Interview: Sarko Montaug explore the complexities of a relationship with their new song and video, “We Live in the Sky”

Sarko Montaug © 2021
Get lost in the nostalgic sound of Chicago-based duo Sarko Montaug.
Stream: “We Live In The Sky” – Sarko Montaug


After the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship has ended, you are truly put to the test. There is a popular quote, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Husband and wife Cristian and Jess Mora of the duo Sarko Montaug are the epitome of that saying. It wasn’t easy, but when things got uncomfortable for the pair, they put in the work and turned it around. Their powerful new track, titled “We Live in the Sky,” (out October 5, 2021 via Steedog Records) is all about when a partnership begins to tear apart, leaving both people questioning where to go next. The visuals exhibit the palpable tension that exists when a relationship seems like it has run its course.

Always ran both our lives
You never once asked me why
Decades of unspoken lies
So now we live in the sky
Sarko Montaug – We Live In the Sky

The eccentric indie-pop project consists of two incredibly innovative talents. The duo craft releases with a retro vibe, while also remaining current and fresh — they’ve been compared to artists like Charli XCX. Possessing a vibrant, synth-driven style, there is something intoxicating about Sarko Montaug’s music. The couple have a huge adoration for 80s styles, and that influence can definitely be heard within their sound. This new tune, produced and mixed by Jorge Elbrecht (Japanese Breakfast, Wild Nothing), exudes that same captivating quality. Atwood Magazine spoke with the duo about their name, the new single and video, and so much more.

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:: stream/purchase “We Live In The Sky” here ::

A CONVERSATION WITH SARKO MONTAUG

Atwood Magazine: Sarko Montaug is such an interesting name. How did you come up with it?

Jess Mora: So Sarko and Montaug are real people. They were sort of best friends, super creative people who were living in New York in the 80s. I just stumbled upon some information about them years ago and became a little obsessed with both of their stories. New York in the 80s was the post Studio 54 era of nightclubs where the hedonism and the just going out to be seen thing was wearing a little thin. It just so happened that this group of visual artists and very weirdo out there performance artists were the ones who are creating the new nightlife. So these two people were a big part of that, Anita Sarko and Haoui Montaug. When Anita was a DJ, he was a doorman at a lot of the clubs. It was a time where you could do really weird creative stuff and melded into the nightlife scene. So there would be a club Danceteria, where they worked and maybe one floor would be the traditional DJ with dancing and drinking. Then maybe on another floor, there’d be really weird bands playing and on another floor, there would be little performance art or drag shows or video screens, which was very cutting edge at the time.

The two of them were responsible for putting on the first karaoke show in America. They were just really cutting edge in trying to make nightlife a lot more artistic and interesting and not just go out, drink, dance and go home. A lot of the visual artists that were living in New York at the time were repainting the walls of the club. There was Keith Haring, Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, who they were bringing in and having do sculpture and art. They also incorporate a lot of theme nights into their nightclub. So they were just people that I found really interesting. When it came time to come up with a band name, I thought, okay, we’re already obsessed with the 80s. Let’s pay tribute to that kind of fun. Two people that really influenced so many influential people, but they never really got as much notice as they probably should have.

Your synth-pop quality is sonically so radiant and retro yet also current. How did you develop your eccentric musical style?

Cristian Mora: Well we’ve listened to both music from then and music now and technology really drives a lot of what music does. So while the sounds and maybe the feel is very much what we love from the music of the 80s and new wave, that technology drives a lot of how it’s presented. So there is the vast access to different kinds of sounds and how to produce them and how to put them together. I think if you use that, that’s how you end up at the music that’s coming out these days. It’s just changed with everything that’s in our ears, which is the music from back then.

Your new single “We Live in the Sky” shines with sparkling synths and moody vocals. How was the song’s sound concocted?

Cristian Mora: It’s a very sad song. It’s a very personal song to us. It’s very dreamy. So that is the palette. The sounds had to be dreamy. It had to be sad. There had to be hope. You know, the kind of hope that comes after a loss and dreaminess. That kind of has a sad tinge to it too. We just had all those words, and that was the guide to what it should sound and feel.

Sarko Montaug © 2021

The song focuses on how your relationship was just coasting along until there was a big bump in the road and you had to make a lot of tough choices. What advice can you give to others in a similar situation?

Jess Mora: A big part of what caused us to go through this really painful period was that we spent such a long time together not communicating. Even more so than coasting, it was sort of deliberately just thinking, well, if there’s a problem between us, it will work itself out. We get along very well and if there’s anything deep going on with either of us, we’ll just let the other person figure it out. We’re not really getting into some of the deeper issues that humans go through that we both had been going through. So now we had to go through a period where I was like, are we going to break up? Is this worth saving? Let’s look around and reassess where we are right now. 

