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Munreux, No. 06

Get to know this 21-year-old rising popstar from Florida.

I discover through our online interactions a witty, ambitious, and playful musician just recently turned the American drinking age. “I don't quite remember how I got here or if I'm from here,” he answers when I ask if he’s from Orlando, Florida, the city where he lives now, “but I've been here for as long as I can remember.” When I ask about his gender, sexuality, and racial identities, he thoughtfully expresses that he doesn’t know which answer to give to piss people off most, then closes with, “I’ll stick to being an ambiguously tan American dog.” His response to my follow-up question of whether or not he enjoys (or considers himself to be good at) being intentionally and maybe even artistically provocative is perhaps a deflection: “I just like making people ponder.” When I inquire about his producer alias Dog James, I’m told that “the Dog” is elusive and would need to be directly reached in order to receive the answers to those questions. “Internet Instrumentalists is able and willing to wave its butterfly net around until the so-called Dog is caught,” I say, to which Munreux lightheartedly hints at something dark: “I tried to talk to him the other day, and he hasn't responded since. Hopefully he's okay.” When I further ask if he’s willing to share a photo of his journal page that contains the list of Miami venues he’s performed at, he says that he “won’t share pictures of it [even if he found it], because [he wants] it posthumously used in the HBO special.” Despite the overarching pleasantness of our interaction, the intimations of something grim remain: He flirts openly with the idea of being designed to destructively live fast and die young as a messianic popstar and being unable to provide any future children he may have with normality or even stability. As for his music itself, his sheer aptitude for it is clear. Coupled with his dogged work ethic, his EDM- and emo-influenced, trap-drenched pop style is promising, indicative of an upcoming wave of radio-friendly hits. His lyrics are sometimes gruesome but mostly heavily partyable. In all of his accomplishment, liveliness, and ambivalence, here’s 21-year-old Munreux.

Who are you?

I’m Munreux. Your favorite popstar.

Why Munreux?

Because the name “Hillary Clinton” was already taken. I originally chose it as my EDM superstar DJ name, but that didn't work out, so now it's just me and I sing.

“Didn’t work out” how?

The energy and drive required to make EDM shit faded away before I was able to find success in it. It was a good thing in retrospect, but at the time I was devastated. I never even got to play Ultra Main Stage. I was in shambles.

When did you first start making music?

I remember writing a trash ass song when I was about eight. I wrote my first piano arrangement at age eleven, and I finished my first electronic production when I was twelve. I’d say the piano thing was my first song. I wrote it by applying the basic musical concepts I understood at the time on a piano.

That’s some seriously precocious proclivity. Do you remember any specifics about the song you wrote at age eight?

What's crazy is that I actually do. It was during the summer: I found a little Spongebob themed notepad and was excited to have a small canvas to carry with me everywhere. The first thing I wanted to do was try to write a song, so I just did it. Real quick. I thought my rhymes were cool, but I don't remember what they were about. I showed it to somebody and they said it was trash so I never tried again. Feeble spirit, young Munreux.

Do you recall anything about your age eleven piano arrangement?

Yes, that piano arrangement is actually quite beautiful thanks to the legato pedal thing my piano had. It was very simple, consisting of an B flat major chord ostinato that would transition into a B flat minor chord ostinato. And for the right hand was a very simple melody (but the notes were chosen well and actually evoked emotion somehow). I would play it constantly because I was so proud of the fact that I had written a song.

What about your first electronic production at 12?

I remember what it sounded was absolute dog shit at the time, and it still is. Electronic music production has a steep learning curve. I didn't make anything remotely listenable until I was about 15.

Do you remember any noteworthy or particularly formative specifics of your electronic music learning years between 12 and 15?

Oh boy, do I. This was an incredible period of time for me, the amount of learning I was experiencing each and every day was unfathomable. Like I said, steep learning curve. I still learn nowadays, but not nearly at the rate that I was back then. And I experienced exponential growth once I left EDM shit. Just a lot of learning and growth with Dog James, and then I decided to sing. It looks like I was gone for awhile, if you were to have been keeping up with me, but I was really just carefully crafting my voice to do well in the style of music I decided to approach. I got the voice down now, so lots of new music is being made. The process of getting the voice down was frustrating as fuck, though.

