July 27, 2010

monarchs family

if you ever lose your man or your wealth, you will always have the things you built yourself.
- "the things you build yourself" celeste griffin of monarchs
celeste griffin of monarchs. photo by: don vancleave
i first met Celeste not even a year ago, but i remember it distinctly. i remember being caught up in her beauty, it's unique and one of a kind. then i heard her voice at Bottletree for a show around Christmas time. her voice + her beauty = something to marvel at. add in beautiful and thoughtful lyrics and... done. with that combination one could never forget her. here is what celeste had to tell me... 
celeste at age 2. where it all began... 
q: celeste, how did it begin for you, the music that is?
a: well... listening to music goes back as far as my earliest memories.  i always loved dancing to a funky beat... and it seems that music and dance have always been intertwined for me.  we have a VHS tape of 2-year old celeste breaking it down in a diaper to some funky beats at my big brother's skating birthday party.  also, my favorite toy was my Fisher-Price record player.  i used to sit in my room and listen to the records and look at the pictures on the record covers.  i had dance routines to all of these Disney songs and was obsessed with watching Wee-Sing movies and musicals.  

writing and playing and singing music, however, is still really new.  i took piano in the 3rd grade and hated it.  {I am now the perfect example of someone who wishes she would have stuck with piano as a child when her parents were willing to pay for lessons!}  in the 7th grade, i tried out guitar, but it didn't come naturally so i stopped playing it.  it wasn't until three years ago, that i sat down at my mother's piano and a song basically fell out of my mouth and fingers.  i had never sung before... or thought about trying to be a musical artist.  Preston Lovinggood {of Wild Sweet Orange} was with me and helped me finish the song, "Notes on Disease." so song-writing and singing for me is a true gift that came out of nowhere... and i still see my talent as a straight up miracle.
photo by: luke mckay

After that first song, the flood gates opened and I was song writing all the time.... I now can't imagine life without singing or writing.  It's pretty bizarre and amazing.
Monarchs "Miles away" from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

q: what is the story of monarchs?
if you're talking story as in the band, the brief version is that after i wrote my first batch of songs in 2007, i enlisted a group of guys to play a show with me at Cool Beans in Edgewood.  It was a great first show that included Preston Lovinggood, Kate Taylor, and Triceratops- three awesome Birmingham musicians/bands.  the players in the group changed over the course of the year i was living in Birmingham and playing.  in 2008, i moved to Austin, Texas {where I'm living now} to simultaneously pursue my masters degree in Community and Regional Planning at UT and my music career.  my band has also been changing since i've lived in Austin and is now in one of its best forms yet.  Van Hollingsworth {of The Magic Math} is my guitarist/song writing parter, Josh Halpern {of Marmalakes} is an amazing and energetic Austin drummer, and Phil Ajjarpu is a really solid bass player that can also play pedal steel and arrange the most awesome harmony parts... so i finally have a blended Austin-Birmingham band.

photo by: rob culpepper photography
if you're talking story as in the band-name, i named the band Monarchs because i was originally writing a lot of songs about my family and stories in my family history, so i loved the concept of a dysfunctional-royal family. royal because i almost considered my old-money Tuscaloosa family to be this royal family and "royal" also, because like many girls, i have always felt like a princess
photo by: luke mckay

the meaning of Monarchs has grown much deeper and expanded and continues to become more significant for me.  i love thinking of Monarchs as a straight up community project or FAMILY where everyone--players, listeners, bloggers (i.e.- ansleyhayden), readers, photographers, videographers, painters---all kinds of people--are giving their talents and time to help push Monarchs along as a project.  it truly is a community and i am alway so so thankful to have so many wonderful people offering me their talent, advice, and now RESOURCES! 
this resource comment gets to me to my current situation/source of thankfulness.  i am recording my first full-length album here in Austin with producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Heartless Bastards).  {i have already released 2 ep's: http://www.monarchsfamily.com/shop/}.  in order to record this full-length, i have been raising money through Pledge Music- where friends, fans, and family, serve as a community label by pledging money to the record-making cause.  it's been a pretty amazing process and we have hit 83% of my fundraising goal!  i have a week left of the pledge drive, so folks who are reading and would like a new Monarchs' album, please pledge and I will make your dreams come true!  your pledge secures a digital download of the full-length album, whatever prize you select, and an insider view into the record-making process-  http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/monarchs/
q: do you think austin opens up the opportunities for musicians, such as yourself? or is it overwhelming?
a: Austin most definitely opens up opportunities for musicians.... because music is so embedded in the culture here, an appreciation of artists and music is just built into the fabric of the city:  there are tons of media outlets that feature local bands, there are handfuls of amazing record stores, there are numerous great and varied rooms to play, there is a large audience of listeners of all ages, interested in all kinds of music, there are management companies, lots of studios, lots of players, organizations that provide musicians with low-cost heath care... the list goes on...  i have taken advantage of this rich music scene and have been amazed at how well accepted Monarchs has been and how quickly we have grown as a local band in the city. the flip side of all that richness, of course, is that the market is pretty darn saturated.... so, it's really hard to make a living just by playing locally {not that this isn't a problem elsewhere}. 

photo by: eye candy photography
q: tell us what you do in your other life...
well, i just finished my Masters at UT in urban planning. so i am on the search for a job at the moment.  i'm really interested in taking vacant, old buildings and transforming them into community and artist spaces.  i used my degree to focus on the role of arts and culture in urban growth, economic development, community-building, and revitalization.

photo by: rob culpepper photography
MOST definitely writing.  i am a writer to the core.  though i play the piano and guitar with the band/ write on the instruments, i do not consider myself a player at all.

photo by: rob culpepper photography
q: what inspires you most? 
Relationships.  Beautiful people.  My grandmother.  My mama.  My friends.  And... double rainbows {have you seen that youtube!?}
photo by: eye candy photography
where there is love {of song writing and dysfunctional-royal families}, 
there is art. 

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