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Brooklyn, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | SELF

Brooklyn, NY | SELF
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Alternative





To view all Monarchs press, visit: - MONARCHSFAMILY.COM

"Monarchs Album Release and Soul Party at Swan Dive"

So, technically you could say that Celeste Griffin founded her band Monarchs in two cities.

First, there’s her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Her first song, “Notes of Disease,” was an inspired, accidental sort of moment for Griffin in 2007 while fumbling along the keys of her mother’s old piano. But let us not dismiss the inspiration she’s found right here in Austin, where she currently resides, and where her band is set to release their debut full-length album, The Rise & Fall, this weekend.

Produced by Mike McCarthy (Patty Griffin, Spoon, The Heartless Bastards), The Rise & Fall took over a year of hard work and overcoming challenges to complete, but it’s an illuminating testament to Griffin’s spirit and storytelling. Throughout this collaborative effort featuring the talents of musicians Phil Ajjarapu, Josh Halpern, and Van Hollingsworth, Griffin’s voice shines through with a lot of soul.

Speaking of soul, Monarchs is paring an album release show with a soul party Saturday night at the Swan Dive, 615 Red River. DJ Second Line Social of Soul Happening will spin vinyl before and after the live music. Get there around 9 p.m. Recommended. - KUT

"Monarchs CD Release: Recommended Show"

The disarmingly soulful voice of Celeste Griffin puts Monarchs on the local music map. The Austin-via-Alabama chanteuse is out front to celebrate the band’s first full-length, The Rise and Fall, produced by Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin). Special guests include Second Line Social spinning the funky vinyl. – Jay Trachtenberg - The Austin Chronicle

"Monarchs: Business Casual (Song of the Day)"

Celeste Griffin put together Monarchs in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. When she relocated to Austin in 2008 (to study Community and Regional Planning at UT), she continued to perform under the same moniker with a set of musicians she informally dubbed “the ATX Monarchs.” The band released a string of EPs over the last three years, mostly DIY-style. But for the band’s debut LP, The Rise and Fall, Griffin enlisted the help of one of Austin’s most well respected producers, Mike McCarthy (best known for his work with Spoon).

Our friends over at Austin Sound have described Monarchs as occupying a space “between hypnotic Americana and evocative soul.” This Saturday, the band will host an album release party at Swan Dive (651 Red River) at which they’ll be selling the new record on vinyl (and digital download). Today marks the official release date of the new record, and you’ll be able to hear some of the new songs live on KUT later this week. “Business Casual” is the lead single from The Rise and Fall and features a unique hand-clap-meets-old-school-soul vibe. - KUT Austin

"Monarchs Album Release at Swan Dive"

Although Monarchs' driving force is clearly lead singer Celeste Griffin, there is more to this group than meets the eye, especially at this Saturday's album release show for The Rise and Fall. In this particular iteration of Monarchs, Jon Sanchez from Roky Erickson will be on guitar, Daniel Jones from Future Clouds and Radar on drums, and Gary Calhoun from One Hundred Flowers on bass. But that's not all - special guests Michael Kincaid from What Made Milwaukee Famous and Hope Buchanan from Till We're Blue or Destroy will also be on hand to join the Austin love-fest for Monarchs album debut at Swan Dive.

Monarchs arrived on the scene several years ago after Birmingham, Alabama native Griffin made the southwest shift to Austin. Her southern roots shine through the music but are cleverly blended with a soulful genre-bending rock. While at first spin the album sounds like music for a jaunty afternoon on the lake in the sun, there tends to be more to the intricacies as well as the lyrics. Comparisons to Regina Spektor's voice stylings can be made on the title track "Arm's Length", with lilting inflections in a lower range than most lady vocals. Playing on expectations using emphasis from plinking high piano notes to a clean bass riff requires multiple listens to get the full effect. Stream the first single off the album, "Business Casual," here.

Aligning perfectly with the DIY nature of this group, the digital album The Rise and Fall release is accompanied by a homemade bandana from special fabric and the band's insignia on the label. Opening for Monarchs is Second Line Social, of Soul Happening fame. Should be an eclectic good time. - Austinist

"All Hail Monarchs, Austin’s Reigning Indie-Soul Outfit"

Of the unofficial but widely-accepted perks that come with an editing job, plugging friends’ work is the most gratifying. (Not so the grade-school chum who resurfaces as a really successful shell collagist in the Outer Banks, and won’t you write something nice about his gallery show?) Doubly gratifying – and bordering on humbling – is championing an artist-friend who blows your socks off, and leads you to occasionally fantasize about quitting said editing job to join her band as a berserk hype-man/kazoo player. So: this Friday at Pianos, Austin-based Celeste Griffin and Monarchs.

