Plant Powered Pop: An interview with Montaigne


Words || Angus Dalton

Montaigne, the ARIA award-winning singer songwriter who once took to stage wearing an outfit made entirely of thousands of abandoned Groovin the Moo wristbands, shares her best vegan recipes and tells us about her musical and literary inspirations.

She’s due to perform by the lake as a headliner for RE:Conception this Friday, Sept 15!

How long have you been vegan, and what’s your motivation for ditching animal-derived foods?

I’ve been vegan for about four years now. Animal agriculture isn’t good for the planet, and consider myself opposed to violence of all kinds and don’t feel very good about partaking in the systematic slaughter and torture of animals for consumption. I understand that it had its place in the past, and still in some more isolated cultures, but it’s not necessary in the Western world.

In ‘Because I Love You’, the salad line is about being pressured out of your veganism for a while; how did that happen?

My ex-boyfriend regularly mocked me about being vegan with all the narrow “but where’s your protein bro”-esque slogans with which you can arm yourself. Towards the end of our relationship, I was at his place a lot. He’s Orthodox Jewish and lived with his grandmother and I couldn’t bring anything in because:

1. His grandmother didn’t know we were together (none of his family did, except for his younger, non-religious brother)
2. She didn’t know that I was staying there regularly and
3. Kosher law.

So I couldn’t bring anything into the house. What WAS available to me was peanut butter and jam sandwiches. The combination of limited options and pressure from him made me crack. At the time I think I used reasons of convenience (money, options etc.) but veganism can be very cheap and options abundant. Most of it was his bullying. I imagine it would be very hard to maintain around people who aren’t supportive – fortunately the people in my life are, or are at least neutral about it. I like to consider myself as being steadfast in my convictions, but my ex-boyfriend was a bit of a manipulative sociopath, and there were many things I did that I now never will because…well who really knows why?

Any advice for people seeking to go fully plant-powered?

Start slow, start simple. Don’t go cold turkey immediately, you’ll burn out real quickly. Figure out how to get all the nutrients you need first. You don’t want to be getting sick. There are heaps of resources online, groups on Facebook and elsewhere. Once you’ve figured out how to cook stuff that’s nutritious and delicious (and easy), then start to get a little fancy. There are HEAPS of vegan substitute products out there, not all are good, but it’s great fun trying them all out and figuring out which are for you. And I think what KEEPS you vegan is educating yourself on the impact of animal agriculture. Watching all the documentaries out there is real great. Watching Cowspiracy is what returned me to veganism. I can’t handle violence so I haven’t watched Earthlings or any of those really graphic ones, but there are a bunch of great docos that are really surprising and informative without the intense violence.

And finally, involve yourself in the community! Memes are really fun! Not all of them are good (you’ll find that there are some pretty unhip to it vegans out there), but when you find your peeps, you’ll wanna stay with your peeps. I’m not particularly entrenched in any online group but I do like some vegan food and meme pages and it helps you feel normal, if that’s what you need.

TL;DR get vegucated and take baby steps.

What’s the first quote from your namesake, Michel de Montaigne, that springs to mind?

A few spring at once, but I’ll just give one: “I have never seen a greater monster or miracle in the world than myself.”

You’ve been reading Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – what do you think? Are there any literary influences that had an effect on the writing of your album?

I love it! It’s scary and dark and harrowing and weird and I love it. I really like surrealism/magical realism. I loved Kafka On The Shore for the same reason. I like that it intimates purpose and meaning, rather than spelling it out. Makes it possible to project your own proclivities and personal experiences upon the scene painted for you. Yeats is alluded to in Glorious Heights (‘Easter, 1916’). I reference video games a lot, namely Kingdom Hearts.

Last year when you spoke at Women of Letters, why did you choose to write on Arcade Fire’s ‘No Cars Go’?

It never fails to fill me with a sense of cosmic significance. It imbues some spiritual sort of beauty into my reality whenever I hear it. It’s a stirring expression of the liminal space between dichotomies like life and death, light and dark, dreams and reality, and it’s that space that is my life’s mission to access and float in for the fleeting moments in which they necessarily appear. And the time in my life I first heard it, and the format in which it was heard, was probably very pivotal to my connection to it.

Best Aussie songs spinning on your playlists right now?

D.D.Dumbo’s whole record Utopia Defeated, the new Gang of Youths tracks, ‘We Used To’ by Vera Blue. I’m not very up to date on new releases at the moment because I don’t think I’ve listened to anything else but Arcade Fire for quite a while…

Best vegan eats in Sydney?

Golden Lotus Vegan in Newtown, The Green Lion in Rozelle, MAKER in Petersham, Bodhi at the Park in Sydney CBD, Yulli’s in Surry Hills, and the best açai bowl I’ve had yet is from Açai Brothers which have franchises around Sydney.

Can you share with us one of your fave crowd-pleasing (or just self-pleasing) recipes?

Mushrooms, chickpeas, baby spinach and cherry tomatoes sautéed in a mix of smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt, pepper, a touch of turmeric, dressed with watered down hummus + lemon juice, dill, alongside some roasted sweet potato wedges and guacamole.

A party in your mouth.

Montaigne will perform at RE:Conception by the Lake this Friday