Interview: The Money War

Interview: The Money War

Figaro catch up for a tall glass of water with Dylan Ollivierre and Carmen Pepper the indie-rock duo that make up The Money War. We talk about their forming as a band from a U.S road trip, family bands, supporting HOLY HOLY on tour and get deep on the importance of money in the independent music industry.

So you both were a part of bands previously, before ‘The Money War’ began, could you tell us a bit more about your upbringing with music?

Dylan: Yeah, so I taught myself how to play guitar from Guitar Tabs just learning Red Hot Chilli Peppers covers and all that, and then from there I started writing songs a couple years after that when I was like 12 or 13 and started singing because it was really hard to find people to sing my songs and when I started it wasn’t that pleasant but it was kind of a way of communicating the song. And just got into producing a couple years after that, so kind of a natural progression. Learning other people’s songs to wanting to write my own songs to creating something that could be on a CD.

Carmen: I’d say I’m kind of the same like I learnt how to play guitar when I was 13 or something, just started playing in pubs with my little brother (bless omg) doing acoustic shows and writing our own songs
Dylan: They had the Pepper family band as well.
Carmen: Yeah.. my dad used to play bass in our band so that was my first experience. But yeah lots of my family played music. And then I was in this band called ‘The Warning Birds’ and our bass player left so I had to start playing bass and it was just self-taught but knowing how to play guitar it wasn’t too bad, bass was just more about feel.  

So from a U.S road trip, you guys just started making demo’s on that trip which was inspired by music and the trip overall..
And at what point did you turn around and say that these iPhonedemo’s were the beginning of a new music project and started ‘The Money War’?

Carmen: Well I remember driving around in Sausalito in San Francisco listening to the demo’s in the car and we were already thinking like “these are actually pretty good”.
Dylan: It was just, I guess getting excited by that feeling of being like “yeah this is cool we should do something with this”.
Carmen: Cause we were listening to them outside of our home environments so maybe that helped as well.

Dylan:  Yeah, and in terms of actually making the decision to put them out, I guess it was probably our manager, who also used to manage my old band, who has been on my back to put music out again. I didn’t know it at the time but he always knew I would do something with music again. Just having a bit of a support network around us and encouraging us. I don’t think I would’ve been straight back into music as quickly as I was, but I’m really glad I had people behind me guiding me into what I wanted. Cause it's easy to get lost in that.

Especially with something like music too, where the creative structure is so subjective and you as the writer can think something sounds cool cause you built it from nothing but is it also something that other people can enjoy is such a hard line to first cross.

Carmen: Yeah! And that’s another thing is that when we were in America we met a couple guys randomly who were actually these big time producers.

Dylan:  Like Arne Frager!

Carmen: We met him in this little bar in San Francisco and he was playing in the band there and we just thought the band were pretty cool. And then Dylan started chatting to him after the show and turns out he was a producer and then Dylan mentioned he was as well. And the guy ends up owning the record plant where all these producers work.

Dylan:  And I’m just sitting there thinking “shit what have I gotten myself into here”.

Carmen: But he was really nice and ended up taking us hiking up this mountain
You got the real hiking/spiritual journey experience hey?

Carmen: We actually did, and we ended up playing him some of the demo’s that we recorded and he told us to do something with them.

Dylan:  And there was this other guy called Thom Monaham who’s one of my favourite producers and he really backed it too and said he loved it so that was kind of where the decision was made. It was organic, it felt really natural.

So you recently finished up your debut EP, which you recorded yourselves, how was the process of writing and recording? As I completely understand how the intense process of playing/listening to your songs repetitively can make you start to hate it. So what was it like for you two?

Dylan:  Well, yeah there was a lot of that. But I think because we had quite a bit of time tog et it done and didn’t have any pressure to get it out at a certain time. So I recorded and mixed it and that was hard being in two different headspaces because I think they’re quite different jobs. Cause when you’ve written and produced a song you know everything that went into it

Carmen: But with producing you have to look at it from an entirely different perspective.

Dylan: To frame everything in a way that most people just want to hear the rhythm and vocals and all, but for me, it’s the intricate little parts that are the most important. Although we got to the end of the EP process and still really loved all the songs on there which is really great because often that’s not always the case. Cause as you said it’s really easy to lose that magic. Like you’ll do a demo and you’re not being over-critical about it and you’ll think “oh that sounds awesome!” and then each listen you take after that loses the magic from that first impression. And you just gotta remind yourself that other people aren’t’ interested with how balanced the kick drum is, they just wanna hear the song.

You’ve just started this leg of supporting HOLY HOLY on their national tour which is pretty amazing, what’s it like touring with them and to be able to play your music around Australia? 