The Rise and Fall, Monarchs’ first full-length record, was produced by Mike McCarthy of Spoon (yup, he’s a fan) and is being released on July 12. A shifting constellation of some of Birmingham (Griffin’s home town) and Austin’s best musicians make up the genre-bending band, equal parts soul, folk, and indie rock, but it’s Griffin’s voice – so assured, soulful, and thick – that lifts Monarchs to day-job-ditching levels of good.

Yes, Griffin is a comely blonde with a Southern twang and guitar strap, but as the Austinist says, “Can’t brush off Monarchs as another ‘pretty-girl-with-achingly-satisfying-vocals-fronting-tight-indie-outfit’ no matter how hard you try.” Furthermore, comparisons to Cat Power’s Chan Marshall and Janis Joplin – and there are plenty – will only get you so far, as Griffin seems to draw her formidable vocal and emotional energies from an altogether more light-filled well then her cigarette-scrabbled predecessors.

Griffin says music is her family. Maybe that’s why listening to Monarchs feels like both a revelation and a homecoming. - BlackBook Magazine

"Bands on the Rise"

see page 40 of URL - Tribeza Magazine

"Bands on the Rise"

see page 40 of URL - Tribeza Magazine

"Take an enchanted hike with Austin chanteuse Celeste Griffin from blues-folk band Monarchs. [MUSIC + VIDEO]"

Last fall’s El Cosmico Weekend in Marfa was nothing short of a dream. Two days out in the desert, camping in teepees and wigwams. Running from art gallery to studio dressed as a lion. Oh, and the music, man, the music.

[Check out our full El Cosmico Weekend 2009 coverage]

It was in this dream state that I experienced the magical musings of Austin chanteuse Celeste Griffin from Austin’s Monarchs. Uh, and when I say ‘dream state,’ I actually mean an alcohol-induced haze brought on by a long day of imbibing on a limo bus–and it was like 3 in the morning. She was playing a guitar and singing in a ginormous teepee. All 30 or so folks were entranced as her voice lifted us high into the starry night sky.

Celeste’s voice is an interesting one. There’s a sort of salty soul that carries you into the Deep South, like you’ve just had a batch of collard greens cooked in bacon. It’s got a hint of Janis Joplin, but without all the heartbreak and Jack Daniels; instead, Celeste’s voice fills you with light and hope. Plus, Celeste ain’t no East Texas coastal girl like Janis; just like the bacon in those collard greens, her saltiness comes from her Alabama upbringing.

LISTEN: “Open It Up” by Monarchs from ‘The Oak E.P.’

Celeste Griffin Monarchs Austin Band

Celeste says her inspiration comes from the music she grew up with, a smorgasbord of Dirty South hip hop, Memphis blues, country and rock. This diverse taste in music reflects itself in her band Monarchs. From blues to roots to folk, it’s kinda hard to nail down the band’s sound. For me, I see a lot of golden yellows, like the sun shining through a field of sunflowers in an old, faded photograph.

BUY: Download Monarchs previous albums on Amazon

For their upcoming album, Monarchs are working with Mike McCarthy, the dude who produces Spoon and Patty Griffin. But that sort of talent comes at a price. To help raise money for recording, Monarchs have turned to a site called Pledge Music. Pledge Music takes the music back to the people by allow YOU the listening community to help fund the project. As you’ll note on the page, there are varying levels of contribution, and each level comes with a prize. The lowest donation, $10, gets you a digital copy of the album. Bid the highest level, $1200, and the band will play at your house party.

CONTRIBUTE: Help fund Monarchs new album here.

Late last week, we met up with Celeste for a hike through the Greenbelt. While there, she told us a little about the new album. The best part of the walk was Celeste singing part of one of the new songs off the album (see the video, below). In mid-song, it started sprinkling, then turned into a beautiful summer storm–the perfect way to end such a magical walk.
Celeste Griffin Monarchs Austin Band

Celeste Griffin chats with Chris about her new album.

WATCH: Check out the video, below, to experience our walk along the Greenbelt. You’ll learn a little more about Monarchs’s upcoming album, see us catch a pygmy frog and hear Celeste sing a new track off the album.
- Republic of Austin


Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Eva Cassidy, Judy Collins and Etta James. What do these singers have in common? Each of them has a distinct, unique voice that is instantly recognizable to the listener. We need to add Celeste Griffin from the band Monarchs to this list

Griffin packs a double punch with her voice and her lyrics. Trying to decide which is the more influential component in their songs is like trying to decide the old “which came first…the chicken or the egg” riddle. When it comes to Monarchs songs, there is no answer because you cannot have one without the other.

