Mono Taxi

The Onion Seller

With their heads riding somewhere between the rolling Yorkshire hills and a Parisian metropolis, the four piece Mono Taxi had pitched camp in the centre of Leicester on an evening that would commemorate the late, great John Peel. The same was happening not just here, but across the UK on a night deemed ‘John Peel night’, an event which turned out somewhat of a bizarre coincidence as several weeks later I once again celebrated “John Peel night”, entertained by a host of tele-visual treats, but no matter it was this mid-October evening that meant far more to myself and the handful of interested faithful lured here this evening by this single form of transport, otherwise known as Mono Taxi.

I’d first met with the group several hours earlier, as their support acts were still charming this hardly throng, “Oh Atomicduster!” our reputation had preceded us. We had then decided, I should get the full force of their welcome before entertaining any thoughts of what would turn out to be a very well mannered interview.

So here the four of us sat, Ellice the band’s lead vocalist/guitarist, her beau and the band’s other guitarist/vocalist; Antoine, as well as myself and my intended, Joanne, musing over the evening’s main course. The location, a set of double yellows on Freelane in Leicester in what was a rather comfortable Renault people carrier (how the practice of touring has changed since the Ford Transit, void of any MOT, eh?), but this aside there the four of us sat chatting away until on presenting my iPod and notes that would hopefully bear the ‘fruit’ of what had turned out a very long day indeed, for the both of us.

Antoine: “An iPod?!!.. Umm, that’s the way forward. Way to go Bill and Ted!” (how the art of recording an interview has changed since the moth eaten mini-cassette that wasn’t sure what speed or direction it was supposed to be moving in, eh!)

So with Joanne and Ellice chatting away in the back seat, I attempted a resemblance of order to the moment and posed the question...

AD: “First off, tell me a little about the band, your desires, yours passions, your long term view?

Antoine: “Desires and passions? (muses Antoine, a far away look in his eyes) I’m too philosophical, I’d probably go on to explain about desire and about passion, I’d probably be boring!”

Ellice: “Desires and passions, I don’t know, it’s quite simple really, we want to do more shows, we want to do good shows...”

Antoine: “We want to do PACKED shows!”

Ellice: “We want to do packed shows, yeah.”

Antoine: “And you see exactly what I mean, don’t you? We want to do packed shows, like Huddersfield 2 days ago, packed! ”

After this evening’s lack of audience, I detected a wry wit in the way Antoine was wanting to take the interview, so I asked:

AD: “How many did you get in the audience there?”

Antoine: “600 people there, all cheering.”

A marked difference obviously, but; AD: “What kind of capacity was the venue?”

Antoine: “Probably about 600, it was sold-out.”

So even though the relative venues had a marked difference in terms of capacity, and on this occasion it was Mono Taxi who’d been deemed the headline, Leicester may’ve been looked on as disappointing...

Ellice chipped in: “It’s not because we’re known, because we’re not known Antoine...”

Antoine: “It’s obvious, we’re not a big headline, nobody knows us... we’re releasing our first 7”, urrr, it’s our debut 7”, you see what I mean, we’re no-one, so we arrived and people tell us “You’re the headline...” oh all right, but obviously we’re not going to fill a venue ‘cos it’s not made like that. You’ve got bands signed to major labels and they go straight for a big debut single release, so yeah with a lot of money and promotion. We’re not going that way, we’re going the natural way. We are just touring, we’re playing wherever we want to go. The natural way, huh?”

I take his point and nod in agreement.

Antoine: “Still you can get lucky, get to a town and it’s completely packed, you don’t know why it’s packed and people are amazed and want to know more about Mono Taxi, cool, they want to know more about us, they’re more than welcome. Desires and passions, yeah that’s about it.”

AD: “And so to your long-term view, your long-term view is to play to a lot of people, in 5-years time will Mono Taxi still be an outfit?

Antoine: “Oh of course, yeah, we get on really well all together. There’s really something close, all together...”

Knowing only the little that the press had offered about the band, I asked; AD: “So how did the band get together? I know what it says in your press, ‘An Anglo-French musical coterie...', but nothing about when you got together?”

Antoine: “You don’t know? really? I’ll explain... it was about 3-years ago in Paris. Ellice was teaching french in Paris. Teaching french and we met up, I was already doing lots of music and stuff, I met her and we started doing music and that was where we started from. And then we got that ‘fool’ as a drummer... that big fool...”

