Isabel Monteiro is the London-based, singer-songwriter and bassist with three-piece band Drugstore. After a 7 year absence, the band returned with a sold-out gig at Dingwalls, London, Sept 2009 and early in 2010 Isabel announced a new line-up which will be unveiled at the ICA on May 5th 2010
SoundsXP: What prompted you to have the Drugstore reunion gig last September?
Isabel: At the end of the last ‘Songs for the Jetset’ tour, we dispersed, people moved abroad and got busy with their lives. About a couple of years ago we met up at the Groucho club for a birthday do, had a few drinks, then some more and the idea came up.
SoundsXP: There was a great turnout and a good night. I had a fantastic time, it was as if you’d never been away. So, did that spur you to get a full time band together - or would you have done that anyway
Isabel: It’s something that’s been sitting at the back of my head for sometime. I’d been writing songs, but was too busy getting my life in order. The Dingwalls gig came just at the right time and, yeah, it was quite an important little landmark – it made me reconnect with the rest of the world. The desire to do stuff was there, just needed a little push. And it was a great surprise to see that there’s still a lot of support for our work out there, which is quite amazing really, given that we had been off the radar for years.
SoundsXP: You’ve put demos up on your blog. Did you ever stop writing? Are there loads of new stuff?
Isabel: I’ve been writing quite a lot, but it’s just in the last few months that I finally managed to find enough mental space to get the portastudio out and start putting some ideas down. I was too busy dealing with the real world, and let me tell you, the real world can be a pretty horrible place at times. Now, things are a little more settled, I’m beginning to draw a pretty picture in my head for the next album – But wanna take a step at the time, release a couple of singles, let the album brew in our stomachs.
SoundsXP: Your songs are often dark (well, apart from stuff like ‘Offside’) yet you are incredibly lively and funny onstage. Is music cathartic? What are you?
Isabel: That’s funny. Makes me think of Jeff Buckley, such depth of sadness in his voice and yet he was probably one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. I guess people are complicated, complex. There are all sorts of shades within. The music is so intrinsically connected to who I am that it is pretty impossible to make a distinction, so, I’m not surprised that it encompasses elements of my own personality, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
SoundsXP: Why the ‘cave’? Sounds like somewhere a superhero hides to come out form and dispense justice.
Isabel: You see, there’s a ‘cool cave’, and that’s my stylish flat, hang-out in Kew Gardens. Then there’s the ‘good cave’, a place of comfort within, that you reach when you know who you are. But there’s also a ‘bad cave’, that’s the one that keeps me away from the rest of the universe, like a ‘desaparecida’ without trace, in darkness.
SoundsXP: The old drugstore varied musically from the hazy indie, lo-fi, to more orchestral in places. What will the new drugstore sound like? Is it going to be more space rock or cosmic mariachi?
Isabel: I always thought Drugstore had a pretty unique recipe. Our catalogue of songs it’s almost like a personal journey, and I want to carry on the same path we’ve already carved, still keeping everything that makes us what we are: space, intimacy, moments of joy and despair, set to beautiful, simple music, where the complexity doesn’t come from the chord palette, but from the emotions contained within.
SoundsXP: Will you play old Drugstore stuff or has that time gone?
Isabel: I hate when bands turn up and only play their new stuff. Like everyone else, I still wanna hear the songs that made me fall in love with that band in the first place. We’ve always done that, picking songs from the previous albums, and introducing new ones as we went along. So for the ICA gig, expect a few favourites, a few new tunes and a couple of surprises!
SoundsXP: You have a loyal following. Do you worry that drugstore fans may not like the new direction? What do you say to them?
Isabel: Drugstore fans know better than to tell Miss Monteiro what to do with her life, band or music! They’ve also have shown enough faith in me and Drugstore – they totally get the kind of people and artists we are, why we’re doing what we’re doing and what it means to us. It was hard having to change the line-up, given that half the band now permanently live abroad, but they’re understood why it had to be done, if I’m not to spend the rest of my days locked away in the ‘bad cave’.
SoundsXP: How will the smoking ban affect you onstage? Drugstore nicotine patches? Or will it encourage you to give up *cough*?
Isabel: Bloody ‘ell! Whatever happened to rock’n’roll?! I turned my back for 5 minutes and what do we get? You got to fill out a Health and Safety disclaimer form before you stage-dive! But, I don’t mind, I’m happy to behave like a school-kid, sneaking to the loo to have a cheeky puff...
SoundsXP: So you’re on a desert island, alone. Do you go mad or enjoy it?
Isabel: Pretty awful thing to admit, but I would love it. Lived alone on a beach for a year before and it was a great thing to do. I guess, at some point, you start missing having someone to talk to. Can I take a laptop with Skype on?
SoundsXP: So you’re shipwrecked on a desert island what book, track and luxury item (ok we assume the self-filling cigarette machine and bar) would you like!
Isabel: An acoustic guitar – or even better, a cool guy with an acoustic guitar. There’s a plan.
SoundsXP: Drugstore had a rocky road with labels – 3 labels and 3 albums. How do you feel about the music business? Does the internet offer hope?
Isabel: I quite like the whole music biz malarkey, y’ know? I have a very good understanding of how it works. We’re fortunately to be in a position now when we no longer need to worry too much about it. We’re happy to be on a label or on our own. There are good and bad points either way.
The Internet has completely changed the landscape. We have more options, and especially for a band like Drugstore, with a loyal fanbase, and no plans to storm the charts, we could easily be self-sufficient, if we decide to do so.
SoundsXP: You’ve a lovely tradition of having supporting acts join you on-stage, esp. the lead singer. So who would like to duet with? Will the old druggies get back together?
Isabel: ‘The old druggies’?! LOL – I’m not sure the venerable original Cowboys would like the sound of that! Given half-a-chance, I’m sure they would love to join us – but now it’s the turn of the new cowboys to shine and to prove that they’re worthy of their place in the band. I’ve got some truly great musicians onboard, I feel lucky to have found them. People coming to the ICA gig will be pleasantly surprised. We aim to amaze, nothing less. As for doing duets, this girl can’t help it, expect the unexpected, it’s all I can say for now!
Tickets for the ICA gig are still available here