If you were to look up the meaning of the word Zoongide’ewin, you’d find that it’s an Ojibway term meaning “bravery, courage, the Bear Spirit”, which is exactly why musician Daniel Monkman chose Zoon as his musical mantle. Throughout his life, the 28-year-od artist has faced struggles involving racism, poverty, and addiction – things which have irrevocably shaped his perspective on the world and how it groups certain individuals based on subjective labels.
Born and raised in a small prison town outside of Winnipeg, he quickly learned how his First Nations heritage earned him ridicule and caused him to be victimized by a wide range of ignorant people. These difficulties led him to alcohol and drugs, but he was able to confront and combat these dangerous impulses through 12-step program that focused on spiritual guidance and self-identity. This led him to embrace his passion for music, and Zoon was the result of that turmoil.
Mixing droning shoegaze rhythms with an opaque dream-pop density, he and his band create a sound as colossal as it is introspective. Using his own experiences as fodder, Monkman turns his pain into message of hope and resilience in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. He will release his debut record, Bleached Waves, on June 19 via Paper Bag Records. On his latest single, “Light Prism”, he concocts a nu-gaze wonder, splicing in MBV-style distortions with gorgeous Cocteau Twins-esque pop vagaries.
“‘Light Prism’ is a memory college,” he reveals. “Parts of it are from my time teaching around Turtle Island. While other imageries are of my hometown Selkirk. Selkirk was affected heavily by drugs and gangs and with that came deaths of youth whom I’d known. So musically I wanted it to be gentle. I didn’t want the song to have a chorus with a vocal melody so, I created a sample from scratch, spliced it up and reversed it to create an abstract instrumental melody. ‘Light Prism’ is also about reflection and being able to put things to rest.”
The accompanying video, directed by Drew Rutty, is built around overlaid images of the band, the use of colored filters, and a sense of visual exploration. The way the images fade in and out beneath these various hues provides the perfect backdrop for the wavy reverberations emanating from the song.
“The director and I put our heads together to come up with some aesthetic stylings that would fit thematically for the video,” Monkman says, “and from there the creativity bloomed. We immediately started experimenting with new lighting techniques that essentially formed the visual backbone of the video.”
“Working with Zoon on the ‘Light Prism’ video was an inspiring experience where I felt I was encouraged to think outside the box and create a visual experience as stimulating as the song itself,” explains Rutty. “What’s really cool about this project is that when we shot the footage for the video, I was not a part of the band. However, over the course of editing and adding a shifting pool of colour and light to the footage we had, Dan asked me to join the band as bassist. So even though the video features no one on bass, the reality is that the bassist is in the video by way of its creation and editing. Fun Easter egg for the fans out there!”
Rutty goes to say: “All in all, ‘Light Prism’ was a rewarding project to work on, and I think we’re all happy with the final look of the video and the way it fits with the beautiful song Daniel wrote.”