So we decided to not break up, but we also had to decide we have a pretty monumental amount of work to do. We needed to change some of the ways that we interacted with each other. So that’s not the answer for everyone. I wouldn’t say that’s the blanket advice I give. Sometimes, just breaking up is probably the right thing to do. For us though, it wasn’t in that moment. I think we definitely considered that and we decided that we would try to put the work in to save our relationship. It’s been work and it’s been every kind of emotion since then. It’s worth it if you’re going to commit. That’s the first step. Then there’s just a bunch of really getting to know each other and sharing more than you have.

I love the title “We Live In The Sky.” What's the meaning behind it?

Jess Mora: It has a few things going on. The song was written when we got to Chicago. We’ve lived in a bunch of places and moved around a lot. In Chicago, most of the living spaces are high rises. It was our first time with the high rise. We’ve always just lived in a ground floor or maybe on the second floor of a building. We were living on the 23rd floor of this building. You don’t think about it until you’re in that situation. It is very different living in the sky than on the ground. The perspective that you have just feels different. So it was just a thing that I would say to be funny sometimes, we live in the sky. I look out the window, and everything looks so different from there. So it was a phrase that I said a lot. 

Then when it came time to write the lyrics for the song, I just knew, this was a sad song. It was going to be about our relationship and about where we were at in that moment. We were in this place we’d never been before. We were seeing things from a perspective we’d never seen them from before. We are finding ourselves in a moment where all this relationship structure that we thought we had built so well was proving to have a lot of cracks in it. It was really just crumbling underneath us. So it was a moment of, oh what do we do? This building is coming down. We don’t want to go down with it. So we just live in the sky now. Things can crumble, and you just have to let them and then reassess where you are at. For us in that moment, it was okay, we’re going to stay here and reset. It might not be what we expected. Recommitting to this is where we are right now. We’re going to make it work in the sky.

The accompanying visuals were filmed in a mid-century house as well as a high-rise apartment building to represent the past becoming the present. Can you explain this concept in more detail?

Cristian Mora: We wanted to show the relationship and that there was a lot of history. We’ve been together a long time and we’ve grown up together. We really wanted to show that there was history between these two people that are singing the song. That’s where the older house comes into play. Then the high rise comes from the title. We wanted to show we live in the sky now and this couple is now living in the sky. In the video we really wanted to display the tension that these two people are feeling at this point in their lives. We hope that as people watch it, that they feel a little uncomfortable. That’s why there are longer shots and not a lot of looking at each other just to show the tension and the history. The video finishes with the two people now in the sky after all this past and all this history. We tried to make it a little more hopeful towards the end. It’s a heavy concept. It worked out that the music of that part lifts up a little bit. We thought, okay, let’s get out of this heavy, dark house and do a little bit in the sky to kind of light and things.

Sarko Montaug © 2021

I noticed in the video there are some religious symbols. Is there any significance behind that?

Jess Mora: To both of us, it just represents very traditional Western American values. There is the whole concept of an American marriage and what people did. You got married, you went to church, etc. When we came to film and saw it, we thought, we’ll leave this.

I understand you both reside in Chicago, but tend to move around a lot. What attracts you to the nomad type of lifestyle?

Cristian Mora: Well, to be a little personal, this song is about our demons that we never dealt with. I think one of the ways that we dealt with our demons is by not dealing with them. We would just continue to move from place to place and find new things to distract us. We met in Florida then we moved to Nashville then we moved to New York City then we moved to Philadelphia then we moved to Washington DC then we went back to Florida and now it’s Chicago. So there is running away rather than dealing with things but also, I think as artists you look for new inspiration. You look for new experiences and you grow so much every time that you move. We learn something new, whether it’s a new way of doing things or there are new people that you meet. I wouldn’t mind moving again in the future, maybe LA.

Who are some artists or bands that you grew up listening to that inspire you?

Jess Mora: [Genres] that we share are 80s new wave, synth-pop, and even some 80s pop. Who inspires us? It would definitely be, if we could pick some people in common, The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Depeche Mode. All the classic New Wave people.

Mentioning artists and bands, is there any new talent that your are digging that you can share with our readers?

Jess Mora: Currently, I am not listening to much. I’m very streaky with music and every other type of media. I don’t know if it’s because we’re working on songs. We have so many demos that we’re trying to work through right now that I just don’t want to listen to anyone. I don’t feel like listening to music. So I’ve been pretty much not making myself do that until I really get excited about it again. I always say though, if anyone ever asked me for music suggestions, there are two artists I love who aren’t necessarily new. They have both been around for a while, but I feel they’re under-appreciated. It’s Matthew Bryan and Brittany Campbell. So I would highly recommend anyone checking them out.

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