Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to sit down with the members of a really cool international band. Monta Lío is formed by the partnership of Australian Pat Bryne and Spaniard Fernando (Nando) Durango. When we heard that an Australian had teamed up with a Spaniard to produce original music in Spanish, we were certainly intrigued! Check out the video to listen to our interview or read through the full written transcript below it. Our chat was full of laughs, a few asides in Spanish, and great insights into Pat and Fernando’s experiences living abroad, learning new languages, and making their own unique fusion of music. Enjoy!
D: Hello everybody, it’s Dani from Sincerely, Spain and today I have our guests Pat Byrne and Fernando Durango from Monta Lío, which is a new band that you should absolutely check out. Today we have them in the studio for an interview. Would you guys like to introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about your backstories?
P: Hey guys!
F: Hola amigos! (Hello friends!)
P: Yah, we’re in Sydney, Australia right now and Fernando and I met, like, five years ago through a mutual friend. I was studying Spanish at the time and I’d, you know, pester him daily, every time we met up, thousands and thousands of questions about Spanish and he was actually really patient with me. And yah, now we have full-blown conversations in Spanish, which is cool. But yah, we got the band together a few months ago and just decided, with all this isolation time we just decided to knuckle down and put the song out. We kinda had the idea for the song for about two years—
D: Oh, wow!
P: And we finally took the time to record it.
D: That’s awesome. Okay, so where were you living when you two met?
F: We were living in Australia. I came here, like, six years ago and I met Pat through a friend. And after that you [Pat] went to live in Spain for a few months, right?
P: Yah, I went to…I was studying business and I finished my last semester in Madrid. So, I was there for six months.
D: Oh nice, okay! So, talking a little bit more about the band—you said you started it about a couple months ago?
F: More or less, yah. We don’t have a date [laughs] but we started working on the song, maybe a little bit longer than that—like three or four months ago. And we had a few ideas before that, but yah, officially we will say three or four months ago…2020, beginning of 2020.
D: And how did you come up with the name Monta Lío?
P: [laughs] No lo sé! (I don’t know)
F: The name generator [laughs].
P: No, no. What did we have originally? Originally, we just went for your standard, you know, just jumbling letters around—Pat and Nando—and we came up with Pando. And we were like “ehh, it sounds a bit like panda.” And panda’s a bit childish so we just kept looking and, I don’t know, I think I came to Fernando a week later with Lío. Just jumbling words together, for something—looking for something sorta catchy and then Monta Lío popped up and Fernando was like “oh yah, that actually means something!”
D: Well, for the people who don’t speak Spanish, would you like to explain what it means?
F: Umm, yah. I think the translation would be “make a mess,” right? But in the sense of party. We say that in Spain when you go out with your friends or you go to a bar and are having some drinks and you want to be a little bit nasty, you say vamos a montar el lío [laughs]. Yah…make it a mess, but in a good way, in terms of party and having fun.
P: Would you say “stir the pot”?
F: “Stir the pot”? [laughs] Eso qué es? (What’s that?)
P: [laughs] Stir the pot! Cause a bit of raucous, go a little bit wild.
F: Yah, yah, something like that. And we wanted something that English speakers could pronounce—
P: Oh yah!
F: Monta Lío (in Spanish) – Monta Lio (with English accent), it’s not too far off.
D: Yah, exactly. Oh that’s perfect, I like it!
P: Oh, thanks!
D: Well, going back to your abroad experiences—so maybe we’ll do this one at a time. Pat, could you tell us what drew you to Spain and then what your experience was like there?
P: It was honestly, as soon as I started learning…so I was studying business and I knew I wanted to do music after I finished business… And the business degree was getting really dry so I had a spare sub-major and I took Spanish, just for fun. I honestly don’t even remember why! I was like “Yah, this will be a good time. This will freshen up the degree a bit.” And literally the first class I LOVED it. Honestly, I’ve never loved a class that much before and I think a year and a half later of studying it I went and did my degree there—finished my degree there.
D: Awesome. And did that help spice up the degree a bit for you?
P: Oh, definitely, definitely! Yah, I got to go live in Spain and yah…I don’t know, did I meet you [Fernando] after or before?
F: Before going to Spain? Yah, yah, before going to Spain.
P: I met Fernando like halfway through, maybe the second semester or something that I was learning Spanish and then, yah, he kinda was talking about Spain all the time. So yah, I kept getting more keen and just keener and keener.
D: Nice. And so then, I’m a little bit curious, why Madrid? If you had somebody from Barcelona, telling you about Barcelona?
F: [laughs] Oh, oh, oh!
P: Yah, because I didn’t like Fernando’s accent [laughs].
F: I am saying nothing.
