MONEYPHONE: forward-thinking pop championing friendship and community

Each week in First On, we introduce a shit-hot artist you’d have no doubt seen opening the bill for your favourite act. This week, Toronto duo MONEYPHONE are pushing pop forwards in wonky new directions with their frantic, fantastic new mixtape ‘Faith’.

Watching MONEYPHONE’s new video for their single ‘Indecision’ is as painful as it is joyous. Recorded pre-lockdown in the duo’s Toronto home, the clip is a wholesome ode to friendship: their friends and collaborators hug, chat, smile and skip their way around as sunlight seeps in through the windows. What was initially created as a celebration of the community that surrounds the band has now become a time capsule of a simpler moment before lockdown separated us from one another. It’ll make you want to hug your friends even more than you already do.

“Indecision ain’t never gon’ make a n***a rich,” Enoch Ncube sings on ‘Indecision’, and across the pair’s fantastic new mixtape ‘Faith’ he and his bandmate David May demonstrate just how brilliantly sure they are of themselves. Following a series of exciting singles and EPs which saw them mix hip-hop and left-leaning pop together to create a forward-thinking collection, their debut full-length project sees the band’s vision come starkly into focus, all based around its title.

Advertisement

After parting ways with their management prior to the creation of ‘Faith’, the band “looked inwards to our community of friends” for inspiration, Ncube tells NME. “Instead of reaching out,” the duo decided, “let’s reach into the people that are already closest to us. We knew that we had to keep faith with each other, to keep faith with the people around us and the people who put faith into who we are.”

‘Faith’ sets MONEYPHONE’s unusual take on pop music between recordings of the band’s friends and collaborators discussing what the word means to them. “Faith, in me as a boy, was in confidence, and faith in myself was defined by love,” one friend says to open the mixtape before the band launch into ‘Civilian’, a bright and bouncy hip-hop track that recalls Brockhampton at their freewheeling best.

From there, the togetherness that defines the project manifests itself in different ways. On ‘Everywhere’, an energy-filled romp, they sing “hold me closer, don’t let me go” as one before the track explodes into an ecstatic breakdown, while the dark and dangerous ‘Kino’ swaps pop sensibilities for menacing hip-hop as sweetly sung melodies are replaced with gnarly, foreboding bars. Friendship and togetherness can feel like you’re part of a pack on the charge, too.

“When we go behind the mic, I don’t think anything we do can surprise either of us”

Though only Ncube and May sing lead vocals across the mixtape, backed by friends and collaborators in the background on several tracks, their inventive use of vocal production helps them inhabit a host of different characters across even a single song. When ‘Everywhere’ kicks in, the pitched-up and distorted vocals hammer home the excitement and energy of the swelling song, while on the title track — the mixtape’s centrepiece — they sing its rallying cry (“never lose faith in me”) with multiple layers and effects as if their entire community is repeating the mantra back to them.

“It’s always been a motif in our music to be able to transform in that way,” Ncube says. “Sometimes I’ll be remembering a really important moment in my life, and I’ll pitch [my vocal] down because I wanted to be brave in that time, but I couldn’t be. Or I’ll pitch it up to remember what it was like when my voice wasn’t so deep.”

He describes the pair’s creative process as “post-rationalisation,” or, in simpler terms, “just doing shit and seeing how it feels”. This attitude is splashed all across ‘Faith’. On the title track, sweetly sung vocals and a plucked guitar line inhabit the first half, before a siren signals the track’s descent into an anthemic, club-ready finish. It happens on closer ‘Dashboard’ too, with an outro that contains the spirit of UKG that sees the duo racing breathlessly into the unknown with wide eyes.

Advertisement

After years of being friends, moving to Toronto together and watching each other make solo music, the script for the closeness that defines MONEYPHONE was already written, according to Ncube. “When you actually get to make music together after all that time, we’ve already seen each other like that for all of our lives,” he explains. “So when we go behind the mic, I don’t think anything we do can surprise either of us.”

In this year more than any other, understanding and fostering friendships is vital. The warmth and hope of the music on ‘Faith’ is enough to keep us going until scenes as carefree and joyous as those in MONEYPHONE’s ‘Indecision’ video are allowed once more, and we can fall into the arms of our friends again.

MONEYPHONE’s new mixtape ‘Faith’ is out on November 20.

Advertisement
Advertisement