Interview – Robbie & Mona

Will and Ellie who make up the band Robbie and Mona, sitting on a red armchair in front of a large window with heavy curtains

Bringing a Lynchian twist to their darkened dream pop, Robbie & Mona release their debut album into the world this month and propel themselves straight onto the ones to watch in 2021 list. The couple behind the band are Ellie Gray and Will Carkeet, both also members of consummate Bristol collective Pet Shimmers. We asked them about their music, what they’ve been listening to through lockdown and the cinematic value of trampolines…

How are you both doing, where are you right now?

Ellie: We are in Bristol, in Easton, in our bedroom. We’re both enjoying the Saturday sun, listening to / watching a funny old performance by a band called Butch Willis and the Rocks.

Your debut album EW comes out at the end of the month, how has it been recording and promoting it during lockdown?

Will:  We finished recording EW back in March in the first lockdown, but its been a bit of a rollercoaster, waves of frustration in terms of not being able to gig and properly show it to the world. But Spinny Nights have been very great at promoting it for us and being so supportive.

Tell us about the songs, is there a running story throughout the record?

Ellie: The songs have been opportunities for us to have fun going into a world of automatism and surrealism. Will makes his production potions that always get me going and are perfect foundations for me to freely dance with my thoughts and voice across it.

Will: The majority of these songs were written and recorded as we began seeing each other, we look back and kind of realise they were our attempts at impressing each other!

Album artwork for E.W. By Robbie and Mona shows the back of a person wearing a black leather bodysuit and head covering, kneeling on some grass

EW album artwork 

Your latest track Queen Celine packs a lot into a minute and a half, was there any temptation to make it longer or was it always meant to be a short, sharp hit to the senses?

Will: You find the track always tells you how long it wants to be and this one stopped very abruptly and it felt right being as short as it was, any more and we would have upset the song.

The video is like a little burst of film noir with added trampolining – it’s beautifully shot, what was the thinking behind it and who was involved?

Ellie: We saw some work by Max McLachlan and thought he had the perfect twist of humour and doom. He had this idea of trampolines, which felt great, then Arthur from Spinny Nights’ mum and dad ended up being star bouncers in the video. It felt like a really seamless collaboration where everything fell into place, all the right personalities came together. It’s a really satisfying feeling when two different artists get together and their mediums really expose and compliment each other.

You recorded a set for Rotterdam’s Left of the Dial Festival a while back, it looked like they were due to have a great line up – how did you get involved in that?

Will: We played with them in October 2019 with our other project Pet Shimmers, and then when we were on tour they kindly put us up in Rotterdam and invited us to a little gig on a boat. They are so hospitable and giving, since then we stayed in touch and when they heard mine and Ellie’s new stuff they were keen to get us involved. They are great human beings.

Realistically, live music isn’t getting back to how it was pre-Covid any time soon, how do you see it looking moving forward?

Will: From this pandemic I would hope that when things return to ‘normal’, that people approach it more ambitiously in the sense of not just playing a standard venue and standard support act, questioning the traditional way of how a show is constructed.

Who’s been on your lockdown playlist and what have you been watching to while away the hours?

Will: Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes, Butch Willis and the Rocks – The TV’s from Outer Space, the Notting Hill soundtrack, Jessica Pratt, Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby album, Yellow Man – Lost Mi Love…

Ellie: Leonard Cohen Various Positions album, Connie Converse, Brian Eno & John Cale, Cindy Lee,  Sean Nicholas Savage, Playboi Carti – @ MEH, Le Tigre, Beverly Glenn-Copeland , Peggy Lee…

Been watching Surviving Death on Netflix, a slightly cheesy but addictive series about near death experiences and life after the physical body, Unexplained series presented by the wonderful Tony Robinson talking about the Cathars and some spooky premonition stuff with amazing early noughties style dramatisations, Jan Švankmajer animator film-maker DVD set, John Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête, and Breaking Bad, to which I was a virgin pre-lockdown.

If there were no restrictions and you could take us on a tour of your favourite places around Bristol, where would we go?

Ellie: We would take you to Greenbank Cemetery and give you the task of finding the most elaborate headstone and reward you with a hot flask of mulled wine.

And what’s next for Robbie & Mona?

Will: Kick ass second album on its way.

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EW is released on 29th January via Spinny Nights and is available to pre-order now – catch up with Robbie & Mona here.

Interview by Siobhan
Header photo © Ellie Gray

19th January 2021