Earlier this year, Real Estate's Matt Mondanile released the excellent St. Catherine, his fifth release under the solo moniker, Ducktails. The album, a concise collection of warm, focused indie-pop songs, has been well-received by those partial to a slice of hook-heavy dream-pop, and could arguably see Mondanile's solo work becoming as widely known and highly regarded as his main band.
Recorded during breaks from Real Estate's busy touring schedule, St. Catherine, was mixed and co-produced by Elliot Smith producer, Rob Schnapf, and features collaborations from Mondanile's Domino label mate, Julia Holter, and her band members, Chris Votek (cello) and Andrew Tholl (violin).
This summer, we gave Matt a quick call on the eve of an East Coast tour to talk about the new album, the current Ducktails live line-up, and what lies ahead in 2015.
Hi Matt! How was the recent album launch at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and are you excited to start the American East Coast tour tomorrow?
MM: It was great, yeah! Thanks for asking - it was really fun. Yes, I'm starting [the tour] in Philly tomorrow.
Sweet. Who else playing in the Ducktails live band at the moment, and how did you get to know them?
MM: It's Josh De Costa on the bass; Alex Craig, who was also in the band before; and then it's this guy, Ross, who plays drums. Alex was in a band, called Big Troubles, before he was in Ducktails. Josh is in Regal Degal, and Ross is from LA, and plays in a bunch of bands.
People seem to be really enjoying the new album. Are you glad that its is finally out there, and are you satisfied with the response so far?
MM: Yeah, I'm happy that it's out out there. I'm curious to see [how it goes down], but people seem to like it. It's cool!
That's great. What did you learn from working with [co-producer] Rob Schnapf?
MM: Rob helped mix it. When you work with someone else, you do what they think is best for the record. It's also nice to have your own input, but from a different place, I guess. I learned a little bit about mixing a record from Robb. He's just a good guy. He's from New Jersey, and lives in LA - same as me!
St. Catherine has been called your most personal album to date. What brought on the catharsis found in these songs?
MM: I was more interested in writing about actual things in my life. I wanted to be more specific with the songs, and write about something. Instead of the past, [where] it was more abstract.
What's the significance of the album's title, St. Catherine?
MM: She's kind of like the Patron Saint of Knowledge and Virtue. Her story is that she saved herself for Jesus Christ, and she wouldn't sleep with anyone except for [him]. She saves her body for Jesus, and [that's] very interesting to me, for someone to devote their life to that. The song's about [being] satisfied with what you have and nothing else. You're kind of lost in the dream; or lost in the fantasy.
I was wondering, who are the two people featured in the photograph in the album's inner sleeve? [The album's physical release features a black and white photograph of a man smoking and woman in its inner sleeve.]
MM: That's just some random picture that I liked, from an Italian magazine. I don't know who they are!
Watching the video for "Surreal Exposure", it looks like you and Mac DeMarco had a blast making it. Is that his actual house?
MM: Yes it is [his house]. It was really fun!
It almost preempts what's happening with Mac now, with fans seeking out his his house for coffee.
MM: Yeah, it's funny. He's really open like that!
As Real Estate gets bigger and bigger, have you noticed an increased interest in your Ducktails material?
MM: Not really! Maybe more people know about it.. I don't know. I think a little bit!
I've read that if you could go back in time and listen to an album for the first time, you would choose Weezer's Pinkerton. Are you a fan of their post-Pinkerton work?
MM: Yeah, but not that much. Mostly I'm a 'Blue Album'/Pinkerton guy.
What the plan for the rest of this Ducktails-heavy year?
MM: I'm going to tour, and then go to Europe later this year. We'll be playing in the UK in November or December! Not sure where yet.
Finally, what albums have you been listening to this year?
MM: I really like the Jim O'Rourke record that came out, and the Tame Impala album is good!
St. Catherine is out now on Domino Records