People of my age tend to listen to albums from their youth – the soundtrack of carefree days with the energy to party around the clock.
But I’ve generally gone the other way and become less nostalgic and more critical of the albums I listened to in the 80s and 90s.
For example, I enjoyed The Stone Roses debut when it came out, but the more that people eulogise it, the more I realise it was the emperor’s new clothes. A good album, yes, but there are much better albums and I probably haven’t listened to it in at least a decade or more.
However, there are some albums that were so good, so timeless, that I still give them a regular spin (well as much as you can “spin” on a Sonos streaming player) all these years later.
For example, Propaganda “A Secret Wish”, Cocteau Twins “Victorialand” and “Blue Bell Knoll” and Mono “Formica Blues”.
I first discovered Mono whilst waiting for my then girlfriend to get ready as we were going to Oxford St for something or another, so I flipped on MTV 2, and the video for Silicone came on.
Even though I only saw about half the video before she was ready and suddenly in too much of a rush to let me finish watching it I was impressed enough with what I heard to pop into HMV and buy the album for the princely sum of £17 – even though I’d kind of got out of the habit of buying CDs at the time (mainly because they were £17 and living in London ain’t cheap!)
From the opening “Life in Mono” to the closing “Hello Cleveland” it was pure perfection and even after months of daily listening there were no skippable tracks.
It was a very different era in the late 90s.
Although the Internet definitely existed (I was working in web development) and there were search engines before Google (Yahoo being one of the most popular) the concept we’d later call “googling” hadn’t really caught on yet, so I knew very little about Mono.
There were of course music magazines, but I’d stopped buying the likes of NME by then as I got tired of the constant cycle of building up and tearing down artists.
With nothing really to go on, I assumed with a name like Siobhan de Maré and how stylish promo photos looked that the singer was probably French or Belgian (it turns out she has a strong London accent, she could have been my neighbour for all I know, I never did meet our neighbours!)
I realised that Life in Mono had a familiar 60s filmscore sound to it, but I didn’t realise it was an actual John Barry sample from The Ipcress File, or that Silicone sampled the main theme from Get Carter by Roy Budd, even though I’d seen both films.
Yet, I think the mystery was in a way a good thing – you only really had the music itself to judge whether you liked it or not, and it could mean what you wanted it to.
All that said, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to be nosey and interview Siobhan de Maré so here we go!
|Live Music Pix||After listening to interviews, it would seem that all those Mono promo photos where you and Martin Virgo were sitting as far apart on the sofa as possible, or looking like you’d just had a big argument, weren’t just clichéd moody band shots, but in fact a fair reflection of how things were between you!Was it just musical differences, or clash of personalities, or just that thing of being in a band and being forced to spend more time together than you otherwise would?
Also, when you look back on those days were they overall happy times, or did the fact you didn’t get on put too much of a damper on things?
|Siobhan de Maré||As far as Martin and I not really getting on , I think we just didn’t really know each other and we kind of ended up swimming together in the deep end not really fully understanding each others personalities , aspirations or creative differences.
The sitting on the sofa at different ends for the press shots was really not a conscious decision, although looking back lol 😂, it does kind of symbolise the mood at that point . But we did also have some very fun times together that I won’t forget as well as learning so much along the way .
As far as the times being happy or not , I think it was an extraordinary situation being so intensely creative with a stranger and suddenly being on tour and on television in America and then this big film score . It seemed to come from no where . Suddenly we had a manager and an entourage of people working for us and non stop meetings and interviews everywhere we went with photo shoots . This all comes with a level of responsibility and dedication. So I think we just had to stay focused and deliver the Mono experience as best as we could .
|Live Music Pix||I was never lucky enough to catch Mono live, but watching your performance on a US tv show (Conan O Brien I think) with a full band you sounded really incredible! Do you enjoy performing live, and can you ever imagine things mellowing to the point where you tour the album with Martin again? Or indeed touring it yourself with a backing band if he’s not up for it?
|Siobhan de Maré||Thank you for your kind words regarding the live performance you saw on Conan O Brien. I would love to do something like that again with Martin , but I’m not sure if it’s something that will ever happen again . Maybe it will just be a memory . I’m terms of performing live again myself . Well let’s see how life pans out . That would be great !
Maybe at The Grammys for the next Bond Film lol 😂.
I don’t have a band at the moment , but never say never right ?
|Live Music Pix||“ingenue, I just don’t know what to do” is a genius line! How did you come up with it, was it something that just popped in your head, or was it something that took a while to come up with?|
|Siobhan de Maré||Ingenue , I just don’t know what to do , was the wonderful creation of Martins songwriting . Only he can really answer what that song is all about .|
|Live Music Pix||Are there any lyrics on Formica Blues that Martin persuaded you to change, but you feel would have been better left alone?|
|Siobhan de Maré||I think the lyrical compromise on Formica Blues was right . I wouldn’t really change anything . I think we were really lucky with the producer too . He was young in his career too and went on to producer Adel’s first album ( I think 19). Became huge if I’m right .