Dylan: It’s been amazing! There’s been quite a few people at the shows who know our songs..

Carmen: We had some guy who messaged us saying he flew from Adelaide to our Sydney show just to see us cause Sydney was sold out.

Dylan: I was like “dude! We have door spots and stuff don’t fly!”. But that was just like very cool, it was our first time on the East Coast too. And supporting HOLY HOLY has obviously been such an amazing opportunity cause we’ve always been fans of the band and they’re total pros as well so we learn something new every night.

Carmen: Watching them play is like a new master class every night. But it’s been awesome so far.

Because you guys get to end the tour nicely back home in Perth?

Dylan: Well we’re actually closer to Fremantle than Perth cause Freo is only 30 minutes from Perth, but the Freo venue is one of our locals so that’ll be really cool to play. I actually saw HOLY HOLY play there on their last tour which is cool.

Your fresh new single ’Right Kind of Love’ is a beautiful song, could you please talk more about the inspiration for that song? And why that track was chosen for the single amongst the forthcoming EP?

Dylan: Thanks so much. The song was kind of written from the point of view of being overwhelmed and just feeling down about lots of bad shit happening in the world and personal lives and trying to have an optimistic approach to writing about the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak in the cliché.

Carmen: Like ‘The Right Kind of Love’, it's not necessarily about a relationship, it could mean anything to other people. But realising that there is good things happening even though there is all of these crazy and sad things happening in the world.
Dylan: And also about having the right intentions to the things you enter whether that be career or love life.

Carmen: And in terms of why we chose that I think it just stood out. As soon as I heard the line to the song I really really liked it.

Dylan: Yeah I kind of felt it encapsulates a lot of what the lyrical content is, its the best representation of The Money War so far that we’ve got.

And also the name of the band ‘The Money War’ falls into that category of, not so much financial stability but ones freedom with/without heavy income.

Dylan: Yup! Like that’s exactly it. It’s not necessarily supposed to be political but the money war is a universal concept that everyone deals with in one way or another. And kind of like our view perhaps on the world.

Carmen: Especially being in this industry, where you’re trying to do something that you love and you don’t really make any money from it but it costs a lot of money to do.

Yeah I see that and how a lot of music and creativity is based on that love and passion for it, but it’s hard when you’re trying hard for long but you’re not getting that attention.

Dylan: I was reading an article I think with Ali Barter and they were saying getting to that next level where you’re able to sell out your own tour nationally but still not pay off your rent. I think the example she said was to get her hair done or something like that, but those luxuries aren’t available to most musicians.

Yeah, I find the music industry is a very glamourised image. And not to say that the Australian music industry is all grunge, but it's very modest and working-class. And I’m sure you agree having uploaded your songs on there, but platforms like Triple J and Unearthed are so admirable cause they give people that opportunity and build themselves as musicians.

Dylan: 100%! Definitely. And with streaming music and all that I’m a fan of it, and yes you won’t sell as many records or make more money but it means that as an independent artist that your music can reach many more people in an organic way.
Carmen: Exactly, you’re reaching people that you wouldn’t have been able to before, lets the smaller acts be heard on those platforms.

A lot of your music videos that you’ve done have had a similar vibe and pattern to them, which is like a vlog and taking the audience on a personal visual journey, is that something you think you’ll continue doing?

Carmen: Yeah, I really like them to be honest.
Dylan: Budget is definitely a factor though.

Carmen: Yeah, I mean one of our clips was played on Rage and some of the footage was just shot off an iPhone, it doesn’t really matter. As long as the content is interesting and engaging and related to the song.

Dylan: Yeah and Rage have played a few, and never discriminated between the higher quality and the lower quality, and I think the people aren’t really bothered.

Yeah and HOLY HOLY recorded that clip with two mics and two iPhones the other week and it was amazing! It’s just good to see that money and expensive equipment isn’t the make-or-break of someone becoming a musician.

Dylan: Yeah sending the message that you don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to record in a big studio to make something work. As you said it opens up the door to people who don’t have much guidance or experience.

So we do a monthly playlist on Spotify, can you give us three songs that you think should be on next months’ playlist?

(After some discussion and the swiping through their own Spotify playlists of their own, they came up with a list of some Australian and International artists/songs for us..)

  • Dylan: ‘Golden Days’- Whitney, ‘Make Love Stay’- Astropol
  • Carmen: ‘Edge of Town’- Middle Kids, ‘Pool Party’- Julia Jacklin

Best of luck for the rest of the tour, hope you see you come back to Melbourne for a show again soon!

Carmen: We should be over again before the end of the year

Dylan: Thanks for having

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