FIB Chat: Rising Australian Duo Maison Hall

Melbourne duo Maison Hall officially release their new single “Montreux”. It’s the band’s first new music since their debut album It Was Never About Me in 2017.

Credit: supplied

Aussie duo, Maison Hall, drop “Montreux”, their first single in five years. Reflective and upbeat, it’s a classic indie number, evocative of The Kooks and Catfish and the Bottlemen. Vocalist Joe Kneipp reflects, “Montreux is celebratory… Not just because we’re still doing this, but because we’re still doing this despite our ‘real-life’ obligations, the distance between us, the total absence of pecuniary success, etc.”

The clip for ‘Montreux’ is a witty ode to the tension and tug-of-war that characterises a working artist. How do you walk the fine line between a desire to make art and the expectations of a capitalist society? The band gives us some deep insight into the world of a creative in a modern world. The message behind the music video gives a powerful rendition of the passion behind a musician’s eyes.

Today, FIB chats with Joe about “Montreux”, taken from their upcoming album ‘Rose Coloured Everything”. A big thank you to the band for giving us insight and explanation of the inner workings behind the song’s lyrics and video. Check it out below…

The song reflects the journey of your music career, from “playing to an empty hall” to “playing to all my friends.” When did your duo partner up and decide to write music and perform?

Haha, that’s so interesting hearing my lyrics quoted back at me! To answer your question – Ben and I met in 2013. We both attended the same university college, and we played in a cover band together for a while. We had a good musical chemistry, and in a way Maison Hall. was kinda accidental – I’d always struggled in a band dynamic, but Ben’s energy was appealing. He was just very even-keeled. So we had a one-on-one jam in 2014 and pretty much instantly decided we need to be in a band together. 

 Regarding those lyrics – what I’m referring to there is the feeling that… I think we had a greater groundswell of support and opportunity in 2015, 2016 when we were both living in Brisbane. But I wasn’t in a good space personally, and we didn’t capitalise on that, which is totally on me. So now, it can feel like we’re back to square one – hence, ‘playing to an empty hall’. But in actual fact, Ben and I are stronger and better than we’ve ever been, and a lot of that is because neither of us are particularly concerned with ‘success’. We love playing together, we love making music, and we’re friends. We both have stable lives/partners. I’m confident enough in myself to let the people I love know that I love them. Hence, ‘playing to all of my friends’. Even when our audience is like 90% our friends and family, that feels triumphant, rather than concessional. 

Which bands have most inspired the development of your style?

 Ethos trumps style for me. I’m a complete hack, instrumentally – I’ve got a lot of width and not a lot of depth. I’m ‘fine’ on most instruments, outstanding at none of them haha. Ben is very restrained when he drums for me – he’s extremely talented. I guess we pay attention to other rock duos: Japandroids, the White Stripes, Death from Above, those types of acts. But our first album was pulling a lot from the post-rock world. Sigur Ros and This Will Destroy You are two of my biggest guitar influences. I remember reading an early review of our first album (‘It Was Never About Me’) that described it as ‘lo-fi post-rock’ and I fucking loved that haha. 

It’s clear the song and video reflect the push and pull effect between music to capitalist expectations of working a regular 9-5 day job. You state that ‘we’ll be keeping our day jobs’. What were your day jobs, or are you full-time musicians now?

Oooooh, looking to dox us haha! Ben and I are definitely both still wage-slaving. I qualified as a lawyer but I don’t practice – I work in tertiary education. Ben works in government.

I don’t know what ‘full-time musician’ means in 2022. We’re not bohemians, but we’re not Tones & I. I’m not even sure whether it’s particularly meaningful to aspire to ‘do’ music. Like, what about what we’re doing right now is not ‘doing’ music? It occupies my mind 24/7. I know that if I had unlimited time/money, I’d probably only do a little bit more music than I do now. Maybe I’d have more time to practice instruments though, that would be nice… but I don’t know, I can envision myself spending most of that free time endlessly panicking about not doing music haha. Give a busy person a job if you want it done, you know?

What is one of your favourite collaborations, projects or career highlights so far?

Hmmm – I have a lot of highlights from other projects. I’ve played some UK shows as a session muso, which was fun. In this – I’m not sure. We had some very, very fun gigs with our friends back in the Brisbane days. It was a very supportive, communal scene. 

Your song depicts that the music journey bruises your ego, and is an emotionally straining journey. If your song could give one piece of advice to young, struggling musicians, what would you say? 

