Fresh off the plane from Dublin, Monjola headed to a studio in East London to catch up with us. A relatively newcomer to the scene, Monjola is making timeless music to get people smiling and moving. There’s some exciting acts coming out of Dublin at the moment, and Monjola is certainly leading the charge.
Alex Rorison: How you doing today?
Monjola: I'm doing good and you?
A.R: Yeah, not bad! So you just got into London today?
M: Literally just came from Dublin this morning like yeah, I haven't slept I'm running on coffee and just vibes.
A.R: Is Dublin home for you?
M: Yeah, I used to live in the suburbs with my family in a place called Lincoln. But now I live in the centre, like the city.
A.R: Do you prefer it in the city?
M: Yeah, definitely. It’s just so much more inspiring being in the city. My housemate is the guy who does all my videography, Sam Fallover, shoutout Sam, and we just bounce ideas off each other.
A.R: What's the music scene like in Dublin?
M: It's on the come up, I feel like we're the underdogs, but there's a lot of talent in Ireland, like a lot. So it's really exciting to see people actually coming out and doing their thing, you know?
A.R: We were talking about people like Kojaque and Rejjie Snow earlier…
M: Yeah, but there's loads more fresh new artists.
A.R: Is there anyone you could recommend?
M: Yeah, I can recommend Aby Coulibaly and Gaff… Yeah they’re cold.
A.R: Have you always been into music?
M: Always, but only really started taking it seriously like 2 years ago. But in school when I was like 14, I was in a band, I played drums - just self taught. And then I took guitar lessons when I was younger. So I've always been just like, really, really into music. Just going to church as well, I went to a Nigerian church. The kind of music that they played had a huge impact on the kind of music I like now. But yeah, I’ve definitely always been into music for sure. Even when I was in college, and I wasn't making music, I was still so involved in it... I was organising these events and getting artists to perform. I just loved being involved in the whole process of making music, or recording, or performing, or anything to do with it.
A.R: Do you do all your own production now?
M: My younger brother produces for me and that artist I mentioned - Aby Coulibaly. So we actually set up an independent label called Chamomile records; myself, my brother and Aby, but he does all the production. Sometimes we bounce ideas off each other, but he's the main guy.
A.R: What's it like working with your brother?
M: It’s so good. It's so mad, because whenever I get into a studio with another producer I feel so sorry for them, because it's like, I have to compare you to my brother, because we just bounce off each other, and he just knows my sound. It's very hard for me to work with other producers at the moment, I still do, but I feel like I just really enjoy working with him. All the songs I've released so far are produced by my brother.
A.R: Do you trust him a bit more?
M: Yeah. He’ll make a beat and it’s just me. He just knows what I like.
A.R: It’s kinda like Kaytranada & Lou Phelps...
M: Exactly! We grew up listening to the same music, he'll show me an artist and I’ll show him artists so we have really similar tastes in music.
A.R: Are you quite close in age?
M: I'm 4 years older.
A.R: What kind of music did you grow up with? What were you listening to?
M: Erm... Pharrell, Snoop Dogg...
A.R: When Pharrell and The Neptunes were producing everything on the radio…
M: Yeah like 80% of the songs on MTV. I’d love that, because even if you don’t listen to Pharrell, you’ve listened to Pharrell. I was also listening to Maroon 5, Kings of Leon, Coldplay, a real mix. I did listen to a lot of pop.
A.R: What kind of thing are you listening to now?
M: Tom Misch, still Pharrell. I actually listen to my own music… I listen to it and I think ‘Oh I could’ve done this better’. Little Simz, I just listen to a huge bunch of stuff. But yeah I really like Tom Misch, he’s like the blueprint right now.
A.R: What's your writing process? Do you have the lyrics and then you and your brother make a beat to fit them?
M: Most of the time I'll have something written beforehand. I'll write whenever I just get inspired. I get inspired at the most random times, like on the bus and I’ll write something. Then I'll bring the idea to him and then I’ll write it with him. But mostly I write about stuff I’m going through or I’ve seen a close friend go through and I can relate to it. I find it hard to write about things that I’m not feeling.
A.R: So it has to come from a personal place?
M: Exactly. And I didn't realise it, but people have told me I write in a storytelling kind of way. I like to actually take people on a little journey. Because it's a lot easier for me to get that out and it's a lot easier for people to take it in as well, you know?
A.R: I was listening to some of your tracks on SoundCloud. I feel like they were more lo fi. Especially compared to your newer stuff like ‘Smile’. Why is that?
M: I think that's the difference between using YouTube beats and then getting beats produced for me. I think it’s just being able to work with my brother. The way I started working with my brother is weird, because during COVID myself and Aby were looking for producers. I think my brother was just making beats at that time, and all my mates were making music. But he was the younger one, so we wouldn’t really pay attention to what he was up to. But he was upstairs and I heard him play this beat and I ran upstairs and was like ‘what is that?!’. I was so shocked, and made him send it to Aby. She then recorded a song over it, and that was like under a year ago and now it has a million streams. Since then we’ve just been working together.
