Reliqa Interview

Grayscale/Nuclear Blast

To put it bluntly, Reliqa are a band seemingly on the cusp of major success. Following on from their 2022 EP, I Don’t Know What I Am, the Sydney-based metal act issues their debut album Secrets Of The Future via Greyscale Records (in Australia) and Nuclear Blast Records (internationally). The band’s forward-thinking meshing of sounds – from prog-metal to metalcore via hip-hop influences and pop sensibilities – has won them acclaim and a dedicated following Down Under. They’ve also scored local support slots for the likes of Spiritbox, Halestorm, Sevendust, BABYMETAL and Northlane. The band has an Australian tour scheduled in the coming weeks, but has also set their sights on overseas markets, as we’ll soon find out. We chatted with vocalist Monique Pym to learn more.

Brendan Crabb: There’s currently plenty of buzz surrounding the band, to the extent that you can’t not be aware of it. Does that play on your mind at all?
Monique Pym: It’s a constant thing to keep, sort of, reality checking, I think. Because to me, I’m just Mon. I mean, I’m just Harry (laughs), that type of situation. We’re the same four mates that we’ve always been since high school. And now here we are with our names in other people’s mouths, like more so than ever before, which is still incredible. And I don’t know, we’re just trying our best to keep that at the center of what we do, (that) we still have the same goal to make music that we love. And we’re going to keep that at our heart and keep our relationships strong. Given we’ve been together for so long now, we don’t have any intentions to let any of the public relations change our own interpersonal dynamics. It’s really amazing. But it’s also like, we need to keep ourselves in check and keep ourselves… Just nothing’s really changed. It’s just the stage has gotten a little bit bigger, I guess.

You’re an overnight success several years in the making, I suppose.

I don’t think many bands these days blow up six months after they form – there’s always going to be some degree of slow burn, even if a band is not in the public consciousness for a while initially. They might have been a band for six years, seven years, 10 years beforehand.
That’s right. I reckon overnight success is a myth. There’s always more work behind the scenes.

I’ve been listening to the new album, and there’s a really broad range of sounds apparent, perhaps even more so than in the past. Is that reflective of listening habits changing, or being more confident about infusing various influences?
It’s a bit of everything that you mentioned. We’ve always been a band that likes to honor our own personal listening tastes. And so, as that evolves, our music has evolved with it, which I think is pretty natural for most bands to do. But it’s been quite like at the center of our music more so than anything else, is this blending of genres, because it’s just genres we enjoy and music we like to listen to. So we make music that we like to listen to.

So I guess once we were a couple of EPs in, and we started to become a bit more self-aware of that, like, “oh, actually, this is something that we do,” yeah, we did lean into it more. And we had the opportunity to lean into it more with this album. We had this constant feedback coming back to us saying like, “oh, I don’t know what you are, I don’t know what genre this is, I don’t know how to categorize it. I don’t know how to label you guys.” So at first that could have been seen as a little bit of like, we had anxieties surrounding that fact, like, “oh, no, maybe people aren’t gonna latch on because they just can’t label us. They don’t know what playlist to put us in,” sort of thing.

But I think with this album, we took it and we spun it and we made it a strength of ours rather than a limitation. We’ve honed in on our skills in a variety of different genres, like different vocal styles, especially different rhythm styles for different genres that we like to listen to. And those sorts of things have then been put into the album. It ended up being diverse, both because we love what we listen to and we want to make it a conscious part of our repertoire. And also because of this coming feedback… It’s a bit of a push and pull between us and our audience feedback, I think.

Regarding not knowing what type of playlist to be added to, I feel like that’s a positive in many ways. If you’re a band who can be on the Spotify ‘new metal’ playlist, but also the metalcore or prog-metal playlist, it can be of benefit because of the potential to reach more people.
Absolutely. And that’s why I said, rather than treating it as a limitation, we’re now leaning into it as a strength. It’s a little bit meta in a way because it’s like, our identity is that we have a lot of identities (laughs). Which I know can be a little bit confusing and a bit of a head-spin at first when you do approach Reliqa for the first time. But I think that’s why we build such a trust between us and our audience. There’s a lot of trust involved. Once you do, sort of sit with it and listen to it for a bit, you find stuff that you enjoy. Just by finding different genres on the album, I guess. Or ideally at least (laughs). That’s the goal.

I’m interested to know who inspires you from a vocal perspective.
I have a couple of inspirations that I’m sort of vibing at the moment. I think one of my core inspirations is Serj Tankian from System of a Down. I’m sure people won’t be surprised by that, at least I do get that a lot. Like not obviously that we sound similar, but that you can hear his ongoing influence on our music and on my own vocals. Because (there’s) just this chaos; rapping, spoken, singing, soaring melodies, that sort of thing. I do latch on to that a lot.

But then there’s a couple of other vocalists who inspire me that might be lesser known. There’s a there’s a singer/songwriter called Odette here in Australia. She’s from Sydney, I believe. And she’s established herrself really well, but she is more on the underground side of things. And she does this really poetic, like spoken word style of vocal mixed with soaring melodies. So those sorts of things, they just attach themselves really closely to my heart. Of course, I’m also inspired by (Spiritbox’s) Courtney LaPlante, the absolute OG, the Queen. Who’s not inspired by her, honestly?

