Hi Candice, I’m glad to have you on interview. On beginning, I must ask the same question as Craig Charles did: What are Australians feeding their people just now? It’s just amazing how many talented singers are working on it in Australia.
Haha well I don’t know what the rest of them are eating but I’m eating organic, lol. We are very blessed to have a great music scene here, particularly in Melbourne, and being in the thick of this scene really had made its mark on me as a vocalist. I’ve sung as a backing vocalist for many different bands here, done collaborations with many different artists here and this has been my stomping ground, the place where I came up, where the Optics was born.
Definitely, you are one of them. How did you feel when you read so praiseful reviews of your music, even though your first album isn’t released yet?
I was blown away by some of the reviews, especially one that compares us to Rufus and Chaka Khan when they first started. We are really happy that the music has been received so well, it’s inspiring for us.
In My Soul is going to be released on Freestyle Records. May I ask you to describe how you get a deal with this prestigious label?
My drummer Choi, who also produced In My Soul, plays in another band called Cookin on Three Burners along (with Jake Mason and Lance Furgeson of the Bamboos) and Cookin’ had released their LP ‘Baked Broiled and Fried’ on Freestyle the year before with great success. So Choi sent our album through to Adrian at Freestyle and they liked it and wanted to put it out so we went for it! Took me a while to get organized and get contracts sorted out but we got there eventually!
Legends say you were working with Professor Griff (ex-Public Enemy) before that. Actually, I would imagine anyone else but him. Can you tell us more about this collaboration? How was to work with Prof. Griff?
Oh this is going back a while haha! When I first started singing, I was working with a local producer in South Australia doing Hip-Hop RnB stuff. We performed at local night-clubs in my home town of Adelaide and somehow he landed a sport as support act for Cypress Hill. Cypress and Public Enemy were touring round the same time so it turns out The Cypress Hill show was the night before the PE show in Adelaide, and even though the producer I’d been working with had dropped me from the show, I went to watch anyway to support them and while hiding out upstairs at the back of the club trying to escape the weed smoke I met Griff. To cut a long story short, he heard me sing and said ‘ima put u on stage with us tomorrow night’. I laughed. But sure enough the next night I was on stage with PE during the 7thOctave set doin my thing and he offered to produce a demo CD for me. So I went to Atlanta n got up in the thick of the Neo-Soul and Hip Hop scenes there, and the rest is history. It was great working with Griff, he really had vision, bringing the songs from concept to completion, guiding it all the way. He was really focused on building my knowledge of music history, and used to put on the radio and quiz me on old school soul ‘who’s this by? When it come out? What album it on?’ etc…. I got an education right there! He knew a lot of amazing musicians who he brought into play on the demo, Guitarist Khari Wynn was amazing, and the sound engineer Earl Holder was great to work with too, they let me be pretty hands on with the recording. We still in touch and still friends. Im’ very grateful for the opportunity he gave me, he’s got a big heart.
They also say a demo developed from this relationship. What did happen with it? Are there some of these demo songs on In My Soul?
Ooops already answered that a bit, but no there are none of the songs from my demo on the Optics album, all the songs on our album are songs we wrote as a band. But we often perform live one or two tracks off that original demo I did with Griff.
Back in Australia, you continued in music making with your current band called The Optics. Can you, again, tell us the story how you met? Choi seems to be the man in a place to be, doesn’t he?
Well I was accepted into a music mentorship program called Freeza Central/The Push, and was paired up with a mentor, Monique Brumby, who was quite successful here having won a couple of ARIA’s e.t.c. She suggested that I actually hold auditions to choose some band members. So I put the word out and had a number of musicians come thru a few rounds of auditions. It makes me laugh thinking about it now cos they all had about 10 years experience on me yet I was auditioning them! But I just went with what felt right (with a little guidance from Monique) and ended up with Choi, Chan and Lucas. Later on when we began to perform with Keyboards a lot Clare Whitcombe came on board and became our resident keys n backing vocals lady, love having another female energy in the band. Those four are now dubbed the A team! lol
How long take you to make the album? I mean both a composition of songs and recording of it.
Over 3 years. Mostly because I had a baby in the middle of it all! A lot of the songs on the album I actually recorded the vocals while heavily pregnant and others, like my child, I recorded four months or so after my daughter was born, she was asleep in the studio a lot of the time lol. Then once we had it all recorded it was all taken from Biscuit Brown to Choi’s studios for production, and then another few months on extra vox n mixing. We took our time, but it was worth it.
I like the way you can handle many different musical genres – soul, funk, even hip-hop. In my review, I said your style is located somewhere between Erykah Badu and Alice Russell. Who of them do you prefer yourself?
