On the surface, Monique Brumby's new single Underground could be about hanging out in a basement nightclub where people are allowed to be whom they want to be. But, as with most of Brumby's songs, the meaning is deeper.
As she explains. "I was thinking about secular groups like the Armish people. I'm fascinated with how they live different lives from mine, and how the men in the community build their houses in the old style way. The opening line, 'This place was built on love and mortar' is how the cornerstone of a good community is love and compassion. The people in the song, the labourer, the pastor, the nurse, the priestess, they all contribute in their loving to a community regardless of sexuality and religion.
"The underground could be a club, where people can go where they are treated with total equality and can show a different face to the one they show to the world outside. But the 'underground' could also be someone's apartment. Or just the way a piece of music affects you. It's a sexy song but it also one which people can relate to on a spiritual level."
The song's video was shot by Thomas Meadmore, who's making a documentary on what draws people to a music career, based around Speed Orange's Tony Jackson and also featuring Brumby and Tim Rogers.
The video already included scenes of dancing girls and black-draped furniture, with Brumby blindfolding herself, face-painting a cross, smoking cigars and spewing out red chunks of pomegranates. Meadmore then decided, "I see candles". They got 400 candles donated by IKEA Richmond.
"We shot it in a day in our apartment in Brunswick (which she shares with her wife of three months, Sophie Turner, who plays in her band). We were just hoping the landlord wouldn't pop around and see all these lit candles - the ultimate landlord's nightmare!"
Underground is also the bridge to Brumby's fifth album Half Moon Half Everything (due out October 1). It was also recorded in her apartment thisJanuary during a week of heavy storms. The mics were set up in the kitchen, and the pair's cat Twiggy Stardust and whippet April Rain would be wandering around during the sessions with her band.
The songs on the album reveal more about Brumby than ever before. In the past she was awkward about discussing her sexuality. "I was scared if I talked about my sexuality, they wouldn't talk about the music." She found it irritating that it was automatically assumed that she was an item with any female she played music with, or any female music industry exec she worked with. "There was that extra level of questioning that a heterosexual wouldn't get," Brumby reveals.
Now she's cool with it, and wants to reach her music to a wider audience. In February she opened for the Don McLean tour and Underground went Top 10 in the AIR charts and is getting extensive airplay. A strong advocate of helping young acts, she's produced Adelaide singer/songwriter Emily Davis and Melbourne band Mosaic. Two songs she co-wrote - Melting with Paul Kelly ended up on his 1998 album Words And Music, and Breakable with Krisa Povere on the latter's 2009 debut album - sees her wanting to write for other artists as well.
As for that 'half moon' reference in Brumby's upcoming album title: "I get emotional and tearful when the moon is half. Since I was 25, I've been attracted to the moon. Before a gig I look at the moon because it's an indicator of what's going to happen! A half moon represents a midway point, something on the cusp, not started not finished. I always think of myself between worlds."
MONIQUE BRUMBY and band launch Underground at The Northcote Social Club this Saturday May 28 with guests Nick Batterham and band, and Izzy Losi. Info and tickets from northcotesocialclub.com.
BY Christie Elizer