Celeste Griffin

This combination of Griffin’s soulful, haunting voice and her heartfelt, emotional lyrics helps the listener FEEL everything that’s flowing from the music. For me it’s as if, with a few words and a melody, my memories are pulled from my past and I find myself saying “Yeah, I remember when I was hurting that badly…or…when I felt that strong”.

Griffin and guitarist Van Hollingsworth recently visited KXAN to talk about their sound, to sing a couple of songs and to tell us about their plans for the Monarchs new CD.

“I wrote my first song Notes On Disease in 2006?, said Griffin. “I had just come out of a long period of heartache and depression. I think I kind of had a ‘quarter-life crisis’ or something. I was grappling with a lot of different issues and had been journaling about them for about a year. Then I sat down at my mom’s piano and I wrote that song. It was such a blessing to me because I realized that I have an outlet for whatever it is that’s going on, which at that time was a lot of heavier issues.”

Van Hollingsworth

The Monarchs first EP, The Oak, was released in 2008. All of the songs were recorded on a four-track tape recorder in Griffin’s mother’s home, a friend’s studio and an old warehouse in Birmingham, Alabama.

The stark method of recording the songs helps to make the EP an extremely raw album, according to Griffin and Monarchs guitarist, Van Hollingsworth. Yet, while the songs may be raw and haunting, Griffin and Hollingsworth want to assure the listener that the music is still accessible enough for everyone to enjoy.

Their next EP Those Words, Those Frames was released in 2009. This collection of songs had a different sound and more upbeat tone .

“We were actually in a studio and there was much more capacity to do more things”, said Griffin.

“And some of those songs were as old as the other ones on the first EP”, added Hollingsworth. “This one has the anthem The Things You Build Yourself. That was an old song”

“That was one of the first songs I’ve ever written and it’s very upbeat and happy”, said Griffin.

I agree with her. The Things You Build Yourself is my favorite Monarchs song. It just speaks volumes to me as a listener and as a woman. But this doesn’t mean that anyone else will respond to this song the same way. We each bring our own past to the lyrics and melodies, which then combine together to give each person their own unique interpretation of the songs.

For their next CD, Monarchs are taking a different approach. They have created a project on a website called Within this project, fans can pledge money for the band to use in funding their recording sessions. The upside to this method is that the band gets to make all of the decisions.

“You can decide everything,” said Griffin. “You decide who you’re working with, what you’re going to be doing with the money and all that sort of thing. Everything is up to the artist.”

“It’s making you the artist,” added Hollingsworth. “It’s putting you in the label capacity.”

“The fans are the label,” continued Griffin. “They’re giving you the money so that you can go out and then return their help with handing them the album. It opens them up to see a lot more of the process rather than just hearing the album because we’re posting all these little videos of us sitting down, working on the songs when they’re totally stripped down, bare bones.”

The downside to making a CD this way is that…you have to raise the money through pledges from your fans, family and friends. That can take time which, in turn, can lengthen the time it takes to record the CD. Yet even with the task of raising funds for their project weighing on them, Griffin and Hollingsworth are eager to get started.

“Moving up to the full-length format is a great move at this point,” said Hollingsworth. “It let’s you show more sides of your personality. As much diversity as there is to human emotions, Celeste has as much diversity as a writer.”

“Yeah,” added Griffin. “There’s some really soulful, groovy ones that have a truly unique Monarchs feel to them. And then there’s some that feel a little bit more familiar, more folky or country. We’ve also got a sort of swinging kind of old-timey, jazzy sounding one. The songs are all really strong.”

Here are two of the songs from the - KXAN News


"Monarchs rely on Celeste Griffin's soulful southern voice and talented songwriting to give the audience music that is both enjoyable and fun as well as heartfelt and deep. From Slow, folky ballads to 2-stepping Rock and roll swing, they offer a lot to many groups of music fans. " - The Austin Chronicle


"Monarchs rely on Celeste Griffin's soulful southern voice and talented songwriting to give the audience music that is both enjoyable and fun as well as heartfelt and deep. From Slow, folky ballads to 2-stepping Rock and roll swing, they offer a lot to many groups of music fans. " - The Austin Chronicle

"Discovering the music of Monarchs"

"Notes on Disease," the first song on the Monarchs’ new EP, Oak, is written with what sounds like the coolest deliberation. The first lyrics come out in a slow drawl, punctuated in almost staccato succession: "Its – been – a – long – time – coming." And it seems like it takes a relative eternity for that single thought to emerge over the slowly-shifting minor chord progression. But singer-songwriter Celeste Griffin in one sentence establishes a command that will put you on alert with anticipation for her next verbal and musical utterance.