These questions are great! I don’t think I’m so emancipated from young musicians (I hope!) And I’m not some sage, I certainly wouldn’t be someone who would offer this freely. But if someone asked me, I’d say – please don’t think that suffering is an innate part of the creative process. I fell into that trap for a long time, and it’s toxic. Your personal integrity (physically, mentally, spiritually) is more important than self-destruction in the name of your ‘art’. And importantly, you don’t have to suffer – there’s plenty of happy artists who are also great!

Another interpretation I took from the video is that the art is literally splattered over industry professionals within an interview, without them blinking an eye. Was this an attempt to capture the artist’s struggle to get their music heard by industry professionals?

 I like that interpretation! That’s definitely a nice take away. If we think about the Australian music landscape, I think it’s evidently ‘gatekept’. And yeah, industry professionals can be totally fucked. I had a very interesting conversation recently with someone in the biz about the state of a certain youth radio broadcaster that was pretty illuminating. Imagine: you work on a song, you have a vision for it. If you’re like us, you make it, meaning you write it, you play it, but you also produce it. Maybe you self-record it (again like us). You slave over it – until finally, you finish it. And then you send it to post-production, and the mixer/masterer comes back to you and says ‘ok, I can do a mix/master that serves your vision, or I can fuck with this and fuck with that so that xxx radio station might give this bastardisation even the slightest look-in for spot rotation”. And this isn’t some super inaccessible, avant garde music mind you, this is fucking pop-rock! 

That type of homogenisation is so harmful. So yeah, in the video for ‘Montreux’, James’s histrionics are definitely meant to express a type of desperate, manic liberation from all that shit. We do this for us!

In the video the artist drops to his knees conveying he is physically and emotionally spent. Were there any moments in writing and performing that it became a concern as to whether your music would be heard? What kept you motivated?

We’re still not known outside of very esoteric music circles, so no, it’s not a concern. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice, but that type of goal-attainment motivation is insatiable once you begin. I can’t speak for Ben, but my personal motivation is… I believe that what I’m/we’re doing has inherent value, because I live my life in such a way that music doesn’t provide me with external validity. People’s response to my music has no bearing on how I see myself – that is influenced by my spiritual belief system, my family/partner, and my true friends, in that order. That sounds like a bit of a wank, but I think if I didn’t constantly reaffirm that to myself, I would be chasing affirmation through songs, and that’s a scary way to live your life. 

 I’m motivated through discipline. Music helps me understand myself, and how I think and feel about things. It happens non-linearly – these things reveal themselves over time. So I don’t hype myself up to do it, I just do it, in the same way I entrain the pattern of brushing my teeth or eating. It truly feels the same way. And look, more simply, I love Ben, I love playing music with him. That’s motivation enough – I’m happy playing to empty halls!

The video depicts an artist’s struggle between his art and obligations to contribute to the hamster wheel in capitalist society. He becomes very anguished in the video, punching the canvas, yet refuses to get pulled into the capitalist scenario. Is this a reflection of family and close relatives not supporting your music passion, or solitary pressure to work a regular job that contributes to financial obligations and expectations?

I think it’s less adversarial than the binary that you’ve suggested here. I don’t feel annoyed at the fact that I have to work to support myself, my partner, and my art because, let’s be perfectly honest, some aspects of musicianship can be quite frivolous. Like, I’ve spent time working in not-for-profit organisations, and the rest of my working life has been in the tertiary education sector. Those industries are FAR from perfect but… They’re valuable as well I don’t feel like those ‘take away’ from my ‘real life’ pursuing music, it’s all a part of it.

 So yeah. not all of my personal satisfaction is derived from music. It’s an aspect of it. Holistic living – that’s the only shit that assuages the ennui. As I said, I’m not a sage – I’m a young man, I’m still figuring it out: figuring out how to be a good partner, good son, good friend, good brother. Maybe the frustration James acts out in the music video can be seen as illustrative of the overwhelming nature of these things as they coalesce. He’s saying, ‘why can’t you see what I’m doing here has value?’ But he’s also saying, ‘why can’t I be satisfied with what you’re doing?’ He’s burdened by his artistic compulsion.  

Check out Maison Hall’s new track ‘Montreux’, it is available now and streaming on all platforms.  The band are also heading on an East-Coast tour of Australia late next week. Check out the dates below:


Tickets available from | All Eventbrite Outlets 


Tickets available from | All Eventbrite Outlets 


Tickets available from Oztix | All Oztix Outlets 

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