Daniela Vesco

Simón Mejía Presents Monte: An Electronic Exploration Of Colombia’s Natural World

By 24 September, 2020

After more than a decade of continuous accomplishments as the founder of Bomba Estéreo, Simón Mejía has had a pretty prolific year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides contributing to documentaries, and keeping one of Colombia’s most successful bands on the rails, Simón recently released the debut album of Monte: an ambient electronic project in which he furthers his sonic exploration of Colombia’s natural world.

The project was announced with the album’s title track “Mirla”, which is based on an actual experience Simón had with a bird that visited his house every morning around daybreak. He began noticing that this particular bird’s song stood out from the rest, and meticulously recorded its songs. “Every day he came closer to my terrace, and—this is crazy—I could feel that he was watching me recording him and as a result started singing even better,” he explained.

We spoke to Simón on the phone to talk about Monte, and the current state of his career. Here’s what he had to tell us:

You’re currently in Bogotá, right?

Correct. Currently living on the outskirts of Bogotá.

That seems like quite a blessing in this day and age.

It has been. Now that live shows have been cancelled I’ve had some quality time to work in a studio setting, both on Monte and other projects.

Tell us about Monte. How was the project born?

Monte is basically the result of a collection of sounds I’ve been building throughout my career. The material is part of my sound archive, and the last few months have given me quite a bit of space to work on it. Last year we closed a very active cycle of shows with Bomba Estéreo, which on top of the pandemic, led to me focusing on more personal projects this year.

How’s the dynamic different between working with the band and Monte as an individual project?

It’s different but I still wouldn’t call Monte a fully individual project. There are always people surrounding it and influencing it. I was actually watching one of Thom Yorke’s latest interviews on his most recent album, and he described this phenomenon brilliantly. Although you might present it as a solo project, there are always other forces feeding your craft.

Right. I understand Monte’s videoclips are something of a collective project?

They are. I had worked with Simón Hernández before, and he basically put together some beautiful archive images for the video of “Mirla”, and it’s continuation “Jungla”. The material blended in perfectly with the soundscapes I was recording and building from my trips to the Amazon, throughout the Magdalena River and across other regions, both for the Monte album and as part of a documentary I contributed to recently.

Tell us about the documentary. How did that come about?

It’s a documentary on forests and trees in Colombia’s Pacific Coast [called Stand For Trees]. It was great to contribute there since I’ve always been particularly fascinated with this region and the warmth of its people. To me it’s just amazing to go to these places and find out how sonically rich they are. The variety of sounds and textures you’ll get from places like the Amazon or the Pacific is just incredible. Almost like a perfect synthesizer being naturally produced.

Any intentions to eventually present Monte in a live setting?

Monte was not conceived or projected to be presented live. It’s obviously more studio-based, but I’m always open for opportunities to present my material live. With the current situation, the reactivation of live shows might take a long while to get back to normal, so the first phase of the relaunch might be a good opportunity to try something out with small audiences of 40 or 50 people.

Are you aiming for a particular identity with the project? It seems like the sound is rooted in the same vein as a lot of Bomba Estéreo’s material, but driven into a more introspective, minimalistic direction.

I’m aiming for ambient sound, both in what is typically known as ‘ambient’, and also in what you could describe as an ecosystem of sound. I want it to be rooted in the actual nature of these places where the project was recorded. Colombia is packed with tradition and musical delight, so If there are ever any contributions from other artists, I want them to be from the actual population of these territories. They’re the real carriers of the charm that these regions encapsulate, and so this is a great opportunity to showcase that.

What’s the news on the Bomba Estéreo front? I can imagine with the current situation the band has been inactive, but it’s inevitable to ask.

Well Bomba has obviously been inactive for the whole year (laughs), but there have been very interesting things happening behind closed doors. The band is in good shape and will most certainly be dropping new material before the end of 2020. We’re already looking forward to our next album.

Any other projects you’re involved in at the moment? It seems that scores and synchronizing music has become the biggest line of business nowadays, right?

Yes. There’s always new stuff coming up. Besides the documentary I’m contributing with, there are other film productions I might be working on soon. Also a few local bands are interested in my work as a producer.

Monte’s debut album Mirla is out now on streaming platforms

Follow Sounds and Colours: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mixcloud / Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Subscribe to the Sounds and Colours Newsletter for regular updates, news and competitions bringing the best of Latin American culture direct to your Inbox.