Vulnerability, viciousness and resilience with the amazing Montaigne.
Jess Cerro (AKA Montaigne) is a spunky, sparkly chick with lots of feelings about music, but she gets especially verbally nimble (read: pumped) when she discusses one particular influence: Owen Pallet. “Every time I say ‘I’m really into Owen Pallett, I’d really like to work with him one day,’ and no one knows what I’m talking about, I’m like ‘You have to know!’” she laughs.
When listening to Cerro’s debut Glorious Heights, the links between her own shrewd and rather poetic vision and Pallett’s cinematic, electronically detailed approach are clear. “First off, I really like his influence by video games, and how that makes for an epic and quite unusual lyric; I also like his chops as a string player,” she says. “The songs are all really dark and creepy, that quite weird orchestral thing… I Am Not Afraid, which is the first song on [Pallett’s 2014 album In Conflict], I can listen to for days and days. It sounds so ultimate. It’s like you’re at the end of your life and this is the sound of it – the way that things will come to a head and complete themselves.”
That’s not to say Glorious Heights is morose; it’s definitely curious, with odd vocal harmonies on In The Dark and fat smears of brass on Greater Than Me, but those sit alongside unapologetic slaps of colour, mountainous synths, bright, joyous piano triads and the kind of vocal chutzpah she displayed in the track that brought her to the attention of the nation: Hilltop Hoods’ 1955. All of those come together to give the effect of unabashed energy, which is never deliberately pretty even though it’s beautiful. “I think it’s just stemming from who I am inside,” says Cerro. “I’m not a particularly pretty person, and the music I’m into can be quite dirty and scary. Bjork has a vulnerability to her that may be considered feminine, but she’s also very vicious.”
It’s part of the propulsion which keeps Cerro’s internal cogs going – something she sees as a state you can (and should) choose. “Optimism, in clinical terms, it’s just being able to see the positive side in everything,” she explains. “I suppose resilience is more what I [want to embody]. You can do it and you must do it. If that opportunity doesn’t work out then move on to another thing; keep your family and friends close around you and just be a nice person.”