Monument Valley - Interviews - Soundblab

Monument Valley

by Amy Baker Rating: Release Date:

Monument Valley is the brainchild of London-born musician, Ned Younger. Although confessing to a penchant for UK garage, Younger is better known for his poetic and articulate lyrics which are perfectly demonstrated on his EP Tongues, released on November 28.

Tongues features songs inspired by photographs of strangers that Younger has collected from car-boot sales over the years and is released in conjunction with a beautiful book featuring photographs, lyrics and illustrations.

I caught up with Ned to talk about the inspiration behind his unique project and what the future has in store.

Monument Valley sounds like a band name, is there anyone else involved?

Well it's somewhere in the middle, it's kind of a solo project but I couldn't do it without the great people who I am playing with. They have been there for the last year on cello, keyboard and drums and they are all really, really important. I take the songs to them more or less finished and then they work their magic. It would be impossible to do it without them.

Where does the name Monument Valley come from?

I always answer this question about the meaning of the name on a kind of sliding scale of pretentiousness - it gets worse as it goes on. On one hand I really like the name Monument Valley and how it sounds but also when I was collecting lost photographs I found a whole stack from a family trip to Monument Valley. So that was pretty much why I went with it. It sounds like an amazing place but unfortunately I haven't ever been - one day!

Your EP Tongues is being released in conjunction with a book comprised of lyrics, illustrations and the photographs that inspired your songs - where did you find these photographs?

Lots of places really. Car-boot sales and markets seem to have baskets of old photographs everywhere and I just found stacks and stacks of them. Everywhere I went I just found loads.

Tell us about what to expect from the book …

It's DVD booklet size, 24-25 pages . It's got the photos and the lyrics, the illustrations and obviously the CD on the back. It will definitely be a good looking thing whether you like the music or not!

Who is responsible for the illustrations inside the book?

A friend of mine from school, Mikey Smith. I hope he won't mind me saying that he lacked a bit of ambition for a while but he was just ridiculously talented and I had always wanted to do something with him. He has done some fantastic animation for Lulu and the Lampshades which really showcased his talent.

Working with him was such an easy process, I just played him the songs, told him a little bit about how I came up the narratives and stuff and then he sent me, I don't know, eight, maybe nine images. I didn't turn any of them down. They were all just perfect straight away.

Do you always take your inspiration from physical objects? Is this something that we should expect to see with your future work?

No, I don't and I'm pretty sure that the next project won't be. I started doing it without really thinking that it was going to become my next record but then it got to six or seven songs, five of which were inspired by photographs and it seemed silly not to make a record based around the idea in some way or other.

What's the thinking behind the name of the EP?

It's called Tongues simply because I saw it as putting tongues or voices into the mouths of the people who you see in the photographs.

You've drawn a few comparisons to Mumford & Sons both lyrically and the fact that you were supported by their band - is this something that you intended? Who else are your musical inspirations?

Well there are obviously bands that I feel really strongly about that have influenced me. I do have to say that the Mumford & Sons thing, I don't really see that much. I haven't really listened to them much at all, which over the last year or so seems to have been practically impossible because they have been everywhere. I know that they are from a similar part of West London as me and Ben played a huge role in me recording , which was obviously amazing so to some extent I feel huge debt to them but I don't necessarily see the link with them musically.

There's a band called Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and I'd say he's probably right up there, and Belle & Sebastian obviously.

You're known for your lyrics - do they come first or do you come up with the music first and then add the lyrics?

It's a fairly simultaneous process. For me, with all music, the lyrics are so so important. I really love hip hop, I always have, plus I was at a very impressionable age when garage music happened in London so I got really into that, their lyrics, the MCs and the way that they form their lyrics. I always consider these influences when I am writing my lyrics.

Have you ever tried your hand at this type of music? Should we expect to see MC Monument Valley?

No, definitely not MCing and not rapping, but some old school friends of mine and I have a side-project which has definitely got its roots in hip hop.

Tell us about where you have been on tour recently?

I've was touring around the UK throughout October. It was a great tour with some genuinely lovely people who make fantastic music so that was a lot of fun. Holland and Belgium was at a festival called Crossing Borders which is a literature and music festival so it was for a slightly older demographic. It was very much a mixture of culture and music so quite high-brow which was quite unexpected because I never would have called myself high-brow!

What do you take inspiration from in everyday life?

I don't know, I suppose the people around me. More recently I started to think about writing songs about people that I know and have known. Not necessarily in relationships but I've known a lot of people for a long time now and you see how people change and how people cope with things and there's definitely something interesting in that.

What are you listening to at the moment?

That's hard because the things that I have been listening to are kind of the things that I have been listening to for the last few years. I have heard a couple of new bands recently that I really like. I saw Other Lives in Holland and they were really great. I used to really like The Decemberists and I hadn't listened to them for a few years but I've been listening to their last record, The King is Dead, and it just reminded me why I liked them so much.

What's next for you?

Hopefully just more of everything really. It's just been finalised that I will be recording again in December and I am really excited about that because I think that they are probably the best songs that I have ever written. It will probably be a double a-side single or an EP - I'm not really sure at the moment. And then there will be shows. I think I'm back out on tour in February.

Tongues is out now and you can snap up your copy on Amazon, PLAY, iTunes and at Rough Trade.

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