Interview – Daniel Monte

Canadian orchestral pop-rock band, Daniel Monte have unveiled their newest single, “S.O.S. and Send”, along with a video to accompany the release.

Mostly inspired by Beethoven and Brahms, the Toronto-area group are known for taking special care incorporating classical music elements into their songs — and hard-rock style “S.O.S. and Send” lands no differently.

“There’s a little nod to Bach in the violin solo section,” lead singer Daniel Monte reveals. “I played a G minor arpeggio figure going down the range of the violin, which was also famously used by Bach at the beginning of the Presto in G minor.”

It’s amazing to think such a profound song like “S.O.S. and Send” can have a darker meaning like this one does… Monte has “always been fascinated with the division between good and evil,” leading to the exploration of a gangster’s mindset. Overtaken by the suspicious violence happening around Monte’s current residence in Woodbridge, Ontario, there was a burning curiosity in his stomach. This led to Monte pounding out lyrics for “S.O.S. and Send,” which he believed “…was always supposed to be a song about the mob.”

“S.O.S. and Send” was “a long process of back-and-forth melody shaping and arrangement,” Monte shares of the track’s ultimate progression. “I must have gone through three or four different chorus ideas before finally landing on this rhythm and melody that seemed to work.

“I was genuinely considering giving up on this tune at some point,” he continues. “It was just sitting for months — with chords and a crap melody scratched out with no words — until I finally found the inspiration to write the lyrics.

“From there, everything just found its place.”

Daniel Monte isn’t the only seasoned musician in this eponymous group; in fact, it’s fair to say that each of these musicians have earned their stripes through their extensive careers…

For starters, lead guitarist Antonio Cocuzzo’s experience as a composer and session musician, coupled with his wide range of musical styles, allows him to contribute dynamic guitar parts to songs; Cocuzzo’s classy, yet edgy guitar style helps Daniel Monte establish their new and exciting orchestral pop-rock sound.

One could make a good argument that a pop-rock orchestral composition of this sort would be incomplete without an ample amount of excellent percussion, and drummer Jordan “Jojo Boom Boom” Mason is fit for the task, driving the rhythm section for Daniel Monte by incorporating orchestral percussion instruments into his hard-hitting playing style.

As always, the keyboardist is left to put a bow on the whole thing, and Flavio Silva doesn’t disappoint; ranging from ethereal soundscapes to rich orchestral elements, Silva uses his keyboards, synthesizers and musical abilities to bring the band’s orchestral elements to life, soaring the piece to new sonic heights.

Check out the video for “S.O.S. and Send” below, and find out more about Daniel Monte via our mini-interview.

First off, care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Before deciding that my life was going to be dedicated to the arts, I was studying physics in university. Thank God for that, because “Daniel Monte” wouldn’t exist unless I first experienced a path leading me away from music. I knew that a life of music was the life I had to live when I would go home from school having to complete physics problem sets, and I would play or write music for hours instead. I would look up orchestration techniques and harmony videos on my laptop in the middle of physics lectures. I knew that I had to change my direction in life and follow the road toward music. I am inspired by classical works and grew up playing piano and violin as well as listening to various rock bands. I naturally leaned toward an orchestral pop-rock sound which is evident in the band’s music. We love to combine the elegance and intricacy of Romantic-era composers like Brahms with a modern and epic rock edge. I am a multi-instrumentalist though I primarily play piano, violin and sing. Many of our songs integrate virtuosic violin solos in melodic and high-energy musical situations. The music we write is cinematic and we are always aiming to transport the listener into the imagery of our songs through our recorded works and live shows. This was originally the solo project that put me on the right path, but over the years, I met the wonderful bandmates that I have today. The name “Daniel Monte” slowly stopped referring to me as an individual and started referring to the band.

Tell us about the recording process behind ” S.O.S. and Send”?

