wears the trousers magazine

drugstore: alive and gigging
September 5, 2009, 11:51 pm
Filed under: feature, words in edgeways | Tags: , , , , ,


words in edgeways with isabel monteiro of drugstore

Comebacks are usually the preserve of rubbish pop bands and crap, aging rockers; rarely does a really good band return from the wilderness. Drugstore are different. Led by charismatic Brazilian-born vocalist Isabel Monteiro, the Drugstore sound was an intoxicating blend of menace, angst and otherworldly enchantment best indulged in during the darkest hour of a disintegrating, drunken night. Over the course of three albums, they fearlessly rode the mid- to late-’90s indie rock rollercoaster – including notable collaborations with Thom Yorke and Tindersticks – before they seemingly fell off and, well, simply disappeared. Yet rumours of Drugstore’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. They’re back, and play their first show in 8 years at London venue Dingwalls – the site of their last official gig in 2001 – this coming Monday. Isabel exclusively reveals to Wears The Trousers exactly what happened…

* * *

Isabel, where have you been?!

We never really split up. We just decided to take some time off and slowly drifted away. We’d been touring non-stop for years and were stuck with a label that was totally wrong for Drugstore. Even though we’d just finished recording a really beautiful album – 2001’s Songs For The Jetset – it just felt right to press the pause button.

Tell us about the past, er, 8 years then?

It is amazing how quickly things disintegrated. All the network of support that you have while you’re in the band – friends, musicians, music biz colleagues – it all went away overnight. I was also not in a position where I could keep Mike Chylinski (the American drummer) or Matt Aulich (the second guitarist who lives in Tasmania) in the country.

So, yep…things went from bad to worse. At one point I was about to become homeless and had all my life packed up in a few cardboard boxes. Unbelievable! I’m not one to shy away from challenges. In fact, I was never fazed or overwhelmed by the problems I encountered – but I was upset that people were disappearing at the same rate as my troubles were escalating. It took me a good four years just to get my life back into some sort of shape that vaguely resembles normality. And only just recently, I’ve started writing again and having a cool space in my head for music.

Why Dingwalls? Why now? Are you nervous?!

I’d been trying to get the band to play for awhile but, by now, everyone else became too busy with their own lives – having babies, running a business, that kind of thing. By accident, about a year ago, we got together at the Groucho Club, had a few drinks and felt that there was a real possibility to play again.

As for feeling nervous, I’d say I probably feel more hyper-excited, in a good way, rather than nervous, freaking out. It’s a good feeling, one that I haven’t had in ages.

What new material can we expect?

We had a pretty limited amount of rehearsal time but managed to get one new song with a lovely string arrangement together. I’d probably just bash out another two just on the acoustic guitar myself. See how it goes – Drugstore sets tend to have a life on their own…once I get halfway through the bottle of wine!

Who’s in the band?

Right now we’ve got Daron Robinson on guitar, Matt Aulich also on guitar, Mike Chylinski on drums, Ian Burdge on cello, plus a few other mates and guests stopping by.

How did that record with Thom Yorke happen?

I hope people realise I have written a bunch of songs that are so much lovelier than ‘El President’. It will be a pity if that’s as far as their understanding of Drugstore’s world goes. We’d toured extensively with Radiohead, both in Europe and the US and got on really well. I just wanted an angelic and pure voice to be the voice of goodness in the song. Rang him up, he turned up with a bottle of champagne, and the rest, as they say, is mini-history.

…and what about your Tindersticks contribution on ‘My Sister’?

That also came about from touring. I have a huge respect for this band – they have a lot of integrity and have created their own unique world.

Do you have a favourite Drugstore track?

That’s just too tough. But if pushed to the limit – just play ‘No More Tears’ at my funeral. It’s very simple, basic chords, simple lines – nothing fancy – but it cuts very deep into my soul and leaves me bleeding every time.


Do you ever get homesick for Brazil?

I do, really do. I miss the human warmth. I love the idea that shop assistants talk to you, ask you “Where did you get your bag, luv?” – that kind of thing. Everyone talks to everyone. I miss that a lot. I also miss that tropical edge, the overwhelming sense that anything is possible.

What’s your greatest Drugstore moment?

That’s got to be yet to come. Even though I realise we have done some pretty amazing things together, I have to believe that the future is filled with some more wonderful surprises.

And the lowest?

How many pages am I allowed in here? Got tons of crazy stories to tell, but they deserve to be told over a bottle of good Claret! (I always put good wines in interviews, in the vain hope that they might turn up on the Drugstore rider – but truth be told, I’m happy to share Drugstore stories over any £3 bottle of vino!)

What motivates you?

I don’t know why or how I write songs; at first, there seems to be no other purpose, but the desire to get this thing out of my head. I guess it reveals something about yourself, or how you look at the world. There’s no planning, no logic. Concept only becomes apparent once it’s out of the system.

What have you been listening to? Anything you can recommend?

Bands are often asked to mention this stuff. But the truth is that being in a band is such a personal and demanding affair, you’re always too caught up in your own music. I listen to a lot of different stuff, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Right now? Just listening to some of my new demos (there you go – I told you! I hope your readers will, at least, appreciate my honesty.) [Listen to some of them here]

What’s next for Drugstore after Dingwalls?

I’ve got to find a couple of people to collaborate with, who don’t live in Tasmania. I’m working on new songs and hoping to have something released next year. I’ll get the cowboy hat out of the cupboard, do a few gigs, and bring some more fucked-up Drugstore beauty into the world.

Don Blandford

Tickets for Drugstore’s Dingwalls show on Monday are on sale here, priced at a reasonable tenner. 


‘El President’

‘White Magic For Lovers’ [fan video]


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