What was the process?

I’d sung so poorly on my first album that I told myself I wouldn’t release any more music until my vocals were good enough for me (i.e. until I was able to listen to my voice on my productions and actually enjoy it). I got the outline of a professional vocal course and read through it. I quickly realized that I was not about to do any of that bullshit and instead opted to make a playlist of all the vocalists I’ve ever admired, and try to sing like them, and I mean really try to sing like them. I’d sung in my speaking voice for so long that I didn’t even understand what it was to sing in a louder way. Once I figured it out, it was just a matter of doing it every single day, with barely any breaks, not even while I was sick. A couple of years later, I love my voice. It helps that I actually really enjoy singing, so the consistency wasn’t an issue.

What was the first song you put out after your training period that you sung on and that you love your voice on?

The whole “emoboi” project. Before that I put out “Marathon,” and it was pretty good vocally, but it was more fluke than understanding. Now I have control. This new shit is extra spicy.

You mentioned in our Reddit chat that you dropped out of high school (“not that I really wanted to that bad, but I had to, due to music opportunities at the time”). Who were you and what did you do before you began making music (or really started considering yourself to be a musician)? What exactly happened on the day that Munreux dropped out?

Who was I before music? Nobody, I guess. Maybe I was a little artsy guy or something, and I guess I kinda liked music, but I wasn't really a living being until I heard Scary Monsters & Nice Sprites for the first time. That changed my life.

I turned 18 on a Sunday. The next day (a Monday), I went to my school office and dropped out. Didn't think twice about it. I felt so liberated. There were some music things I had to take advantage of, but my lack of sleep was also causing more mental health issues. So I felt like I had to leave. I don't regret it, and it really wasn't that big of a deal to me. Diplomas don't matter unless you're going to college.

Does your family support your musicmaking? How did they feel about your dropping out?

My parents believe in me being my own person, so they haven't really intervened much. Except my dad, who tried to get me to not drop out. But lmao, sorry dude, I do what I want.

What, if anything, does your ancestral artistry look like?

I don’t come from a line of artists. Everyone in my family has had regular jobs forever and no particular liking to the arts. The new generation peeps in my family are doctors and lawyers and shit, which makes me the crown jewel.

Are you an only child?

I’m actually one of three triplets, but I don’t let the other two outside of the cave very often.

Do you remember when and where you first heard Skrillex’s SMANS? Or what about it stood out to you?

Holy shit, I remember it like it was yesterday. The thought of it almost brings me to tears. I was 12 or 13, and I was recommended the EP by an old classmate of mine. I had never heard anything like his music before--my mind was blown. The exact same day that I first heard it, I said to myself, “I need to find out what program this guy uses and try to copy him at all costs.” I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't found Skrillex. What's funny/crazy is that there’s a whole generation of music producers who have this exact same story. It goes to show you just how influential Sonny was and is.

Did you figure out which program he uses?

Ableton. Which is what led me to it (although I did try other programs. Ableton has just been the most intuitive for me).

Are you still a frequent Skrillex listener? Will your Wikipedia page house a long list of Skrillex-Munreux collabs?

Not too too frequently, but I definitely listen to everything new he puts out, and I revisit his classics fairly often. My dream collaboration is to work with Skrillex. I don't get starstruck very easily when meeting artists, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to handle myself when I meet him. I might cry. That man saved my life.

What role has the Internet played in manifesting Munreux? Do you recall the first song you ever uploaded (to any platform)?

The Internet is my dad. I am who I am because of the Internet. I grew up on the internet and learned all of my skills from the internet. I found everything online, and I'll continue to live online. The first song I ever uploaded was to SoundCloud, and it was my first electronic song ever. It was really bad, I remember it. It didn't even have structure or a set key.

So you’re a real, pure Internet instrumentalist. Do you remember the song title? Absolutely not, but I wish i did. It’s still on soundcloud somewhere, I never deleted it.