That was such an awesome compliment! I love them both, I haven’t listened to much of Alice’s stuff, my Bass player loves her, but what I have heard I really like and her voice is amazing, love the collabo she did with Bamboos. But Erykah……. Possibly one of my biggest influences. Love love love her, was listening to her even before I started singing (which was early ’03, so nearly 7 years). I cant wait to see her live! I know ill get so someday……..But you know I think you’ve got it dead right there, we are really right smack bang in the middle of the nu soul style and the new generation of old school soul.
What about “Mama Don’t Know”? Did you wish to justify this exceptional, but great song in the context of whole album, or you were just tired of people who try to label somebody’s music all the time?
You know, If I remember right that song I wrote the words for even before I put the band together, I think. I was teaching hip-hop dance with a group of Aboriginal youth out in a rural area in South Australia and was stationed out there for two months. That song I wrote on my last night staying there in my cabin. I think the inspiration for that song came not so much from my experiences of peoples reactions to me in the music industry but more from my own experience of questioning my own identity, really trying to define myself and a desire to let go of a lot of limiting beliefs about myself and my own authenticity that held me back from becoming the artist I wanted to be. It just happened to ring true for a lot longer after I wrote it than I’d ever imagined lol but by the time such things like what I talk about in the song confronted me, I’d already moved through those fears and was very strong in my own identity and self-acceptance.
I always wondered what people thought of that song, and I was happy to let people assume what they wanted and take from it what they want to hear, because the emotional release that writing it provided for me was a very personal thing that I’ll probably never be able to share and is probably pretty far removed from what the song has become. It wasn’t until several months or maybe a year later that I took it to Mikey Chan who wrote the music for it and some time again till we took it to the band.
“Mama Don’t Know” is one of the most favorite songs of mine. What about you? What song from In My Soul do you like mostly and why you do so?
I think In My Soul has always been my favourite. It was so divinely inspired, we were in the studio recording another track and were tinkering around to get levels on the instruments before laying down a take. Choi started this groove, Mikey and Lucas joined in and just started jamming and Dave pressed record and I just heard this melody and these lyrics in my head and had to get em out and within 5 min the first verse was written, it was like channeling it from somewhere. We kept that sketch and I wrote a second verse and we worked it up with the band and recorded it some weeks later. It was beautiful watching it come together like god pullin all our puppet strings to orchestrate this song lol
What are your plans after releasing of In My Soul?
We have already written a second album, and we are hoping to record it soon as we can get into a studio. I think we’d like to tour Europe, like Cookin on 3 Burners did but we will have to see what the universe brings!
You told me your grandfather came from Slovakia; hence you still have some relatives in this country and even in the Czech republic. What is your relationship towards these countries? Have you ever been to them?
Yes my Grandfather, Jan Kristof, was born in Kosicka Bela, just outside of Kosice, although he lived in Bratislava for some years before moving to Jacovce. then eventually to Sydney, Australia before moving to Mt Gambier, South Australia, where my mother and 5 of her siblings were born. I still have relatives in Kosicka Bela, Kosice, Bratislava and Jacovce as well as Prague I think, but those who I have most contact with are living in Jacovce, one of whom, is my cosin Peter Ševčík who is an Opera singer! You can see his group at http://www.lagioia.sk. I actually thought I was the only musician in the family till I found out he was studying opera! It must be in the blood!
Do you think we might see Candice Monique & the Optics in the Czech republic one day?
Ive never been back to Slovakia but have always wanted to go and visit my mother’s elder sister Anka and my cousins over there. I definatley want to go see Kosicka Bela where my grandfather was born, and I want to take my daughter too.
My cousin Juraj was over here in Melbourne recently and introduced me to Demanovka~ When I go to Slovakia I will definitely get to Prague too. Hopefully we’ll tour Europe and I’ll even be able to play there, not just visit!
If someone check your influences on myspace, he knows you have great taste of music. What about musicians you don’t like? Is there somebody who you can’t stand?
uuuuummmmmmm thats a good question. I generally dont keep track of the names of musicians i dont like listening to in my memeory……… ummmmm I have an appreciation of a broad spectrum of music, theres not much i cant find some appreciation for but i guess you could say im not a big fan of heavy metal or death metal in general. I find the harshness of the sound a little disruptive to my energy, but having said that i am quite amazed at the skiill it would take to play that music, drumming that hard that fast for that long is no mean feat~ im sure if i were in the right mind state i’d find the beauty in it somehow, i just dont choose to listen to it on a daily basis!
I think we are at the end. Thank you for your time, and I’m looking forward to see you alive. See you soon.