From when I started to when I finished, the song went through multiple iterations. In fact, at some point, I was going to give up on it and cut it from the album. I started writing the song when the melody for the pre-chorus came into my mind. I went a whole day just hearing that falsetto run. Funnily enough, when I first started to make a demo and sketch of the song, the working file name was “falsetto run”. Other than this one part, I didn’t really have any words to the song and felt a lack of inspiration. I had a general idea of the main piano chordal pattern, but the chorus was driving me crazy. I went through maybe three or four different chorus ideas, but all of them seemed like they fell flat. One week, I heard about multiple seemingly targeted shootings that happened around my area. Being a fan of movies like “Good Fellas” and being Italian like myself, I couldn’t help but to think of the mafia. Frankly speaking, I’ve always been so attracted to darker themes. I sat down one night and the song just found its place. I found the right groove and added the middle section synth part to really give some weight to the song. All of “Familiar” was written before I met the members of the band, so because of that, all of the demos were tracked by myself. As I write the songs, I immediately track the parts and orchestrate them. In doing so, the parts for the production were already in place once I finished the final song. I always found this process of being alone in my basement while I fully produce the tracks fulfilling and magical in a sense. I can’t even explain the process as it sometimes feels like a hypnotic trance that gets a song from being in its infant stage to its final spot. Now, enter the band. I was in the middle of recording “Familiar” when I met the band and after playing the songs live, I realized that I needed to match the energy from these new players. Antonio is a million times better than me at the guitar, so I wanted to have him play the parts that I wrote with his touch. The guitar part isn’t challenging, but you can hear the difference in tone and touch between me and Antonio. I also replaced my bass track with a friend of mine’s track, Jack, who played with us at the time. We didn’t have the money to record live drums, but instead, I made sure that Jordan came over and helped me sequence the midi drums with a few “drummer-like” fills that were missing from the original demo. The rest of the production and instrumentation was all done by me while creating the demos. Finally, I went to record the vocals at a professional studio and used a U-87 to track them. I recorded all of “Familiar” at the same time, so the whole recording process behind all the songs were very similar.

What’s it like being a musician during the pandemic?

It was great! I say that only half kidding. It definitely sucked that we couldn’t play live anywhere and it really sucked that we couldn’t tour “Familiar.” Looking back on it, I kind of laugh at the dark sense of humour surrounding our album launch. We released the album in January 2020. I think everyone is well aware of the next couple months that were to follow the release. We really had high hopes for the summer of 2020, but due to the pandemic, we were unable to even play one show. This was a tremendous shock to us since the year before we were happily playing every weekend. Whether it was a club downtown or a larger festival, we played like crazy, so going from that, to not even one show, was a huge let down. That being said, I was able to visit my basement a lot more than usual during this pandemic and a ton of new music has come out of it. I had a creative overload and wrote a full album and a half that we are currently in the middle of recording. Not only that, but seeing that classical music is a huge inspiration for me and my writing, I was finally able to compose classical works freely without getting distracted. I currently have a mini album of solo piano pieces, a short symphony, and a quartet ready to be recorded. Now, it may seem like the two styles of composition are unrelated (rock and classical) but I found this “composing binge” very insightful, and the arrangements in my rock songs are much more interesting and dynamic. Composing classical pieces helped give me the ability to arrange and orchestrate with more depth and reason in my rock songs. Likewise, the rock songs have helped me compose classical works with more edge and aggression. So, to answer the question simply, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for artists. I doubt that we are the only ones that benefited from it. In fact, I’m sure that there will be a huge surge in art created during this pandemic in the next year. We will be included in that!

What do you hope to accomplish in your career in 2021?

We have a ton of goals in mind. As I explained above, we are in the middle of recording a few new projects. One of the projects is an EP, which will be the first part in a two-part album series. The songs on that album are to share with our listeners the things that we are feeling at this given moment. We have done and developed a lot. There have been some changes in the band roster and changes in our attitude toward reaching our goals. They are all necessary and good changes, and because of that, we are superbly excited. We are hoping that people start to familiarize themselves with us through our album “Familiar” and we hope to get people excited for the next mini album. We would love to release the album and tour “Familiar” alongside the new EP across North America and potentially Europe. This may be more of a feasible goal for 2022, but all of the steps leading up to it are already happening! The next project is already underway, which includes a full feature film to accompany the full album. It’s more of a rock opera with a beautifully tragic story to accompany it. We are looking forward to finishing the preproduction of that project and starting production in 2022. We have lots of big things coming, and we are working tirelessly to achieve these goals!

Is there anyone out there you’d like to collaborate or open/close a concert with in the future?

There are a bunch of great artists and bands we would love to open/close or collab with. Bands like Muse or Ghost would be a great experience because we believe that they are in the sphere of what we do musically. Not only would we be able to put on a great show and make some great art together, but I feel like we would learn so much from them. They are phenomenal musicians and I can envision that we would vibe well with them. I’d like to also collaborate with artists who don’t really sound like us such as Hozier and Billie Eilish. I think because of the different worlds we live in musically, collaborating with them would provide such a new opportunity to make something truly unique. Finally, being a Canadian band, we would love to work with other great Canadian artists like the Arkells and Arcade Fire. I think it’s important to be proud of being Canadian and working with other Canadian artists. In a broader sense, we are very open and excited to work with and learn from many different artists.

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