You additionally mentioned in our Reddit chat that you’d be bigger had you not abandoned Dog James. When and why did you abandon him?

Sometime near the end of 2016. I realized that my trajectory would land me at a place of being referred to as a DJ and I hated that so I figured I'd rather try to sing than always be known as a DJ. No hate towards DJs, it just wasn't for me. But you’ll have to ask Dog James that, he’s quite elusive.

Walk me through the Munreux aesthetic.

I don't quite know the aesthetic of Munreux. Don't tell my PR agent that, lmao. At the moment, Munreux is emoboi because it makes sense. My natural emotions are about as melodramatic as a mid-2000s Emo hit. So I’m going full into it, almost ironically, because that's really how I feel.

Which equipment do you use now? Any equipment you eventually hope to use?

I keep it simple for now. Laptop, Ableton, guitar, mic. As soon as I make enough money to live downtown, then I'll start buying all sorts of gear and start doing some crazy shit.

So you plan on remaining in Orlando for some time to come?

Only time will tell. However, I don’t see a big reason to abandon the city. I like its culture and its geography. And it’ll only continue to grow. I also want to live in Sweden some of the year, and New York the rest of the time. With too many flights to L.A in between everything. I don’t know, we’ll see. I love planes.

Is travelling by car something you also love?

I fucking love driving, especially if I don't know where I'm going.

Do you live in your own place?

At the moment I live inside one of the Disney World bathrooms. There’s good wifi here, and the mouse has plenty of places to eat and sleep. Don’t tell him this.

Do you mostly listen to the same kind of music that you make?

I listen to EVERYTHING. While I do admit that close to 50% of what I listen to is current rap shit, the other half is varied. Old shit, new shit, weird shit, blue shit. All type of pop stuff, electronic stuff, weird noise stuff, indie stuff. Not too much rock stuff though.

How do you mostly approach listening to music--sticking to the familiar sounds of artists you’ve listened to before and that can guarantee certain listening experiences or actively discovering new ones?

I very actively look for new artists. I stick to guys that show consistency, and always give the people I’ve heard before a chance, but it all gets to reduced to a sub 200 song playlist every month or so.

You mentioned in our Reddit chat that you go to Miami often. For gigs, I assume? Any other reasons?

I love living in Orlando because it's only a 3 hour drive to a city that is completely different in so many ways. Miami has so much stuff going on all the time and the people there are very different overall. Orlando is coming up but as of now, in Miami there are better gigs, better opportunities, and a lot more cuties out there that like what I do and aren't afraid to do sidewalk blow at 3 AM. (Take that off the record.)

What does it take for Munreux to refuse a drug?

I refuse drugs all the time, you never know what people put in their shit, and there are some weird motherfuckers in Florida.

Good call. Have you had any particularly harrowing drug experiences, even despite your caution?

Nah not really, but one time I was at the function and I hit a gravity bong too hard and puked all over the place. It was a good time.

Which parts of Miami are your favorite? Which other global cities have stood out to you?

I don’t really roll through Miami like that, I’m not very good at navigating that city despite that being the city I learned to drive in. If I do go, I just stick to Biscayne area and Wynwood. I love New York quite a bit, and Stockholm was like a dream to me.

When did you start performing, and where else have you performed?

I started performing when I was like 15, playing guitar wherever I could, but I'm not that good at performing guitar live and I'm also not that good at singing live, so I switched to playing DJ sets in Miami but that didn't last long. I'm happy to be at a point where my performances are actually not that bad and carry the same energy as the songs themselves, thanks to autotune and screaming.

So your performances now entail (and only entail?) your (autotuned screaming) singing.

Yes exactly. It’s weird as fuck because the vibe of the music is akin to that of some rock shit, but I don’t have a band to wild out with. So I just gotta sing my best and make long and unbroken eye contact with people in the crowd.

In several of your bios, you mention being a popstar. Is this a serious articulation and aspiration?

