A beer-side chat with Monarchy

Monarchy are a band little known to the Romanian public. Although started about 20 years ago, they only began working seriously about a year ago, and had their first concert this year, on March 14th.

Hello, I'd like to start with a short introduction. I don't know much about you, I saw you live for the first time last week. Who is Monarchy, what do you listen to, for how long have you been playing?

Geani: Geani Matei, drums. We got started a long time ago. About 12 years ago I came across Marian and Iulian, we played together for about 2 years, then the activity came to a stop due to financial reasons. The founding members are Marian and Iulian, I joined the gang in 1996, but we got serious again about a year ago. Until then, it was more like a friends' meeting, play the instruments, have a beer… Actually, we do everything over a beer, fortunately or not. As for music, my favourite band is Metallica, Lars Ulrich was my role model. There are others, of course, like Billy Cobham, Mike Portnoy, but Lars is my all time favourite.

Marian: I am Marian LeuÈ™teanu, and, together with Iulian Rob, around 1990, I started this wonderful gang, a band which is defined by being itself. We play what we like, how we feel, and we try to be as honest as possible with ourselves and with the public. If they like it, good, if not, well… they will like it eventually.

Is the style you got started with in the 90s still present in what you play nowadays?

Marian: We've changed somewhat personally, we got older, grew some white hairs, but the style and the direction stayed the same.

Cornel: I am Cornel, I play keyboards; first there were two, now I've got four – one of which, much to Marian's despair, always imitates a clarinet. I joined the band a little more than a year ago, we've met in a club and with other occasions, over a beer. Marian invited me to join the band, and I like what I'm doing here. I came with what I knew, influences from classical music, jazz, the 70s hard rock – Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Genesis (the old band), Santana, Gentle Giant. Then I tried Cactus, I had heard of them, but never listened, Thin Lizzy and more. It's hard to remember now. I could add Bad Company, Beatles, Rainbow, Whitesnake, Tangerine Dream. After that, I migrated towards progressive and blues. When I came here I started doing something new, I was a bit confused in the beginning, but the guys helped me fit in, and I hope I'm doing a good job.

Iulian: I am Iulian Rob, lead guitar. We try to do whatever we like, there are plenty of influences. I generally like bands that don't lie, don't forget where they started after 2-3 albums and veer into the commercial. I am conservative when it comes to musical style, just like the other members of this band, this “body”, as Dragoș called it during a radio show hosted by Lenți Chiriac, “Rock History”. We don't like to gloss over details, we are trying to do everything right, every note must be where it belongs, even if this means we get to spend a lot of time on a song. It may take a month or a year, we don't move on until we like it. This is how we work, these are the influences, we are trying to push through with this way of making music. If we're successful, good, if not, as Marian said, maybe we'll teach them how to like us.

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Dragoș Crețu, Monarchy, live in Coyote Club, March 2010
Photo: Sabin Iacob / StudioRock

DragoÈ™: I am DragoÈ™ CreÈ›u, the voice of the Monarchy “body”. Like Cornel, I am among the latest to join the group, I am also the youngest and the most energetic. There are a lot of influences to list. My favourite band has always been Metallica, and, of course, I started out copying James Hetfield's vocal style. Then I joined Monarchy, and the guys told me “yeah… you sing really well, but you need to change, like, everything”. I said OK, I'm open minded. Having listened to progressive in the past, I knew who were the landmark vocalists, but only after joining this band I really started to pay attention to the vocal parts. Starting with Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche), who is now my pattern as a vocalist, I began to understand what it means to be melodic and to transmit something to the people listening to us.

I read on your MySpace page that it took you quite a while to find a vocalist. Why did it take so long?

Marian: It's hard to be our vocalist.

DragoÈ™: Hell, yeah! This is very important, we are all the same when it comes to expectations from each other. They are especially demanding, both with themselves and the others in the group. They were looking for a vocalist that sings exactly how they wanted.

Marian: The ones who have tried to sing with us had the eternal quest: “Where do I come in?”. Dragoș made room for himself. He was the only one who managed to do that.

Cornel: As a newcomer, one has to find both how to fit in, and how to please everyone. Dragoș managed to do this. It was pretty much the same with me. We've had our clashes, my very good friend Mr Marian Leușteanu, only knows two attributes: “very good” or “very bad”, never in between. My incentive was “Bravo, Cornelius, very bad!”. We managed to pull it off together in the end.

Dragoș: The differing personalities in the group are important. Everyone in the band is strong willed, and this can be a double-edged sword: either very damaging, or very useful. To us, it is very useful, because our differences are converted into creativity. Each one has a preference for a certain kind of music, all of them different, and this shows very well in the music that we play: we can't be fit 100% in one musical genre. Cornel likes older music, Marian's favourite band is AC/DC, mine is Metallica, but right now I'm listening to Queensrÿche, Geani likes Metallica, too, Iulian's favourite is Dream Theater, Eddie's is Rammstein. We don't want to be classified in any way, because, as has been told before, we play what we feel, be it hard rock, heavy metal, progressive metal, thrash. All it matters is that it sounds good to us. What I liked about them since I joined the band, and they know it, was that they are people first, bandmates second. We are very good friends before anything, and this breeds creativity. Clashes and sparks are inevitable when you create something in common, but they happen in a way that is creative and fun, not destructive.

