Pop Monsieur Paish: Imbruing Power to the Mundane and Absurd

Original photo courtesy of Cease & Desist. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Naarm-based artist Paish’s breezy, lo-fi, bedroom pop on debut release, Pop Monsieur Vol. 1, makes the slog of modern life he writes of, seem poetic. Gimmie bring you his very first single and video.  

Originally you’re from the UK; how did you come to be based in Naarm/Melbourne?

PAISH: Before Naarm/Melbourne I had lived in Leipzig in Germany for about 4 years, trying (and failing quite impressively) to complete a degree in physics. My sister has been living here for going on 10 years now so I thought I’d come over and try and make a go of things, live here for 6 months and then home. I sort of accidentally made a life for myself here and now I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. I was also really excited to get into the music scene here, and after a mere 4 years I have finally actually made some!

In your music we can hear all kinds of influences like Orange Juice and Human League; what artists or scenes informed your formative years musically?

P: I grew up in a small town in the middle of England, where there was quite literally no music or culture of any kind (although I believe it hosts the UK’s biggest motorcycle festival, does that count?) Basically everything I got into was through relentless searching through blogs and Last.FM. Being the youngest of 5 also meant I was shown a lot of stuff that was maybe a little before my time. Originally I was super into math rock (which was the only ‘scene’ close to me) and that turned into getting really into 90s midwest emo stuff (Cap’n Jazz are still one of my favourite bands of all time) but then I started getting heavy into post-punk after hearing Gang of Four’s Entertainment for the first time. Since then my music taste has only gotten worse and more embarrassing but I’m fine with that.

What made you want to pursue a creative path yourself? How did you get into making music?

P: There just wasn’t anything else to do in my town! The options were either get drunk in an underpass or get in fights outside the Tesco Express. My brother started playing guitar first and I started learning drums so we could play together (never happened). One time I was going to visit my Dad and was suffering pretty bad insomnia so I nicked my brother’s guitar and took it with me, I basically brute-forced learning guitar in a couple weeks and have been doing music on and off ever since.

Photo courtesy of Paish.

How does creativity connect to self-expression for you? 

P: Maybe a trite answer so sorry for that, but I think in my case music is a way for me to express myself while at the same time allowing me enough distance that I’m not overwhelmed by embarrassment. I think whenever I start making a song it’s about nothing, and by the end there’s something of myself in there that I can just about see. It also feels really good to create stuff of any kind

What initially inspired the beginning of Paish?

P: Like probably every other person in this city I have about 500 Ableton files in various states of disarray, I’ve been making stuff since I arrived in 2017 but it just never really came together. Finally in 2021 I got so frustrated with myself I self-imposed a block on making any new songs until I had my most recent ones in a finished state that COULD be shown to other people. I started with something like 30 and whittled them down as time went on. At some point I realised I’d sunk so much time into making the tracks and learning how to mix them it would be shame for them to go back into the vault, so I decided to create Paish as an outlet for them.

What’s the story behind the name?

P: My parents clearly had plans for hundreds more children, and since I was the last one I got saddled with THREE middle names. Two of them are as bland as my first and last names but one of them is Paish, which is apparently an old French word and I used to hate because it was different, but now kinda love. It seemed to make sense as a solo name, firstly because I don’t think I’d do too well calling my solo project ‘Chris Brown’ for obvious reasons, and secondly because I like how mysterious it sounds. It makes sense as a name for a project where I’ll (hopefully) be releasing quite an eclectic mix of music going forward.

IPaish is a one man project; what’s the challenges of doing everything yourself?

P: I think the main one for me is just the constant thought ‘Is this all terrible?’ When you’re in a band you have other people to bounce ideas off, and you can pretty quickly get an idea of when something you’ve made is good or awful. When you’re doing it all yourself you just kind of have to make it all and then hope intensely that you haven’t created the worst music of all time. I’ll leave that up to the listeners!

Your release is called Pop Monsieur Vol.1; can you tell us about writing this 8-song collection? 

P: The basis of most of them was written in a 4 month period in 2021 after a break-up (how predictable!) The only exception I think is ‘Embarrassing 6’ which I had a very vague idea for a few years ago, though it was really so different as to not be the same song anymore. I also used the project as a tutorial on how to mix (and to a much less successful extent, master) tracks and it’s been really invaluable in that regard, I think whenever my next release after Volume 2 comes out I’ll try and do as much as I can myself. Not sure if that’s noble or narcissistic!

There’s not really a consistent theme, which is something I’d like to aim for with future releases. I think I tried to channel a bit of David Byrne in that I don’t really want to sing about love and stuff, but try and imbue some emotional power to quite mundane and absurd things. 

How does it feel to be releasing your songs into the world?

P: Terrifying! I have this bizarre mental image of people laughing at me in the street, but hey, at least I’ll be famous! Honestly I’m just happy to finally have something out after so long, and who knows maybe I can get some of that sweet sweet iPhone advert money.

We’re premiering the song and clip for ‘Big Red Thing’; how did the song get started? What’s it about?

P: ’Big Red Thing’ started in lockdown, trapped inside. I’d always see the air ambulance flying overhead (an Agusta-Westland AW-139 since I’m sure people care about nerd stuff as much as me) and I guess I started to anthropomorphosise it a bit and I felt bad for it flying around helping people and all the while being unappreciated. I’m always a little wary of giving the meaning of these songs, not for any precious artist reasons, just because people always seem to come up with much better and more profound meanings than the reality! 

You made the clip with Damien Kane; can you tell us about filming it? What do you remember from the day?

P: Huge thanks to my boy Damo for putting the clip together, he did a great job of working a bunch of random footage into something I actually quite like! Really my main goal was to not have a horrible time doing it, I’d rather have no video than get all bossy and annoying, so we just found some places that were aesthetically appealing and then rocked up and filmed as much random stuff as we could. The medieval reenactment thing was happening just down the road from us in Royal Park and I really just wanted an excuse to go and watch it! 

Album art by Revee Bendixen.

We love the art for Pop Monsieur Vol.1, who did it? What were your initial impressions when you first saw it?

P: My friend Revee Bendixen! She does crazy good paintings and I really wanted her to do one for me. I had a bunch of ideas about what I wanted and she was basically like nope they suck (which they did) and then she just painted this crazy good portrait of me! It was better than I could have hoped for really, she asked to listen to the music and I think what she painted captures it very well, a decrepit lounge singer zombie with pretensions of greatness.

Are there plans to perform live?

P: Not right now, though I definitely think at some point my inherent narcissism will require me to perform on stage, for the adoration (or hate) of the crowd. Either way it’s attention! I’m currently playing in another band, The Shifters, so that’s giving me my fix of live performance without the attendant stress of being in charge of everything.

Besides doing Paish, how else do you spend your time? 

P: Being an extremely boring standard guy: work full-time, occasionally make a soup, I’m pretty much the Default Male. My main interests are seasons 3 through 8 of the Simpsons, and watching 90 minute long YouTube videos about how aeroplane engines work. How depressing!

Paish’s Pop Monsieur Vol. 1 will soon be available on cassette and digitally from Cease and Desist Records.