I am a popstar. Behind everything I do is a pop mentality. I love pop, I love that so many people love it and that so many people fucking hate it, for no reason other than because it’s what is popular. My favorite songs are songs that follow traditional pop arrangements and styles. Whether I'm making a EDM tropical house chart topper or an underground alternative punk trap banger, both will be pop songs at the core. That's just how I like to do my shit.

Your Instagram profile picture appears to be a bloodied and tiaraed Lindsay Lohan.

I love the tabloid stars of the mid-2000s because of how beautiful and tragic that whole era was. We don't even think twice about being so invested in these girls’ personal lives simply because they acted in a few movies or wrote a couple hit songs. I'm no Britney Spears, but my life will follow a similar path to that of the their rise and fall as documented by People Magazine™.

And your Soundcloud profile picture is of billionaires and celebrity personalities Kendall and Kylie Jenner decked out in winter gear taking a mirror selfie.

The concept of hypercelebrity is really interesting to me. It looks so glamorous, but it's probably horrible for them (even though they balling). I love the Kardashians because of their ability to turn a relatively small amount of attention into a multibillion dollar empire. It’s impressive. And they've continued to be fabulous through it all.

Do you aspire to the Kardashian level of celebrity? Or, fundamentally, a level of celebrity, even if not the hottest of the A-listers? Does anything about fame scare you?

I don't aspire to be famous, I only aspire to be able to comfortably make what I want to make whenever I want to. However, I do think that I’m cut out for the celebrity life (in all the scary ways, that is, and not the glamorous ways). It doesn't scare me at all, but I'll only be able to say whether or not I should've been scared when I'm actually there. I'll update you when I arrive.

Are you similarly into/fascinated by Kanye? (I guess the answer would be somewhat of a de facto yes, given his role in the Kardashian clan. I also just realized and am kind of losing my mind over the fact that Kanye’s name, like most of the other family members, starts with a K.)

Yes I am, but in a different way. He's an artist, and literally the greatest pop musician of all time. He constantly reinvents his sound and keeps the interest of old and new fans alike, and that is damn near impossible to do as consistently as he has.

Fav ye albums/songs/televised moments?

I was going through it when ye came out, and as soon as I heard “I Thought About Killing You,” I started to cry, on God. On Slippy. On Lil Suzie. On bicky. On Demar. Free Seanii. Free lil ice sock. I digress. “I Thought About Killing You” touched me on a very profound level. The instrumental itself brought me to tears before the words came in. The words only complemented the emotion. It was crazy, I repeated that song at least 100 times within 48 hours, no cap.

I appreciate that display of openness. Not to abruptly pivot away from it, but to return momentarily to the Kardashians: If you ever start a family of your own, do you think you’d similarly utilize your spotlight? I’m not sure how to optimally articulate this, but like, if your career continues on the upward path that it’s been on, then any kids you may have won’t necessarily be born into a so-called ‘normal’ (which is to say, a spotlightless or relatively anonymous) circumstance. The brighter your spotlight gets, the harder it'll be to keep your own nuclear family out of it.

I remember the daydreams I used to have when I was younger. It was almost feminine the way I fantasized about having my white picket fence and my big family and a loving wife with a German shepherd in the backyard...but I wasn't made for that life. And no matter how hard I try to get there, I'll never be able to be there like I pictured it, because when I pictured that future I forgot to put myself into it. The sad truth is that I was designed for a different way of life--a way of life that looks great on the outside, but brings more problems than blessings. I can only hope I stay alive long enough to have children, and I also hope that I can be a father to them for a long time, so I can teach them all that I know. However, I accept with a heavy heart that my kids won't have the same dad that they see their friends have. I just hope they don't resent me for it and can understand that I did the best I could. While I feel it would be irresponsible of me to bring kids into this world despite not being destined for a long life, I still want them to have a chance to live a life more wholesome than my own, and to not participate in the arts. (Why am I crying in the club right now?)

I too hope you stay alive long enough to have children and be the best father you can be for them, or to lead a life of stability and fulfillment of any kind, and to do everything else you want and feel you need to. [At this point in the interview, I drop the thick stack of notes in my hand, fumbling them several times on the ground. A patiently amused Munreux waits politely and I eventually straighten in my seat, then glance down to read the first question I happen to see.] Who or what has influenced your emoboi aesthetics?