And then another one I’ll shout out is Aurora. Another bit left of field, and I know I don’t sound anything like her. But again, it’s just more about influence and what I can take from these vocalists’ styles of music and make my own. Aurora is, she’s a Scandinavian pop artist. And she just makes the most beautiful, like atmospheric, ethereal music. So there’s all kinds of different genres that I pull from at the moment.

You mentioned Serj there. Someone mentioned to me a while ago, and I agree with this, that “Chop Suey” has to be one of the most unlikely hit singles ever. Taking into account the shifts in musical styles within that song, as well as his varied vocal approach, it’s incredible that it was a mainstream hit.
I know, right? And I think it comes back to what we’re trying to do. Like System of a Down is a band that paved the way for that sort of genre-bending, taking risks in music, twists and turns throughout. I would argue that System of A Down are a progressive band. Some people are purists and they don’t like to say, “oh they’re not prog,” or whatever. But I think of prog and progressive as two different things, and they are definitely a progressive band. We take a lot from them I think; they’ve definitely paved the way.

Reliqa has played some high-profile support slots in Australia, such as BABYMETAL, Spiritbox and Halestorm. What do you learn from witnessing these major acts on bigger stages from close range?
I absolutely take something different from each one. I mean, just recently with Halestorm and what I’ve learned from Lzzy Hale. It’s even the way that I conduct myself, not just on-stage but off-stage and around music spaces. The way that Lzzy Hale conducts herself is just so admirable. She is so humble and very kind, and she just radiates this positivity, which is so sort of contrast from what you would think of like a heavy band that often deals with pretty deep, dark, heavy content in the in the lyricism. So it’s like, how does this absolute raging rock star come off-stage and be such an angel. And so that’s something that I’m learning as well is like, the way that you conduct yourself off-stage is so important to the way that people perceive you as well. So that’s a huge thing.

And honestly, I just pick up something new, about stage presence, every time that I venture out to play with these incredible acts. Like the way that they hold themselves with such poise and confidence, that’s something that I’ve picked up in the past year or two. I’m trying to just kind of emulate that. And it’s amazing, especially the fact that all of those bands you just mentioned are female-fronted at the very least. So it’s cool to see how vast and various that can be, and how differently they carry themselves. I’m just sort of like a magpie, picking at the shiny things, grabbing like little bits of information wherever I can find them.

This is your debut full-length, and you’ve landed a deal internationally with Nuclear Blast Records. You must feel confident about any overseas plans when you have a label with that much profile backing you.
Yeah, the way that I’ve been penning it, because pretty much everyone who I’ve spoken with… I’m so grateful for this, everyone that I’ve spoken with has mentioned overseas as the next step. And trust that it is completely on our minds. We’ve laid the groundwork; everything is ready in place. We’ve got all the right teams in place, especially now with Nuclear Blast. (We’re) so blessed to have all the support that we need now to go overseas. Now, it’s just a matter of when kind of thing because we’re a band that likes to, we like to take our time, and we like to strike while the iron is hot. And so it’s about like finding the right opportunity.

Because living in Australia, being so isolated from the northern hemisphere, it can be make or break to make your way over to Europe or America. It really is quite a risk. So I think we’re just making sure that when we do take the leap, it’s going to be the right leap, and it’s going to lead to a prosperous future. We’re just sitting, we’re sitting tight. I mean, that’s not to say we’re being sitting ducks. We’re doing heaps, we’ve got like an Australian tour coming up, which will be another thing that will help us get overseas. But for now, yeah, we’re ready, and we’re like, locked and loaded. And it’s just about jumping off the edge, I guess.

I’m assuming you have a day job outside of the band. But at what point do you have to give up the day job and pursue Reliqa full-time?
I mean, it’s interesting, because we’re like in the middle, we’re sort of floating in the middle. Yeah, of course, we all have different kinds of day jobs. The thing that I’m really proud of past me for doing is, that I’ve sort of set myself up almost perfectly, which was amazing. I’m in the final stretch of a teaching degree; I am a high school teacher. And so I have the ability to teach casually whenever I’m not on the road, and then when we’re on the road, like just throw in the towel sort of thing. And then if we go on tour for a couple of years or something, and then we want to take a not a hiatus, but as you get more established, the breaks between albums and big tours get longer and longer, I can go and teach in between. So I’ve taken two things that I’m passionate about and tried to make them work to my advantage.

I guess to answer your question, I don’t know if there’s a tangible like, this is the endpoint. If I’m taking off some of our peers, it seems like you know when you know, sort of thing. Eventually you have less and less time for other work and stuff like that. We’re not there yet, but we’ll know it when we see it, I think (laughs).

Do your students know about the band?
I don’t really want them to know (laughs). I want them to know if they’re interested in it, but they’re so sneaky, this generation. They’re such stalkers; they instantly can go online and search up the right thing and eventually they’ll see all of your music, everything. And of course, having a public image is quite difficult when you work in the government sector. It’s like you’re not really supposed to be having your social media out there for the public, which I do because of Reliqa.

I’m still trying to weigh up what to do. I mean, Reliqa’s number one and it is my career. So I will be doing whatever services that. But yeah, they know about it. Some of them are more interested than others. Others just do not care and I’m like, great, no worries. That’s not what we’re here to talk about anyway (laughs).

Any famous last words?
I just want to say thank you for taking the time and thanks for chatting with me. It’s been really fun. If anyone reading this is interested, you can go and buy the album, and also tickets are available to our June headline tour around Australia. So if anyone wants to jump on that, that would be much appreciated.

(interview published May 31, 2024)

Watch Reliqa – “Dying Light” Video


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