He was very good at being the middle man and getting the best sound and production with all the ingredients Martin and I had . His name was Jim Abbiss.
|Live Music Pix||I get the impression that despite not getting on with Martin, you’d have been prepared to do a 2nd album, but Martin didn’t like being in the limelight? Is that a fair analysis, and if so, do you think that with your dad being the drummer in The Shadows, so growing up in a showbiz household, you perhaps took fame in your stride more than he did?|
|Siobhan de Maré||So I’m not sure why exactly the second album didn’t come together , but initially I remember Martin saying he didn’t want any vocals on the second album and locking himself into our little studio in Old Street . I used to turn up and leave coffee on the doorstep and the odd croissant . He rarely opened the door , so it ended there . Years later , we had a reunion and the creative clash started again . So there was no chance of that second album in the end . It was indeed a shame for the fans and for us ultimately .
Yes my dad being in The Shadows definitely helped to understand the industry a bit more .
|Live Music Pix||“Life in Mono” took on a life of its own, especially once it was used in the Great Expectations soundtrack, also being used in adverts and covered by Emma Bunton. For me as a fan, I’m kind of frustrated on your behalf that a lot of people only know that song, when the album is full of tracks that are just as strong.How do you feel about it?|
|Siobhan de Maré||I don’t really mind too much as I think people’s curiosity will lead them to search for more of my songs with other projects and collaborations, so ultimately it opens the door to my name and other avenues that I am constantly exploring . That can only be a positive thing .|
|Live Music Pix||Do you have a favourite song on Formica Blues?|
|Siobhan de Maré||I like Silicone a lot despite the rather abstract video where the directors asked me to shave my eyebrows off and draw them back in . Thankfully I didn’t agree to that . Highlife is also a pretty cool track and Blindman .|
|Live Music Pix||As a woman in the music industry, have you experienced much sexism? Such as sound engineers speaking over you to a minor male member of the band, or male fans with no music industry experience giving you career advice?|
|Siobhan de Maré||I think I definitely have all the way along , but I’m quite a strong personality , so it doesn’t really work with me as I do manage to speak up and make sure that my point is being heard equally and fairly . It definitely hasn’t been easy , but it’s been a wonderful lesson in life and it helps you to find that inner strength that fires you up to keep creating and valuing yourself and trusting your instinct on things .|
|Live Music Pix||After Mono disbanded, your next project was Violet Indiana with Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins, and you were signed to Bella Union, run by Simon Raymonde also of The Cocteau Twins.You mentioned in interviews that didn’t particularly know The Cocteau Twins music, do you think that was probably a good thing, like if you’d been a massive fan and kind of in awe of them as so many Cocteau Twins fans are, it would have been much harder to work together?|
|Siobhan de Maré||So yeah working with Robin Guthrie and not really knowing much about his music or his past was probably a good thing . We both went in with no expectations , just creative trust and freedom which blended very well . He is also the funniest man on the planet which really helped .
Everything was super spontaneous with Robin and he’s very open minded which was so refreshing at the time .
|Live Music Pix||In the old days it was possible to kind of measure a bands success by their chart positions, but these days there are a lot of bands who can fill medium and large venues, yet most people haven’t heard of them, especially with the likes of TikTok bypassing traditional channels such as Radio. Despite being a big fan of Mono, I wasn’t aware of Violet Indiana until around 2008 when I was speaking to a blogger friend about Mono and he filled me in, and I enjoyed playing catch-up. Do you feel the project was a commercial success, or did it not get enough exposure? Because to me, you should have been absolutely massive!|
|Siobhan de Maré||Well thank you for saying that we should have been massive . I think you are exactly right though . We didn’t have enough exposure and there was no Instagram or Tik Tok . We were kind of the mercy of our label and PR company and luck . Maybe it would have been different if it had come out now with all the new streaming platforms and online exposure an artist can receive|
|Live Music Pix||Your next project was Swoone, with the release of another great album, “Handcuffed Heart” in 2018! Is it still an active project and are we likely to see a 2nd album at some point?|
|Siobhan de Maré||Swoone was a little experiment really and I don’t think we will be making a second album as we kind of lost touch . In fact that track Handcuffed Heart on the album also ended up in a movie as incidental music .|
|Live Music Pix||In contrast to my late discovery of Violet Indiana, I was aware of Swoone from early on as I follow you on Social Media. So I imagine that for artists, social media must be useful for promoting your work, and getting direct positive feedback from your fans, but on the flip-side, it also makes it too easy for trolls to leave nasty comments. Is social media something you enjoy, or is it a case of using it for work, but taking breaks from it?|
|Siobhan de Maré||Well yes social media is important for fans to stay connected and yes trolls exist . I tend to just block any strange , inappropriate or weird communication as quickly as I see it . But it does leave one slightly vulnerable at times . It’s sadly , the nature of the beast and one just has to be mindful .|
|Live Music Pix||What’s your favourite song that you’ve released, and why?|
|Siobhan de Maré||So I have a few favourite tracks that I have written . They all represent an emotion or time in my life that I was introspecting on some level . I wrote a song called Empty Buildings on the Swoone album that I’m quite proud of and Close The World ( Violet Indiana) that’s all about the end of a relationship . The death of love and closing the door on that chapter of your life . The pain involved of the acceptance of the end .