AD: (Obviously continuing our joking of earlier on) “Ha, Animal, the muppet?”

Antoine: “Yeah Paul, the fool, the muppet, at a party in the west of Paris. (referring to fellow Parisian, Paul Mabillot), at an ex-girlfriend’s party in fact, interesting isn’t it? [the inside of the car breaks into laughter] It was all good, Paul the drummer. Then we crossed ‘the channel’, from there we met that man out of the Eurostar, he found us in the rails of the Eurostar, he was going to be the bass-player (making reference to meeting Kent born Steve Ingersent in London 2-weeks after arriving), it was very simple really, we’re not a fancy band, we just play our stuff, we’re very simple.”

The story goes, the group had formed originally in France, although playing under the name ‘Bettyking’. When they’d decided to relocate their then bassist, unsure of the move had stayed behind. So now a three-piece they’d wanted to redress the balance, changing the demographic from an essentially french band, into one whose leanings were far more english...

Antoine: “So we needed a bass player, because we like the bass and what he brings to us is nice...”

AD: “He’s very sexy.”

Antoine: “Yeah very sexy boy, but it was great to bring a balance as well, between the France and England. Before it was 3 French and 1 French speaking English and based in Paris, so you can imagine how french the band was and I’m not a big fan of France.”

[A joke ensued, instigated by myself of a French onion seller, wearing a blue hooped top and beret]

Antoine: “What like Jean-Paul Gautier? Nah, we’re not typically French and anyway the idea the English have of the French is completely wrong, it doesn’t exist! Have you ever been to France?” - AD: “Yes” - Antoine: “Have you ever seen people dressed like that?”

Oh well, looks like I got told! - At which point a brief lesson in English geography was embarked on, to which Antoine achieved the highest honours... Antoine: “I KNOW MY ENGLISH GEOGRAPHY! You can write that. Well at least I’m learning my English geography, going on tour.”

AD: “So what have been the pitfalls and successes, of your career so far?”

Ellice: “I think like any new band going out, you can have shit receptions and it’s not anything to do with your music, it’s just that they don’t know it, or it’s maybe not exactly what they want. Say you’re playing an indie gig- say 100 people, you can’t expect everybody to like what we do. So pitfalls...”

Antoine: “Pitfalls is empty rooms isn’t it?”

Ellice: “No, pitfalls and empty rooms, pitfalls and gigs where people don’t give a shit!”

Antoine: “For me empty rooms is a success!”

AD: “Pitfalls may be where people didn’t get you?”

Antoine/Ellice: “Yeah, it’s more that, where people didn’t get us.”

AD: “So the successes/triumphs? The single, the label deal?”

Antoine: “No those are just stepping stones, as I was saying, it’s nothing fancy, we’re just given the opportunity to release 500/1000 singles, but we’re not given big hype, we’re just doing our music.”

Ellice: “But what’s good around that and what you’re not saying is that other people are starting being interested, so then you don’t look at the triumph of doing a little 7”, you look at the things that work around that, so it’s not a triumph yet, but maybe it might be...”

Antoine: “Let’s put it like that... (and paraphrasing the band’s first single ‘Kind Of Better’) It’s not what the world is looking for, but we might be what you are looking for.”

So by this point with the other members of the group, climbing on the vehicle to hasten the progress of our talking - I quickly moved to possibly the most relevant question I had penned...

AD: “Your musical offerings may be best described as Antique Indie, but how would you see or rather hear yourselves?”

Antoine: “Antique indie, why is it antique?”

So attempting to assure the quizzical Antoine that the idea was cool, rather than anything to the contrary, he perks up in response to my question.

Antoine “Oh, antique in terms of a retro-cool, well if you tell me that my style of music is ‘Antique indie’ then I’m happy. Antique indie, that sounds great, Antique indie!”

So having seemingly created a new sub-genre of music, I leave the band duly reunited and bums parked firmly on seats once again. Heading off through the brightly lit streets of a nocturnal Leicester for tomorrow’s gig, this time in Liverpool. Hold on, the band had come from Newport the night before, we’re here in Leicester and tomorrow, Liverpool! Perhaps there is a reason the Ford Transit took retirement after all.

Interview: Nick James

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