Writing from the heart isn’t easy; it requires a letting go of sorts, the type of natural instinct that is phased out of most of us from birth. We are taught to think critically; to doubt, to judge and to ponder; we are told that our first reaction may not be the right reaction – that our impulses are bad for us. When it comes to self-expression, even the most prolific artists will work tirelessly to come up with something that sounds natural and ‘not forced.’
What does it mean to tap into and embrace that authenticity? Los Angeles’ Mothlight gives us a taste in their latest single “Monarch,” a shimmering dream-pop haze with dazzling harmonies and a strong sense of purpose.
Listen: “Monarch” – Mothlight (feat. Shannon Inouye)
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A warm, atmospheric synth and hypnotically repetitive kicks off “Monarch,” sending listeners directly into a dream-state. Originally the solo project of one Matt Billings, Mothlight’s addition of keyboardist/”synthesist” Grant Stevens and drummer Andrew Smith have rounded out the band’s sound, resulting in more experimental, colorful and tight productions. “Monarch” is the perfect example of this collaborative effort at work: The psychedelia-inspired introduction gives way to the verse’s charming vocal harmonies.
You say lies don’t hurt anyone
But all mine follow me home
Your fake lines that everyone knows
Turn eyes blind, not mine
“You say lies don’t hurt anyone,” the band sings on the offensive. “But all mine follow me home.” The verse directly attacks the idea of either being fake or insincere, primarily with oneself. There are who will stop at nothing to get ahead, sacrificing their integrity for a shot at greener pastures.
Not Mothlight. A mix of pride and humility characterizes the song’s heavy chorus as they expose the truth behind false eyes, claiming that they are that truth.
You’re the king
And we will sing your praises hoping to find
In this circus, running circles behind
Pull the curtain
You’ll be certain there’s a life there behind
But that’s my life
“While being pulled in many directions, the artist is forced to adhere to so many opinions,” explains Mothlight. “Critique based off of personal gain, this track is written in the voice of someone who is too authentic to play the game and decides to just simply create.” It’s not easy to fend off outside influences, but when you start taking them into consideration, you lose yourself quickly.
Selling out is easy, but it’s obvious and leave one vulnerable. “Your fake lines that everyone knows,” the band sings. For every pristine, meaningless pop song that’s topped the charts, there are dozens of songwriters who cut their teeth trying to create something fresh and exciting, as well as real.
You will find all the people you thought you had at your finger
Trying to keep you from flying so high you try to touch the sun
With your mouth open wide
Taking the words that I’m thinking of
But that’s my line
Authenticity has become a musical buzzword in the past decade, even though the distinction between songwriter and artist goes back nearly 100 years to Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building. For some reason, things feels more sensitive now; is it deceitful to take the credit for others’ songs? What’s wrong with working with a team, if the music is great and fun to listen to? The pop machine has become increasingly exposed, and with it, once-shadowy background figures like Max Martin and Dr. Luke, two of the biggest pop songwriters and producers the world has ever seen, have become names. “Authenticity” doesn’t seem to bother the many millions of pop music fans around the world, but it can easily rub the individual the wrong way.
To some extent, “Monarch” is a play at all the stars who rely on an army of others to support their output, but its primary takeaway is one of individual sincerity: Mothlight is Mothlight, the band screams through trippy synths and magical harmonies. This is us, these are our words, this our work. True artistic beauty lies in the expression of self; “Monarch” exemplifies this beauty, giving us a taste of Mothlight’s potential. Expect more from this up-and-coming band as they continue to release new music in advance of a forthcoming album.