I also love the track Air Kissing that I wrote with Robin . It’s all about superficial people that have no loyalty . One soon finds out the genuine people in their life . It can be a painful process of discovery , truth and realisation .
|Live Music Pix||Do you have a favourite music video you’ve done?|
|Siobhan de Maré||My favourite music video is probably the one shot in New York of Life In Mono . It was so exciting and we had a lot of fun out there making it all happen . I remember standing in a derelict field in one shot wearing this black and pink Alexander Mc Queen dress and hearing this wild dog barking that the directors assured me was tied up . I also remember walking across this famous huge bridge and all these tough local New Yorkers yelling at me .|
|Live Music Pix||With Mono you were signed to Echo records which was an offshoot of Chrysalis I believe which was quite a major label, Violet Indiana were signed to Bella Union which is a big-indie who release the likes of The Flaming Lips, and Swoone are signed to Saint Marie Records which I believe is like a traditional “proper” indie label based out of a record shop in Texas.The traditional view is that major labels have the contacts and financial backing but don’t give much artistic freedom, whereas indie labels give you lots of artistic freedom but sometimes lack the resources to bring an artist to the wider audience.Having worked with these labels across that spectrum, would you say that’s a fair assessment, or is it not quite that simple?|
|Siobhan de Maré||I think yes , being signed to a major label has pros and cons . You can get major backing , support and exposure but you can also have less creative freedom and too many people involved in decision making , or you can be forgotten and pushed to the side .
I think we had an ok balance with Echo and Chrysalis at the time . Small labels have their struggles too . My experience with indie labels was not prefect either , but I’m grateful that my music and ideas did take on a life of their own and create such a dedicated fan base .
|Live Music Pix||You’ve mentioned in interviews that you’d like to do a bond theme, I can’t imagine anybody doing a better bond theme than you! Is it something you’ve pursued, or is it more a case of “if they ask” kind of thing?|
|Siobhan de Maré||It’s something I always get told I sound like with my voice and the kind of music I get involved with , so it seems inevitable that it should happen in theory . However , I think it’s something every musician would love to do , so it’s a case of publishers liaising with film directors and labels putting artists forward etc . Maybe like winning the lottery kind of vibe . Would be truly magical . Fingers crossed 🤞.|
|Live Music Pix||Do you have a favourite music medium, i.e. streaming, vinyl, CD, cassette…|
|Siobhan de Maré||My favourite is probably Spotify , You Tube that sort of thing|
|Live Music Pix||On your social media profiles it mentions that you are a poet, is that a reference to your lyrics, or do you write poetry too, and if so, is it for fun are have you/or are you going to release any books of poetry?|
|Siobhan de Maré||Yes I do write poetry. I wrote a poem last year for a book about resilience for a charity called ‘ Elizabeth’s Legacy Of Hope’ all supporting children across the world that need prosthetic limbs . Joanna Lumley is one of the patrons and I got to read out my poem that was published in front of her at an event last year . The book is called Elizabeth’s Poetry Of Hope .
My poem is called ‘Golden Wall’ all about having to be resilient in my own life .( available on Amazon ) I’m also in the process of writing a poetry book with my own illustrations . I love to draw too.
|Live Music Pix||What are your plans for the future in terms of music?|
|Siobhan de Maré||So I’m building a home studio with my son who’s also an up and coming artist SeeMilli and hope to do some collaborations together too despite very big musical differences . He’s producing , mixing ,writing , singing and a respected Uk rap artist . Let’s see what we can cook up together . Perhaps Grace the Brits stage together one year . That would be so special !|
|Live Music Pix||What do you like to do when you’re not making music?|
|Siobhan de Maré||My dream is to move to a peaceful ,calm beautiful house with a sea view and a vivid aqua sky encompassed by a burnt orange sunlight . Bare feet , warm sand , fresh food , beautiful music ,surrounded by peace , tranquility , art and the love ❤️ of all my friends and family embracing the worlds simplest delights in their purest formats .
Siobhan de Maré thank you for your time!
Formica Blues reissue is out now on Vinyl and CD.