P: No, I think even Fernando was…I had a mate go over six months before me and we essentially did a swap, so while I was coming into Madrid he was leaving. And I’d been looking for a place where I could learn the most neutral Spanish because I knew there were other dialects and accents and, you know, had I learned Spanish in the south—
F: [laughs] You’re not gonna understand anything!
P: Well, then no one would understand me. But yah, I wouldn’t finish my words, I would cut my words off. Yah, I just wanted, like, a common ground of Spanish that was versatile for all kind of dialogues of all areas in Spanish-speaker territory.
D: Sure, okay. So what would you say is the biggest thing you learned from your experience living abroad, and living in Spain?
P: Umm, the biggest thing I learnt? Oh, wow. Are you saying—
F: That we are the best? [laughs]
P: Umm, I don’t know, that’s a hard question. Biggest thing I learnt? Just how to be independent, really. I kinda got used to that and then I came back to my family home in Sydney and it felt strange, just coming back and living with people. I was just used to… I spent so much time by myself—not that I didn’t have any friends over there, but easing into it was hard. I didn’t know anyone over there and it probably took me about two months to actually start doing things with other people because, yah, it was a bit daunting, to be honest. Very daunting!
D: It’s a process! No, I can definitely relate to that.
P: Yah, umm, yah. I think that’s the biggest thing: living alone, because I had never done that before and this was like, maybe three years ago.
D: That’s incredible to do it for the first time living abroad.
P: Yah! It was some of the best months of my life, so far.
D: Nice. Well good for you, I love it!
P: Thank you.
D: And going over to Fernando, what drew you to Australia and what has your experience been like?
F: Umm, I don’t really know. I came just to visit a friend for just three months [laughs]—the friend that introduced me to Pat. I met him back in the day in Spain and we were surfing together in the north of Spain and we kept in contact actually for a year after. And I decided to come to Australia; I always wanted to come. I love surfing and it was a place I always wanted to go. I had some time; I had no job, and so I came here for three months and it’s been six years. So… yah.
F: Yah, I didn’t think long-term, I didn’t plan to be here. I was just literally traveling for three months. My friend lived in Sydney, I didn’t have much idea of Sydney and I was like “yah, that sounds good to me!” And here I am.
D: That’s incredible. What do your friends and family back in Barcelona think?
F: Umm, I’ve been always saying that I’m coming back next year. So, you know, for six years I’m like “Yah, next year I’ll come back, next year I’ll come back!” and I think now they don’t think I’m coming back. [laughs] But umm, no, I mean… I’m pretty sure they are not very happy but I go back. And for the first time, during last Christmas, my family came to visit and they could see the way I live here and now they understand why I’ve been here for six years. So, that was like a relief for me, showing them my world here, my friends, and where I live and they were like “Okay, now it makes a lot of sense.” Spain is a really nice country and Barcelona is a nice city, but Australia and Sydney are not too bad either.
D: I can relate to that. The same thing happened when my parents came to Granada. I feel like they were finally able to understand the lifestyle I had and why I loved it so much.
F: Yah, yah, yah. It’s important, it’s really important.
D: For sure! And Fernando, for you, what’s the biggest thing you’ve learned so far from your time abroad in Australia?
F: Well, Australians like to drink a lot, way more than Spanish people—
P: That’s true.
F: —and they celebrate everything drinking beer. And I think in Spain we drink more alcohol, but here they just drink until they get wasted.
P: Not me!
F: [laughs] Yah, you do!
P: Not me!
F: [laughs] No, it’s just another culture. And when you live abroad you’re learning everyday. I guess the biggest [lesson] is about yourself, you learn about yourself. You are in a completely different culture and, in my case—well, most of the cases—in a different language, and you just need to survive, make friends, and you learn parts of your personality that you wouldn’t even develop in your country or your comfort [zone].
P: Yah, that’s true.
F: So yah, when you live abroad, for me, it’s just everyday I work, and making friends in the shops. It’s just so different to Spain so I’m going to learn a lot about myself and I think that’s the most important thing.
D: For sure. Alright, well, going back to Pat. How did you learn Spanish? Was it all through the university courses?
