Three Day Monk is a solo project from multi-instrumentalist and filmmaker Tristan Nelson. The music is unconventional and explorative with the artist frequently throwing themselves into new styles and approaches and never averse to picking up a new instrument if it fits the track. In this interview, you’ve got the pleasure of hearing from an artist who took their first brave steps of releasing music in the year of the pandemic, 2020. If you’re an indie artist looking for inspiration then read on, learn about what drove Tristan to go solo and absorb some of that Three Day Monk mindset.
The new single is all kinds of eerie and atmospheric and follows a pretty unconventional structure. Can you tell us how it came about?
The situation with Covid and how the UK had been handling it back in the Summer and then seeing all the riots and emotions of BLM protests brought out so much that I wanted to express for so long – just pure aggression. That fueled ‘Natsu’ and gave it it’s grunge vibe. This time round, I wanted to explore different sounds, make something a bit more fragile and really push the norms of a “rock record”. I wanted to set myself aside somewhat and delve into the mindset of others. I didn’t want to use electric guitars. I dabbled with piano before on ‘Moneyquality’ and some other unreleased tracks but this time, I really wanted to explore what the instrument could do in a different way, playing to it’s beauty and haunting vibes. My love for films, thrillers especially is probably apparent here! I have this phrase that I keep referring to when making tracks of late – “What’s more terrifying than our reality?” With this track, I really dug into it, thinking what is real to a specific individual, their mindset.
How the song physically came to be was that I was making food and out of nowhere, started singing and humming what is the chorus. Everything comes really organically and nothing is forced. As soon as I have an idea that I love, I’m likely to sit down and lay down the majority of the track. I believe with this track, I finished the demo in two sittings at home and we recorded it over a day and a half or so.
You mention that you work on some of your tracks with collaborator Matty Moon. How did you guys start working together and what usually happens in a session?
I’ve attempted numerous times to get music going with numerous musicians and different engineers and it never felt right. In 2018 (I think…), I saw a post in a Facebook group from Matty and he was looking for artists to record with. I didn’t have any recordings other than some bad quality jam sessions when I was in a two-piece, but I sent them across and he was up for it. We got chatting, he trekked over to my town, and expressed love for the tracks. We must’ve been in the pub for hours. It was the first time I felt someone really just got my sound. I gave him a chance and we recorded an album back in 2019 which spawned ‘Take’ (more info on that another time perhaps!)
I demo the tracks from home to make the process easier and so I know what I want. Jake jumps on drums for me at the start of however long the recording process takes cause I’m not that great on drums! Matty then adds some touches here and then, throwing in the Memory Man pedal and other bits of gear when it suits. Most of the time, it’s just the two of us, with me walking around with my shoes off, stretching and making noises to fill the gaps, unless I’ve eaten too much and fallen asleep whilst Matty does bits I’ll never comprehend. It’s always a fun time and I absolutely love it. I could happily do it for the foreseeable future. Currently in sessions, I’m teaching Matty odd ‘Japanese Words of the Day’.
It’s used to describe people who start things but never see them through to the end.Three day monk
You’ve said Three Day Monk is drawn from a Japanese phrase. Do you have connections with that part of the world?
I first took an interest in Japan as most children did when I was younger – through Anime, notably Dragon Ball, thanks to my mum. I wish it was more interesting, but that is the origin! I’m currently studying the language and looking to visit within the next two years. I always saw this as a project and wanted to create under a name that wasn’t my own. After looking online, I came across the phrase ‘mikka bouzu’ which translates to the name I use. It’s used to describe people who start things but never see them through to the end. It felt relatable and something about it just felt right. Almost like having to prove myself wrong by attaching this name? I don’t know, I love it haha!
Having such a vision for my sound, I didn’t really want to compromise.three day monk
When did you first ‘get serious’ about songwriting and creating? Was there a moment you realised you wanted to start releasing your own music?
I’ve always wanted to make music. I’d been attempting for years at a time and nothing ever worked. Playing some gigs as a two-piece, I realised it was what I wanted to do, but not the way I wanted to do it. I suppose a part of me is stubborn, but having such a vision for my sound, I didn’t really want to compromise by having others dictate how it should be and who I should be attempting to attract, etc. After meeting Matty and stepping into Half-ton for the first time, it started to feel serious. Recording the first record, it properly sunk in.
What was it like debuting your artist project in the cursed year of 2020? Did you have to change any of your release strategies/mindset?
It was an experience I suppose! I was finally able to assemble some people together for live shows after a year of attempting and we’d just about nailed the prep! ‘Take’ isn’t probably what most would release as a debut but after waiting so long, I wasn’t really bothered. I never wanted to do this conventionally, so I released it to tie in with SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month), donating all sales to Survivors UK. I didn’t really know what I was doing, didn’t know who to reach out to and the follow up saw similar struggles. I’m slowly learning!
Your songwriting seems to use characters to create a narrative and story. Would that be true of the new single? If so, should we be worried?
What are you worried about? Haha! I’m influenced by various things when songwriting and I’d be lying if some of my own personal thoughts or experiences don’t somewhat make their way into my tracks. I love creating stories and I always have since a young age. I think of a situation and try to embed myself into the mindset of another – feel their emotions and whatnot. Method writing? Could we make that a thing?
The great thing with music is that there isn’t really any right way to do anything.three day monk
Going by your Instagram (yep I’ve been snooping) you do not shy away from picking up new instruments. I love that attitude! Do you find it easy to learn new things and push yourself creatively?
So so! It depends on what it is, really. The great thing with music is that there isn’t really any right way to do anything. I don’t think I’m a great player technically, but I think I can make interesting sounds. In the last 5 years or so, I’ve been checking out a wider range of music, especially neo-soul/jazz. Though I don’t think you can always hear it, it’s definitely inspired my approach to music. Music just happens for me and I find it incredibly easy, unlike other creative things. Don’t ask me to draw.
What are you excited to do next with your project?
I’ve recently finished writing EP #3 and am heading into the studio next week to lay that all down. Again, it’s a completely different sound to the others that I’ve put out and is going to feature some instruments I’ve never worked with! I have some other plans for 2021 whilst gigs aren’t looking likely. There’s a lot that I am planning and I’m going to be extremely busy. I’m also going to be extremely broke.
If you could choose one thing to happen or a goal you could reach in 2021, what would it be?
I’d love to release the follow up to my short film, ‘Moments’.
Can you introduce us to some cool, new music you’ve been listening to?
Ben Howard ‘What a Day’ just came out and is beautiful as always. I’m not really good at keeping up to date with new music but A Blaze of Feather’s album ‘Labyrinth’, L’Eclair’s ‘Polymood’ album, Slift’s album ‘Ummon’ & any Kikagaku Moyo release is great. Beach Riot put out a single called ‘Blush’ back in November and is definitely worth giving a listen to. Really looking forward to their debut! Ooh, Jack Hinks put out ‘Jigsaw’ not long ago and that is sweet. He’s got a new single out (I think late Feb?) so there’s that to look forward to!
How do you feel about being an independent artist? Have there been any pros or cons to your experience so far?
I love it, despite it being a massive struggle. The best thing about being independent is that you can do whatever you want with your music. Nobody can dictate it. You have complete creative freedom. The biggest cons are reach and money, which pretty much intertwine it seems.
Name a film that you think ‘i wish you were dead’ could be the perfect soundtrack for:
Untitled Tristan Nelson film. Nah, ermm, I have no idea! Maybe ‘No Time to Die’? I’ll wait for the sync placement..
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