Eduard: Eduard Moraru, guitars; I listen to just about anything, only play what I like. And this, I believe, tells all one needs to know about what's going on here. I think I am the calmest guy in the band.

Talking about personalities and team work: how do you do things in Monarchy, how do you write the music, who writes the lyrics?

Eduard: It's always team work. DragoÈ™ writes the lyrics, everyone participates in writing the music. Everyone has ideas, we don't have someone appointed as a leader/composer. All of us are leaders.

Dragoș: As I said earlier, we all have different backgrounds, and it would be less creative to only have one person coming up with ideas. We use this to our advantage, it was never the case of someone saying “I am the leader, I am the composer”, we all have ideas and we all work on them together.

Geani: For instance, in the beginning DragoÈ™ came up with very good ideas for drum sequences. I analysed them, used and built on them afterwards.

DragoÈ™: By the way, Geani came up with a voice line, and he is the first drummer ever that leaves the stage or the rehearsal studio with a sore throat. It's an all-around collaboration on everything. Geani is never at the drums in our rehearsal photos, he's either playing bass or guitar.

How long does it take for you to write a song?

Eduard: It depends. It can take a day, two, three, or months. We have a song we started 2-3 months ago and is still unfinished, and we have songs where we came up with the idea one evening, concentrated on it, and finished the song – an example is Earthquake. And we have songs we started 10 years ago and are still unfinished.

I understood that you recorded an EP last year.

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Monarchy, live in Coyote Club, March 2010
Photo: Sabin Iacob / StudioRock

Eduard: Yes, “Jamming”. It was recorded here, more for demo purposes than anything. We struggled a bit to gather the equipment for what we wanted to do. It's a rehearsal room recording, but I think we pulled it off in the end.

Iulian: We had a multiple input sound card, plugged the instruments in, recorded on the computer, and that was all. Some will say that the drums are muffled, the guitars don't sound well… yes, that's how it sounds in here.

Dragoș: We really wanted this demo to sound “live”, we wanted people to feel it was recorded in a rehearsal room, to hear us just like we are. Somehow, this is the essence of a demo.

Eduard: As for the appearance, unlike others who give out a CD in an envelope, we wanted it to look good.

Did you send this demo to radio stations? How did you promote it?

DragoÈ™: No, we didn't advertise it much. Last year we were focused on writing as many songs as possible. This year, 2010, we want to get on as many stages as possible, we want the people to know us.

Should I understand that you have other recordings planned for this year?

DragoÈ™: We have some plans, but nothing solid right now. They are not the main focus. Our targets for this year are to play a lot, because that's what we love, and to have people know us. The demo was primarily made for ourselves, we wanted to have something material, to know that the time spent rehearsing came to a fruition in the form of a product we made ourselves. It's good for promotion, too.

Marian: We also made this demo so we can play, we needed to be able to send something to the venues and arrange concerts. Since we are virtually unknown, this was the only way we could promote ourselves.

Talking about concerts, what do you think of the progressive scene in Romania?

Marian: What progressive scene? It may be, maybe there are some good bands playing in garages, but they are very few.

DragoÈ™: One critical aspect is the Romanian public. I mean, even if we have strong demographics, Romania does not have one single band or artist that can fill a stadium, for example. I am sure that they are out there somewhere, but nothing was able to bring them to concerts in such great numbers so far. I've heard event organisers complaining that there are too few people coming to concerts, but this is not the music consumer's problem alone. It's also the bands that can't make people like them, or promoters that focus on getting an immediate result in pennies, instead of scouting talents and investing in them for a long term project that can make them fortunes later. And I'm not talking solely about promotion, the most important thing for an artist is to make people feel good at a concert, and transmit energy to the public, and, mark my words, you are getting it back hand over fist.

Marian: On the other hand, Metallica would have stayed anonymous if they started out here, due to the way music is promoted in Romania. Promotion on TV is zero. We are being subverted by other genres, people who don't invest in instruments, never learn how to play. Most of them are lying to the public. Many of them don't play live, they come with a negative or, worse, playback. And I find it unfair to us.

Talking about public, concerts… do you have anything booked this year?

DragoÈ™: We'll have a concert on April 11th, we'll be a support band, it will be our first time as a support band. The concert will take place in Club Mojo, we'll be opening up for Dirty Shirt.

This is all you have so far?

DragoÈ™: For now, yes, but we hope to play a lot this year.

Did you think about promoting this demo abroad?

DragoÈ™: Yes, didn't happen yet, though. Perhaps also due to the quality of the demo.

Marian: This year we want to be in any rock festival in Romania. Next year we'll take the it one step farther, applying to the big European festivals.

Why are you called Monarchy?

Marian: When we first got together, the project was called Hades. Then, we thought it sounded too much like inferno, death, didn't work. We needed something more pleasant, majestic. Like a crown. Like Monarchy. I settled on this name with Iulian, we were sitting on the mushrooms at the intersection of Câmpina and 1 Mai, the street that goes to the Cașin Monastery. We were having a beer, out with our guitars at night.

Iulian: It doesn't have a deep meaning, we just liked how it sounds. No connection with monarchists, royalty, it just sounded good. It's a regular word without a special meaning.

Thank you very much for your time, can't wait to see you live again.

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Monarchy, live in Coyote Club, March 2010
Photo: Sabin Iacob / StudioRock