It is partly the haunting vibrato drawl of the voice, the slightly discordant plaintiveness that opens up to show quick flashes of disarming power. It is partly the simple poignancy of the feelings in "It's Not Me" and "Open It Up," the urgency belied by the slow and steady rhythms and almost conversational melodies. It is partly the accompanying instrumentation, especially the slow but insistently driving keyboards and wail of the violin.

That is what I thought I heard, but to my surprise I learned a lot more when I asked Griffin my perfunctory interview questions about her musical training and previous band and songwriting experience.

It turns out that Griffin, who plays keyboards on most Monarchs songs, took piano lessons in the third grade. She plays guitar on some songs, though she never had a lesson. "Notes" is the first song Griffin ever wrote, when she sat down at the piano at her mother's house a year ago and started playing around with words and chords.

Preston Lovinggood, lead singer for Wild Sweet Orange, happened to be sitting with her and heard something developing in the random musical musings. Lovinggood urged her to keep going. The result of this first effort is perhaps the best song on Oak, but in the last year Griffin has written a torrent of songs that have already bypassed the output of her first recording with songs like "Move Me."

The Oak EP evolved from that first session. First she got a drummer, then added a bass. Eventually she collected a strong contingent to back her up, including Van Hollingsworth, currently on tour with Maria Taylor, on guitar.

Oak was made in true garage style, recorded on Taylor Hollingsworth's four-track tape recorder, with vocal tracks laid down in a shower at the women's bath-house at Wade Sand & Gravel, drums at the abandoned Birmingham Hotel, keyboards on the piano at Griffin’s mother's house where she wrote her first song.

"Notes" emerged from a long period of struggle, according to Griffin. The succession of songs that has since flowed from her she considers a gift. Frankly, I cannot believe the poise with which she writes music and lyrics, plays and sings, and puts on a performance, for someone who has never done it before. It's as if, as the song says, it has always been in her waiting to come out.

My friend Olivia, with that eerie female prescience, commented that Griffin must have been keeping a journal for a long time. And that is exactly what Griffin told me. But her journaling was over-analytical, or "head-heavy." She says it really helps her work through her feelings to place them to music. It is a process of discovery through expression.

"Putting words to a melody frees me," Griffin says.

As the Greeks and Gnostics knew, discovery and revelation come from somewhere else, we don't know where, but these songs have been a long time forming, like wine in oak barrels, reaching a fine point before it is ever released.

But just as no song springs from nowhere, every muse has its influences. Just as I detect notes of black currant in a wine, in Monarchs I can hear strains of Bright Eyes — though with less teenage male neurosis than Conor Oberst. Especially on "Open It Up" the lyrics have the lyrical, Southern-summer-night quality of Michael Stipe's "Nightswimming." She's less nerdy and traumatized than Stipe (and Michael agrees that females are superior beings, anyway), and lacks the sexual confusion, too.

Though Griffin’s songwriting skills must still be fledgling, her angst embodies more mature female emotion. It's both more decisive and fatalistic than we earnest boys can muster. Another thread I hear in her music is Hope for Agoldensummer. Oh, and then there is Maria Taylor. What you hear in the Monarchs is a strong Athens, Ga., influence — an Alabama-Athens axis already pioneered by Maria and her Azure Ray cohort Orenda Fink, Drive By Truckers and others.

Doubtless Griffin is a strong new songwriting talent. You can hear her confidence in "Here I Go Again." If she keeps writing and keeps getting stronger she could go again and again and end up who knows where. The only criticism that comes to mind from Oak is the deliberate tone-poem tempo and lyrical drone of every song. Maybe in future efforts she can pump it up with a little more up-tempo Athens influence from The Whigs.

Right now the music is more folksy, but she left no doubt she can belt it out in song - The Birmingham Weekly

"Monarchs Interview: SXSW 2010"

While attending graduate school at the University Of Texas, Celeste Griffin, the mastermind of Monarchs, has carved her own path in the music industry. From her humble beginnings in the Yellow Hammer State to playing local venues in her adopted hometown of Austin, Texas, Celeste has released two successful albums, 2008's 'The Oak EP' and 2009's 'Those Words, Those Frames.' After making a name for herself locally, Celeste is on the verge of performing at this year's SXSW to audiences from around the world. She spoke to Spinner about her musical style, her band and cookies.

How would you describe your sound?

Monarchs are soulful roots-rock. Sometimes folky, sometimes bluesy, sometimes mellow, and sometimes rocking, it is always soulful and it is always honest.