P: That and Fernando, basically. So, before going over to Madrid I thought I had a pretty good understanding and a pretty good foundation of everything. And it was pretty beneficial learning, doing all the groundwork, and learning the grammar, studying the grammar, word-for-word and tense-by-tense. And then having that to go over, I felt really—and speaking with Fernando all the time—I felt really confident about just jumping straight in, going over there and thinking “Sweet, I can have a conversation!” And then, I remember the first time I spoke in Spain, I literally… all my teachers were South American. And obviously it’s a different way of—
P: No, no, no. All my teachers in Sydney were South American. And so I was learning 1.) a very formal way and 2.) the South American way of saying things. And you guys [Spanish speakers] have a lot of differences. I’m just remembering walking into a bar and the first thing the bartender says is “Qué te pongo?” [“what can I put for you?”] and I was just like “What!?” I was expecting “Qué vas a tomar?” [“What are you going to have?”] and I knew nothing else. That just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t sum that up—qué. te. pongo?—in my head. I was like “What!? What I put you?” I’m like “What?” I don’t know, just guessing. And I remember my stomach—because it was after a year and a half and my confidence just went like this [plummeting hand gesture]—my stomach just dropped. Yah, I moved in with an American guy, a Mexican girl, and a Spanish guy and I spent a lot of time just listening to the Spanish guy with his friends—he was always in the living room. The speed was one thing that was so hard to get used to, but just watching the TV and I think it took me literally about three months to just not have to focus to understand it without having to pay attention to every word.
D: That’s still pretty good! I mean, that’s impressive.
P: Oh thanks. But yah, I was really, in and out of class, when I was learning, I just loved it. It’s just a passion of mine and I didn’t see it as a chore to go and do homework. I actually used my free time to go and study it, which was helpful.
D: Nice. So what made you want to sing in Spanish? Because this is a little bit different…
F: [laughs] Es complicado. (It’s complicated) Because I don’t know how to sing! [laughs] Because I’m a really bad singer, so we had no other option.
P: [laughs] Nah, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do since starting to learn Spanish. To write a song and end up singing stuff in Spanish. Fernando and I wrote that, we wrote the tune, and then we were like “Who’s gonna sing it?” So yah, I’ve been singing for, like, a few years now and I don’t think you’ve been…
F: Yah, I’ve never been singing. I’ve been playing music—guitar and base—for a lot of years but I’ve never been good at singing, so I was like “I might try, once we get the song going, but I know Pat sings much better than me.” And my problem was, well, we need him to sound Spanish, and his Spanish is really good but the way of singing in Spanish is completely different—the accent and the way you pronounce the words, sometimes you change it, depending on what will work. So for him, it was a completely different experience. For me, it’s much easier singing in Spanish.
P: Yah, while we’re recording, Fernando is actually coaching me phrase-by-phrase. Because, yah, like he said, the stress—even if there is a part of the word where the stress or accent should land—it changes in Spanish, just as a rule of thumb with song-writing. Which was hard to get a grip of because you spent all this time learning where to put the stress and then you have to now sing a melody to it and change the whole word.
D: I never thought of that.
P: Yah, it’s odd.
D: So in that sense, is it much harder for you to sing in Spanish than to speak? Or how would you compare the two?
P: Yah, it’s definitely harder. Well, what I think sounds alright, apparently, Fernando will say apparently it’s not. And listening to more Spanish stuff I’m realizing that you can be a bit more creative with it, you know. I’m thinking where all the accents should lie, more like singing in English, do you know what I mean? And I think there’s a much more technical approach.
F: Yah, that specific style of music, we call it rumba flamenca, flamenco fusion, or whatever you want to call it. And it’s got a different accent. Well, not accent but way of singing. Like if you were, for example, singing rock or pop, it’s got a very straight voice and a little bit different intonation and melody. So, obviously Pat has been working in music for so many years but he’s been working on that type of music. I did, back in my days in Spain, I was playing in a few bands in that style. So, for me, I’m much more familiar with that type of singing and music. And, for Pat, it was something completely new.
D: Okay, so how would you describe your musical style? What genre do you fall into?
F: Yah, rumba flamenca. It’s clearly rumba, it is. If you show the song to any Spanish person they will tell you that it’s like rumba flamenca or rumba pop. The basic style is rumba, rumba catalana.
P: I definitely think there’s a lot of pop elements and—
F: Rumba australiana! (Australian rumba!)
P: [laughs] Yah, that’s what we’re calling it. A lot of pop influences as well.
D: Well, that’s cool that you’re putting your own spin on it. I think that’s what makes it unique and modern as well.
P: Yah, I think the fact that we don’t know what we’re doing is giving it its unique spin. So we’ll just roll with it; we’ll claim that—rumba, from now on.
F: It’s a really interesting mix. I mean, not many bands can say “sometimes I speak in Spanish and he answers in English and sometimes we talk in English, sometimes we talk in Spanish.” It’s that mix of influences, my Spanish music background, with his more like Australian, or English, music background so I think it works!
D: Definitely, that’s really cool. So what is the process like? I mean you were mentioning the different languages you speak and how you’ve kind of helped Pat with every line as you go. What is it like when you’re writing your songs and then when you’re producing them?
P: Well, you started the lyrics…
F: Yah, I had an idea. Usually in terms of the music, I had an idea …. Pat had an idea, and then we kinda put it together. We started playing that type of style that I’m familiar with. And in terms of the lyrics I had an idea about the compositions, what I wanted to talk about, and we basically wrote it together, I would say. I had a little more input because it’s my language. We wrote the song literally together, I would say.
