Ready, Montaigne new video, is dedicated to young people, who are not yet jaded and worn down by the realities of this world.
Those who inspire us with the fire of anger against injustice so that we may be galvanized to stand up and demand what is right from our world leaders. It shouldn’t be school kids who lead us, but it is a sign of the times that children are having to take responsibility for their futures, which these global issues directly affects. Montaigne speaks to us about her coming out and her responsibility as a queer artist.
What was your creative process behind the ‘Ready’ video?
I had the desire to celebrate the kids who’ve been participating and leading the school climate strikes, and the way we ended up fleshing the idea out was just with lots of long discussions between myself and Nick Waterman, the director. He felt deep resonance with the issue because he has a very young kid for whom he’s felt the climate dread. Nick has a very beautiful aesthetic vision and after swapping a few music video references (between Feist, Blood Orange, and a BBC video about a huge school of kids performing martial arts in a synchronized formation). We came to an agreement about the way all of it would look, what the mood would be like, that our approach would be minimalist. It was very much a collaborative, conversational process.
How does Complex differ from your previous album? Was your mindset different going into it?
I have changed as a person and naturally style and thematic content changes along with that life shift. I don’t know that my mindset about it changed that much, about the creative process, I suppose I just became a bit more confident and also developed stronger musical skills in the way of singing and understanding how to record well.
How would you describe your musical style?
What is the first album you ever owned? The first album that made you fall in love with music?
Ha, the first album I ever owned was given to me by my parents for Christmas was some Nikki Webster joint. Followed by Innocent Eyes by Delta Goodrem and Britney by Britney Spears. Pop music was probably my first love. The first album I ever bought as a conscious adolescent was Darwin Deez’s self-titled record.
How did growing up in a Latinx/Filipino household shape your identity? How does it impact your music? How did it impact the formation of your queer identity?
This is a great question and one I’ve never been asked and so I have never given it very great thought and think it would probably require several sessions of therapy for any revelations to be had! My upbringing was complicated on several levels and there are so many intersecting factors culturally/politically/personally that I wouldn’t even know how to begin to unpack and do justice in synthesizing. Combined with the fact that I don’t remember a great deal about my pre-adulthood (I uncontrollably repress memories) I’m not sure it’s something I can go into concisely here and without digressing into analysis about my own psychological tendencies but I want to affirm that these are really fascinating questions that I’m probably going to think about and keep re-evaluating my answers to until I die. Maybe there’ll be a conducive space for me to discuss them one day in public.
Have you always felt comfortable being open about your identity? If not, how were you able to overcome insecurity in your identity? What advice would you give those who are still figuring out or coming to terms with their sexual/gender identity?
Again, another excellent bunch of questions (I promise I’m not trying to ingratiate myself to you, I just so appreciate curious journalism). I don’t know that I’ve felt completely comfortable but I’ve always felt compelled to be open about my identity. I do not possess the ability to comfortably lie about anything and that includes information about the person I am. There are parts of myself or my past or my actions I have hated and felt ashamed about, of course! I think I still have a sort of…fear or reservedness about being with girls that prevents me from actually sleeping with them. I think I’ve probably internalized some shit that makes me turn off before I can even get in bed with them, and I’m not yet sure how to disengage those brakes (I have the brakes with men too, just not as much).
But I’ve never felt like I needed to hide these things. That manifested as oversharing for a while, which I think I still do a bit. I think a lot of it gets channeled into my art and creative writing now which is where overflow belongs, as well as with my close friends with whom I’ve developed enough mutual trust for the kind of disclosure I provide to be appropriate.
In regards to my queerness — when I was really coming to terms with it, I had really amazing queer friends around me as well as the TV show Glee to normalize it for me. I also grew up reading erotic fan fiction with queer shipping so I kind of…I didn’t feel that being queer was a shameful thing at all since it was just something that existed in my reality and was present in people and things I really adored and which made me feel good. I never carried a lot of prejudiced cultural baggage as I moved through adolescence, it was my assumption that all humans had the right to dignified treatment, safety, security, love, equal rights etc. It’s like I took all the good parts of being raised Catholic — loving your neighbor and treating others as you yourself would like to be treated — and threw all the other trash in the bin. I also had a long phase in my senior years of high school where I was dabbling with Eastern spirituality and philosophy on Tumblr and that helped me to build the foundations for things like perceiving things with non-judgment before reacting. Developing the ability to be equanimous and really weighing things up, not reacting too quickly, and empathizing with those I love as well as those who’ve hurt me or anyone else. I didn’t have it figured out but I was slowly identifying the tools needed to mitigate feelings of shame about my identity. I struggled more with my body image and personality than I did with my queerness. To me, queerness was a source of freedom and an inevitable part of loving.
The other thing is that I’ve never been in a relationship or dated anyone who doesn’t present as traditionally male-gendered. I’ve never been affectionate with someone who presents as my own gender in a public space where that might be unsafe, so I’ve never experienced in an immediately threatening way the feeling of my queerness being…alien to the point of inciting violence or hateful expression. I’d like just to acknowledge the privilege of that position, and I’m also glad I can offer a story of queerness that isn’t punctuated by shame or self-hatred for the reason of being queer. Just shame or self-hatred for other reasons, haha.
Lots of these interviews ask me to give advice but I never feel like I am fit to give advice ever. I chose my namesake because he knew that the only authoritative position he could take was speaking on himself and his own views and how that informed his own person and I feel very much the same. All of our experiences and the variables within are so different, it’s hard to give advice to all people struggling with their identity that fits in with each individual and unique purview. All I feel comfortable saying is, for me, expressing myself about my struggles has been useful. Journalling or writing songs or poetry or talking to people I trust has been of enormous use, often cathartic use that has often brought about new insights which fortified my relationship with myself. And of course, as Perfume Genius sung with Aldous Harding on Swell Does The Skull: music, always music.
Do you feel a responsibility as a queer artist to use your voice and music to bring awareness to issues faced by the lgbtq+ community?
Yeah I do! I have a bit of power and I think the power’s a bit useless if you’re not going to use it to bring about good for the things and people you think deserve it.