM: You said in an interview with the Flagpole that you “feel more inspired than influenced.” Are there any non-musical inspirations that you draw from when coming up with songs?

SC: Yes. Definitely. A beautiful flower. A child taking his first steps, long walks on the beach (…record screech). Just kidding. I find I work best in chaos. A busy schedule, deadlines, and six too-many-cups of coffee usually kick start the songwriting process.

VM: What are some of your other creative outlets besides music?

SC: The only other outlet, though I wouldn’t call it creative or even an outlet for that matter, is anime. I love anime. Anything Japanese for that matter. I think the culture is beautiful as well as their traditions. Note to reader: Hello? Anyone? !! Monsoon would like to tour Japan!! Hook a sister up.

VM: What is it like to grow up in such a music-minded town like Athens? How has the town influenced your sound?

SC: I wouldn’t trade growing up in Athens, Georgia for anything in the world. On any given night, on any given day, music is always accessible. That’s not the case in most towns. I remember the first time I ever heard The Rodney Kings. I was parked on Clayton and getting ready to drive away, but I heard this crazy awesome whaling coming from the Farm. I felt like Linus in the pumpkin patch: ‘What’s that [hair on end], WHAT’S THAT?’ I raced over, jumped up in front, and danced non-stop until the set was over. It’s still one of the funnest shows I’ve ever been to. I love it here. I love the vibe and the people and the venues and my friends.  I wouldn’t change growing up here for anything in the world.

VM: Do you do all of the writing? What is your writing process?

SC: I do. Very rarely will I tell Scott, ‘hey make this part sound sexy’ or Joey, ‘do a jungle drum right here.’ I write, and Joey and Scott make the songs come full circle in ways I’d never think to route them. They’re excellent musicians. They are incredible at making my mess a fine-tuned piece of chaos.

VM: [We originally chatted about doing an interview around] Dog Daze – how was that?

SC: Great! John Harry does an excellent job putting together bands, and it always brings a fun crowd. There’s the added bonus of working with the 40 Watt to put on a great show. There’s a reason that place makes all the Top Venue lists.

VM: What else have you been up to since then?

SC:  I’ve actually been writing, A LOT. I took this semester off to get the album out and have been working with a small Montessori Daycare program. The kids are amazing. Really cool humans. If I’m working something out lyrically in my head and not able to write it down, I sing it aloud, and the kids pick it up instantly. “Head starts spinnin, head starts spinnin, head starts spinnin….” We dance, we laugh, we sing. It’s been a fun experience.

VM: What is your favorite venue in Athens? Favorite festival?

SC: That would be impossible to answer. Every venue, every festival has been absolutely incredible to us. I’m not trying to sound all PC. I can’t think of a place we’ve played that we haven’t had a great time with great sound, great people, and a great crowd.

VM: What are some other local bands you are into?

SC: I currently have a huge music crush on Cottonmouth. Jacob is such a sweetheart off-stage, but when he performs, watch out. He fires out rhyme like machine gun fire, and it really sticks to the listener. It’s great. Then there’s Strays and Sad Dads – they’re my go to bands.

VM: Do you have any advice for young bands trying to get the word out?

SC: Just play. Keep it fun. That’s what it’s all about.

VM: What is next for Monsoon?

SC: Pump out this album and get the release underway! Just between me, you, and the reader, I’m pretty excited about the album release show….It’s gonna be a banger. Date TBA.

VM: Do you have any shows coming up?

SC: We do! If you find yourself in the Atlanta area on October 25th, swing by Terminal West – we’re opening for OF MONTREAL! We confirmed last night, and you’re the first to know.

Emily is an over-enthusiastic lover of music, books, movies, fashion, and culture in general. Her love of music spans across all genres (what is a genre anymore? she waxes poetic to herself), though she was nursed on true punk and will never understand “redneck country” music – tractors are not and cannot be sexy. Emily currently lives in Brooklyn, NY and considers herself to be a great wit, though she is still waiting on validation from a credible source.

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