More than I can actually remember. Sly Cooper influenced me, Skrillex influenced me, The early 2000’s influenced me, The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy influenced me, every tabloid star of the mid-2000s influenced me. Lots of things. The list goes on and on.

Did you used to or do you actively read tabloids?

No, not really, but I remember seeing the tabloids at the checkout lane at Publix, and it was always amazing they way they described these celebrities lives. I only actually read them a handful of times, and they were always disappointing. Also E! News.

Which is to say that E! News’s description of and fascination with celebrity lives is amazing?

Exactly, it’s weird that there’s a whole network dedicated to the lives of celebrities. But I still liked watching it and getting to know the stories of these unique individuals.

Let’s pivot to your cover art images: Do you take/edit/design them? The faded, 35 mm-esque Marathon image of Dog James posed on a tree branch, the colorful paint smears of his Curves EP, and the iconic blue and purple squiggles of the Solo Jazz cup aesthetic for Vogue particularly stand out to me. Munreux’s covers, however, seem to either be female celebrities or urban architecture and settings (mainly nighttime- or neon-drenched skyscrapers).

I know Mr. James was working with an artist named Esteban Gramajo for his album covers, but my covers are all original for now. They’re all either pictures I've taken or edited or painted. The “Marathon” cover was taken by Seanii and edited to fit my favorite faded 35 mm style. I love the early 2000s so the Jazz cup design will forever be the best design ever, in my opinion. I’m getting it yatted on me somewhere, and I’m also gonna put the design on the side of my white Benz truck when I get it.

Do you have any tats right now? Is the white Benz your only dream vehicle?

I was never really a tattoo guy, I didn’t like the way they looked. Literally overnight I changed my mind, and now I see my body as a motherfucking canvas ripe for whatever the fuck I want. Ample real estate for some inflammatory remarks, eh? Or maybe just some cool art. As for the cars, I’ll probably get a black Benz truck, too. I’m not big into cars, though. I like driving, but I’m not really a speed demon. More like a hotbox demon.

Do you have any favorite strains?

I’ve smoked so much weed that different strains don't affect me differently any more. I just smoke whatever I can get my hands on. I'll smoke mids too, fuck it.

First time smoking weed? Was it the first drug you used?

I was young for sure, I don’t remember exactly how old I was. I’ll have to ask my boy icey J, he was there. It was definitely my first drug aside from alcohol.

What’s your daily routine look like these days? What time are you usually falling asleep and waking back up, and what do you do in between?

Holy shit, I have no idea. It's bad, sometimes I feel normal by waking up at 8 and and knocking out around midnight, but other times I go back to my usual afternoon rising and late night sleeping. I've never been able to stick to a solid routine. I'm not built like that. In between sleep, I’m either working on some new songs, some new art, some logistics shit, or smoking some big gas.

What do you anticipate is next?

Just starting the tour grind, expanding the Munreux reach. Making more music and collaborating with lots of people. My multiple art outlets are never enough to satisfy my never ending stream of musical ideas, so I want to join an online band with lots of members so we can create some real weird shit.

You initially reached out to me on Reddit based on my post in a Superorganism thread. When you say you wanna join an online band and create some real weird shit - like, sprognsm type shit?

Really anything. I'm lucky to have broad music tastes and broads waiting in my bed so I'd be down to be in a group devoted to whatever genre of music the rest of the band agrees on. But if I can get a pop group like them, I'd be down af.

Also, did you just start a tour?

Not yet, only local performances for now. Touring 2019. More on that soon.

I and the rest of your supporters are glad that you’ve come as far as you have since those first rhymes scribbled out in that Spongebob themed notebook. Beyond your clear inborn musical impulse, do you have anything to say as to why you make music?

I'm afraid the actual answer to that question is far more depressing than I’m willing to admit right now.

Munreux is on Instagram and SoundCloud.

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By Cloude