ABOVE: JEN HIRSH OF MONOGEM. PHOTO COURTESY OF BAZILLE.
“Modern, but vintage, a soulful blend of the past and future,” singer-songwriter Jen Hirsh says when describing her music. She then laughs with uncertainty, wondering if her description makes any sense at all. It does. The California native’s sound is heavy in electro-pop, yet her voice resonates with the richness of classic soul and jazz.
In 2012, four years after Hirsh graduated from Berklee College of Music where she studied music business, songwriting, and jazz, her powerhouse soul vocals swept her to the top 16 of American Idol. After losing in the semi-finals, Hirsh reevaluated her sound and decided to create music that would pull her out of relaxed New York City jazz bars and onto the dance floors of Los Angeles night clubs. Drawing inspiration from the progressive wave of electronic dance music and the likes of Grimes and James Blake, Hirsh coupled up with her high school friend and producer Scott Smith to blend the old and the new. Together, they fused her soul-filled vocals with upbeat, modern rhythms, giving rise to Hirsh’s alter ego, Monogem.
In 2013, the pair released their first track, “The Glow,” marking Hirsh’s official transition to the world of electro-pop. “The Glow” delights in whimsical synth melodies over driving bass lines and splashes of disco elements. “I’ll never forget when the song was finished and it just triggered this feeling within me that I couldn’t wait to translate on stage, and show it to everybody. I never had that feeling with my older music,” Hirsh admits. Here, we are pleased to exclusively stream Monogem’s self-titled debut EP, which will be available nationwide tomorrow, February 3, via Spotify and iTunes.
BASED: Los Angeles
DEFINING MONOGEM: Mono represented this new transition, musically it was so technology driven. There’s something very galactic about synth pop—[that] ’70s, ’80s, neon vibe. Scientifically, the monogem ring is remnants in the sky of a supernova. The most studied [ring] was found near the cancer constellation and I’m a cancer so I was like, “That’s it!”
MARIAH TO BLOOD ORANGE: Growing up, the only person who ever made me want to become a singer was Mariah Carey. [laughs] That is how I learned how to sing like a pop, R&B singer. When I look for inspiration when I’m writing, it’s a lot more modern. I’m really into Blood Orange. I would die to work with him.
HATERS GONNA HATE: I had a lot of people who wanted to hear me sing the way I used to, wailing and crying on stage, just really getting into it. I said you know what, I want to make the music I want to make, and “The Glow” marked that moment for me…I don’t want to sit in a coffee house anymore. I want lights and I want bass. I want to have fun.
MONOGEM: I tried to paint a picture of the kind of person I am with these songs. There are dream sequences that I’ve had, and I’ve been so lucky to have been in love for so much of my life, so there’s a lot of love in these songs.
WHITE WINE: I get nervous all the time. I get total butterflies before a show. I always have to have a glass of wine before I sing—white wine, otherwise I’d have wine mouth. [laughs] If I wasn’t nervous and excited, the passion probably wouldn’t be there.
WHAT’S NEXT: I’m already creating what will eventually become the next EP. It’s pouring out of me. There will definitely be some more soulful, vocal performances. I feel like I am ready to take more chances—it could be vocally or production-wise, but I am ready to let my music school nerd come out a little more.
FOR MORE ON MONOGEM, VISIT THEIR FACEBOOK.