How did your band come together?

I discovered my talent for songwriting and singing just three years ago. At that time, I was living in my hometown, Birmingham, Ala. and knew several musicians and began recruiting players. Monarchs have changed over time, but one aspect remains the same: Van Hollingsworth. He has played bass and guitar on both Monarchs' EPs, co-writes songs with me and is my closest Monarchs collaborator. After I moved to Austin in 2008, I formed a Monarchs branch in my new Texas home -- this process involved fliers, Craigslist, word of mouth, friendships, etc., so, now, I basically have two Monarchs units: one in Birmingham and one in Austin. This SXSW, however, these bands will blend, as Van will be playing guitar along with my Austin bassist, Phil Ajjarapu, and Austin drummer, Josh Halpern.

What are your musical influences?

Female: Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Chan Marshall, Gillian Welch, Fiona Apple, Lauryn Hill. Male: Neil Young, Van Morrison, John Lennon, Conor Oberst, the Beatles, Jerry Garcia.

How did you come up with the name Monarchs?

I love the concept and reality of family. I have always had this sort of vision of my family line and ancestry as royal with my grandmother Celeste Evans as the queen, and me as the princess. So, given that I was initially writing a lot of songs about stories of my family, I thought naming the band after a dysfunctional, royal family would be perfect. The concept of Monarchs has expanded now. I consider Monarchs to be a community project where the listeners, players, promoters, etc., are all members of the community or family. Even greater than the musical Monarchs, as people, we are all part of a family in this kingdom called universe.

What's your biggest vice?

Chocolate chip cookies, for sure.

What's in your festival survival kit?

Water! A SXSW schedule of shows I want to catch. Throat drops.

Who was your first celeb crush?

When I was little, I thought that that Lee Montgomery, the guy in 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun,' the movie, was just about the hottest thing on earth.

What's your musical guilty pleasure?

I am most definitely down with the TLC 'CrazySexyCool' album. I don't feel guilty about it, though. When is the last time you jammed to 'Creep'?

Beatles or Stones?

The Beatles. That's a mean question, though!

What's the craziest thing you've seen or experienced while on tour?

Well, I have yet to tour! After I finish my album this summer, the touring will begin and I will join the other soldiers of the great highway. Crazy stories to come ...

If you could trade in all of your creative control, for instant platinum-selling success, would you?

No way. However, I would love to figure out how to have both!

Oreos with or without milk?

With milk, for sure. Soggy Oreos are the way to go. - Spinner

"Austinist Show Preview: Monarchs Album Release at Emo's!"

Can't brush off Monarchs as another "pretty-girl-with-achingly-satisfying-vocals-fronting-tight-indie-outfit" no matter how hard you try. Claiming both ATX and Birmingham, AL (BAL?) as their HQs, their self-proclaimed influences run a similarly interesting gamut, including both Jerry Garcia and Amy Winehouse. Fortunately, at this early point in their career, they've none of the contrived grit of the petrol-huffing, boyfriend-slicing latter yet some of the experience and good-nature of the former, relying on their admirable material to draw out lead hottie singer/pianist Celeste Griffin's pristine vocals to the dirtiest degree they seem capable of achieving, which is still a bottle of Wellbutrin short of Chan Marshall, and three cases of Jack shy of Janis Joplin's historic howling. The result: something close to southwestern soul perfection, eclipsing and expanding on burned-out poseurs like Brightblack Morning Light with their brighter eyes and easy dynamics. Tonight, at Emo's (?!) this troupe is celebrating the release of an album proper, including on the bill two luminous local singer-songwriters who also preach the soft-touch: Dana Falconberry and Bosque Brown. Bring a hanky. - Austinist


The Rise and Fall (2011)
Those Words, Those Frames (2009)
The Oak EP (2008)

All three records have received radio play and
all can be purchased on itunes:
streamed via bandcamp:



Celeste Krishna is a southern expressionist singer, songwriter, and producer currently based in New York City. Her body of work encompasses many genres.  She wrote and released her first three albums under the name Monarchs, an Alabama rock band project she founded in her hometown of Birmingham and later expanded into Austin, Texas.  A lover of hip hop and long time student of African dance, she then released an MC project, “ft. Celeste Mixtape” with accompanying dance-based visuals and performances.  Her most recent work, a full length album entitled, “Prelude Red”, is slated for release on May 15, 2017.  She co-produced the record in a sound she calls “lady drip hop” - a blend of soul songs with elegant electronics, thumping down tempo backbeats and folk melodies.  Her live show spans her body of work and currently features an ensemble of female musicians on drum kit, synths, guitars, vocals, percussion, and electronic drum pads.