A.R: Is there anyone else that you'd like to collab with?
M: Pharrell! I would love to collab with Pharrell, Beabadoobee, Steve Lacy.
A.R: Steve Lacy is so talented, actually all of The Internet are..
M: They’re all so talented together and individually, I really like their setup. It's pretty cool.
A.R: How would you describe your sound?
M: Honest, vibes, and more vibes. Uplifting, I want it to be feel-good. I’m trying to make music for people to actually vibe to. I will make slower, more soulful stuff but right now I just wanna make something more uplifting. During COVID, I was just in bed going through a really bad place, where I was so bored and didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I had just finished college as well, so all my friends were getting jobs and I didn’t know what I was actually doing with my music, and thought I should probably get a job. So I was overthinking a lot. But, when I came out of that, I wrote ‘Smile’. I’m grateful because without the last year I don’t think I would’ve released music.
A.R: If you weren’t making music what would you be doing?
M: Maybe managing an artist. I was managing an artist before. I would be running events. 100% something in music. I would love to be a songwriter and write for other people.
A.R: Like for Pharrell?
M: Ah man, if he would take one of my songs... I have songs written for him, maybe one day.
A.R: Who are your main musical influences?
M: I think you know who I’m going to say… I’ll think of someone else. I like Fela Kuti. I’m Nigerian, he’s Nigerian, I really like what he stood for. So he’s definitely inspiring, I like how expressive he was. I get inspired by artists that actually speak about things that are really going on rather than being empty. Artists that can actually make an impact and that’s what Fele Kuti did. But obviously Pharrell. What I like about him is that he had his own sound. I want to have my own sound. If you hear Pharrell or The Neptunes, you know it's him. I’m inspired by Tom Misch, Brent Faiyaz and Jorja Smith. I like all three of them because they’re independent artists, and then they're at a stage where they’re sustainable.
A.R: What about outside of music? Any influences?
M: I was really into rugby, I was a proper rugby head. There’s definitely some rugby players that inspire me with their work ethic and discipline. With music you need to have a strong work ethic.
A.R: I’m guessing you haven’t done much touring?
M: I haven’t done any touring, but I have done some recorded stuff, like I did Boiler Room in Dublin. It was fun, but it’s weird because I’m performing in front of a camera crew. I don’t know who’s out there listening to music and who would come to my shows. It was good, but it’s not the same.
A.R: So are you planning to start playing some shows?
M: 100%. I have a band ready; sax, guitar, my brother on keys, and drums. It hits different having a full band.
A.R: Which song are you most excited to play live?
M: It would have to be Serena, which I played at the Boiler Room set. My brother and I did that, he sang the chorus with me. It‘s really groovy and you can dance and stuff. I also like ‘Feels Right’, it’s so upbeat.
A.R: What do you want people to get from your music?
M: I want people to listen to it and feel happy and feel something. I want people to actually feel and relate to it. Just take something away from it.
A.R: How do you see your sound evolving in the future?
M: I actually can’t answer that question, I have no idea! Hopefully my sound becomes more like caviar. It means that I’m doing well, and if I’m living off making music maybe my sound will change. I’d love to record an album with a band played live. I actually don’t know…
A.R: Are you working on anything at the moment?
M: I’m working on a couple singles, and I’m putting out an EP soon. I’m not too sure when, but soon. I have an EP ready to go, but I want to release it when things are back to normal. I want people to be able to experience it fully. I want to have a listening party, and I feel like I don’t want to do that over Zoom.
A.R: If you could be remembered for one thing?
M: For making timeless music. Something that’s not just for now, something people can listen to in years and think that it’s still good. Timeless music is crazy, it’s just there and you can always listen to it. One of my favourite songs ever is 'Walking On A Dream'. That song is not based on a trend, it’s just good music. I want people to keep listening to my music.
A.R: You got into London this morning, got anything else planned?
M: I’m here till Sunday, but I might stay for longer. I’ll see if anything pops up. I’m going to do a studio session and meet up with friends. London is just nice, I feel like people in London don’t appreciate how good it is. I’m back in summer for like a month or two. First of all I’m going to get some sleep, but then probably out for a few drinks & some food. Going to Abbey Road studios tomorrow.
A.R: Could you see yourself moving to London?
M: I’ve said so many times I would like to move to London, but Dublin is like my baby. There’s so much happening there I don’t want to miss it. It’s like a renaissance or something. It’s like first generation immigrants are integrating into the community and there’s something really special happening right now. I definitely will be in and out of London but I don’t know if I’ll ever move. I do love it here though, every time I leave I miss it, but Dublin is home.
A.R: And finally, what’s your favourite F Word?
M: Food. I need some food right now. There’s that bagel place in Shoreditch, I get the cream cheese with salmon and the donuts. Man they’re amazing. I might even go there now.