P: I think it’s cool, we jammed. I think we played out some melody and had the verse and chorus melody all figured out. And then Fernando went home and knotted out the main concept and topic of the song, which was revisiting…
F: Yah, like an old love and heartbreak and some…
P: Bittersweet. Didn’t you say “bittersweet emotions”?
F: Yah! I couldn’t think of it—emociones encontradas is like some bittersweet emotions. You know, when you run into someone that you know you felt something but at the same time you are happy, so it’s mixed emotions. But at the end you just realize that you’re happy where you are.
D: Interesting. Okay, so talking specifically about your first song. I know that’s a bit of the background but do you have any specific inspiration or reason that you started with this song?
F: No, I guess it’s about experiences in life. And yah, it was just like your past experience in love. The best songs, in my opinion, in the history of music come from the situations that are not very comfortable within yourself or with your past relationships. That was about it. To be honest, some parts of the song, they don’t make much sense. [laughs] But the general idea is running into that person that, you know, you had some emotions for back in the day and you’re thinking that you’re happy to see that person, but at the same time sad. And then you just realize that at the end of the song, it’s just a party. Saying that you are much more happy with where you are with your life at the moment.
P: I think it’s like coming to terms with being content and not regretting your decision, you know, of [not] maybe getting back with that person or anything but being content with yourself and your direction—your path that you’re on now. And kinda putting that all behind you and feeling good about it, rather than… you know? It’s a sense of closure towards the end. When it hits that end section where it gets more upbeat and less moody and more happy, and just party, it’s that sense of closure and just, yah, getting on with it.
D: Sure, no that’s nice. I like that there’s that progression—kinda like an arc throughout the song.
P: Fernando put the lines at the end of the song [laughs]—I even had to ask him what they meant! But the first one is, well it had “being without you” throughout that end section, which is the chant. And then that first line is “now I have more space in the fridge.” [laughs]
F: It’s true!!
P: Yah. So I think that was the humor behind it, that they were not profound lyrics but they were pretty insignificant things in terms of the song being deep. But that’s what made it funny; we wanted to, you know, put a bit of humor into the song.
D: Definitely. Oh, very nice. And do you guys have plans for the future? Any other songs in the works?
F: Yah, we’re gonna be touring the world soon! [laughs] No…
D: You should!
F: If you get a gig in Granada, we’ll go there tomorrow, like even swimming! But yah, we have a couple songs that we are working on at the moment or in the pipeline and we wanna… [laughs]
F: Yah, pipeline, isn’t it true?
P: Yah, you got it.
F: Yah, that’s what I say at work—pipeline, “in the pipeline”! Umm, see I’m learning always words with him and he’s learning words with me in Spanish. In the pipeline, we have a few songs. Now, we are working on a new song and the idea, I think, we don’t have any long-term ideas but we wanna keep releasing a few songs and let’s see! If people like them, we’ll keep releasing songs and finally start making a couple gigs, maybe, here in Sydney.
P: Yah, yah!
D: Excellent. And where can everybody find your music?
P: Spotify. It’s on all the normal social media platforms. We’ve yet to make a Facebook, which we will do ASAP, but the Instagram Monta Lío is “monta.lio.” And Spotify it’s just Monta Lío, yah. It’s all the same!
D: Yah, well we’ll be sure to link to that, as well, in the blog post.
D: Great. Well, anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up?
F: I wanna say hello to my mom, she’s watching now from home.
D: Aww. “Hola mama…”
P: Do it in Spanish!
F: Hola mama! Te quiero mucho, te echo de menos! Y el butano? (Hello, mom. I love you very much, I miss you!)
Is the butano guy coming or not?*
D: I guess not, he’s usually very early on Saturday mornings, but it doesn’t seem like he’s coming today. [laughs]
P: And do you and Claudia speak Spanish?
D: We do, yah. Between ourselves we almost always speak in English because it’s both of our first languages, being from the US, but with our other friends and just in the outside world, in general, we’ll speak Spanish.
P: And what do you do for work over there?
D: So, I’ve worked mostly as an English teacher but recently I’ve transitioned to being a writer.
P: Oh, awesome. That’s so cool.
D: No song lyrics, but just like stories and stuff like that—on top of the blog.
P: If you think of any stories, maybe we can turn them into a song!
D: Ooo, that could be interesting! I’ll let you know.
P: We’ll just follow the blog.
D: Perfect, yah, for sure. Well thank you guys so much for doing this, it was a lot of fun!
P: Thank you for having us, Dani!
F: Thank you!
*Before our interview I had warned Pat and Fernando that the butano man (the man who delivers butane and propane gas) might come by and make a lot of noise. For more information on how that works in Spain, you can check out this article.