- 05 Aug 20
The alt-pop artist told Hot Press about his spontaneous move to London and his plans to conquer Los Angeles.
Moncrieff doesn’t slow down, not even for his interview with Hot Press. “I’m in the studio, trying to do something, but fucking nothing’s happening, I’m going to be honest” is the first thing he says after picking up the phone. “Have a listen.”
But Moncrieff isn’t quite being honest. Something is certainly happening in his home studio: The work-in-progress the alt-pop artist plays for me is woozy and distorted, a house-of-horrors take on a sample from All Saints’s bubbly 2000 hit ‘Pure Shores’. Moncrieff says he started producing in the last year and a half, inspired by the way 21 Pilots frontman Tyler Joseph uses production to capture a unique “vision.” In the singular sound of Moncrieff’s latest single, ‘PLAYLOUD’, it’s clear his work is paying off.
Had I called Moncrieff a few years ago, I might have caught him doing something very different: filing legal documents. The Waterford native takes me back to the moment in university when he realized his future was in music, not law. “I was working in this lawyer’s office,” Moncrieff says. “And he said, ‘the first job you're gonna do is the most important job.’ He just gave me like 10 big huge folders of papers. And he was like, ‘this is called filing.’ I was like, ‘This is some bullshit.’”
So Moncrieff dropped out of university. He called hotels in London, asking for a singing gig. He had no luck. Nevertheless, he rented a spare room in the city. And he spent his first night there lying on a bare mattress next to his mom with one thought in his head: “I’ve made a terrible mistake.” Moncrieff gave himself two weeks to decide whether he should keep chasing his dream in London. After performing at open mics and putting sheets on his bed, he says, “I was like, sweet — I was really enjoying it.”
What changed? Moncrieff found his purpose and his stage name in a “mystical, weird experience.” At one open mic, he says he “performed the song that was dedicated towards my brother, my sister who passed away.” Afterwards, he talked to a man who “had lost a brother when he was younger” and who said “things that, literally, I needed to hear at that point in my life.” Unaware of the impact he was making, the man gave Moncrieff 30 quid for the taxi home. Though Moncrieff meditates, he insists he isn’t religious. But he did take this moment as a sign, naming his act after the man he met that day: William Scott Moncrieff.
If anything is obvious about Moncrieff’s move to London and his gender-bending goth style, it’s his burning desire to define himself. People like him don’t stay obscure for long. Adele soon employed Moncrieff as a backing vocalist (“She was super normal,” he says) and Elton John shouted out his debut single on the Apple Music radio station Beats1 (“It’s super cool that he likes my shit”).
Moncrieff’s latest single celebrates this bold spirit but doesn’t sound much like Elton John. “You have the power to as a young person to decide your own fucking fate,” Moncrieff says of the hyper-catchy ‘PLAYLOUD’, which features a chorus of children alongside a deep, growling bassline. With lyrics like “every president is on the payroll,” the track holds no illusions about the world’s problems. But ‘PLAYLOUD’ channels this frustration into a defiant joy: Written last year when Moncrieff felt like “we have to be living in a fucking simulation,” the song “doesn't provide any answers. It's just like, you have to just go be happy.”
And go he will. Next year, Moncrieff hopes to conquer an even bigger city: Los Angeles, California. “I want to get to America,” he says, “and I want to put myself in a situation where I’m really challenged and have to make it work, because those are the situations where you either thrive or you don’t.” Moncrieff won’t be the only young artist in LA, but if anyone has what it takes to make it there, it’s him. Even under quarantine he’s breaking new ground, sewing and dying the first T-shirts in a clothing line called “Fuckery.” “I don’t really buy into Supreme and shit like that,” he tells me. “I like making my own shit.”
For now, Moncrieff is binging on all things American. He just released a reggae-inflected remix of ‘PLAYLOUD’ featuring DJ SWAGR, an American newcomer. And he plans to recruit another producer from the US to mix his next single, aptly titled ‘America’, because he wants it “to be a commentary, sonically as much as anything.”
Moncrieff reads me some lyrics to ‘America’, and they’re just as I expected — funny and scrappy, the words of an artist always imagining how things could be different. “Give me liberty / and yes I have a dream / I traded for some lips, Louis V, and jewelry / to make it to the land of opportunity / California girls leave me nothing but a eulogy,” he says, ending with an open question on his lips.
Check out Moncrieff’s latest release, ‘PLAYLOUD - Swagr Remix’, on Spotify below.