Live Photos and Interview: Monowhales at Lee’s Palace in Toronto

Toronto alt-rock group Monowhales packed Lee’s Palace on October 21, 2022, to deliver an exhilarating performance on the Tunnel Vision tour. Released in September 2022, Tunnel Vision is the band’s latest album, a project that sees Monowhales stepping fully into their distinct sound and charisma. As the band prepared to play for an excited hometown crowd, we squeezed into the cozy green room at Lee’s Palace to have a chat with Jordan Circosta, Sally Shaar, and Zach Zanardo about their growth as a band and what playing home in Toronto meant to them on this tour.

For those of us who have been listening to your music for the past several years, fans have been able to see you really grow as artists. The new album Tunnel Vision feels like a distinctly Monowhales release. How has your approach to songwriting developed and shifted throughout the years?

Zach: I think it just leaned into accepting ourselves and doing what we do rather than trying to make it perfect. Like you said, it sounds a lot more like Monowhales. Yeah, it really is, for better or for worse, it’s like, “Okay, I guess this is us. Let’s just put it out there and embrace our uniqueness. Even though sometimes you don’t like seeing it in the mirror.” That’s what we want to keep pushing towards.

That’s a good path to be on.

Jordan: Yeah, it’s kind of the only path that’ll let us continue. We have to feel like we’re being true to ourselves, which is hard to do when you’re not necessarily a group of people that’s fully come to terms with who we are. I feel like part of the story of the band is just accepting ourselves as individuals and going through that whole journey with self-esteem, and just feeling okay with who we are so that we can come together as a band. We can make something that feels honest. That’s like, a 30-year journey that is still continuing.

Monowhales at Lee's Palace in Toronto. Photo by Cassandra Popescu

Monowhales at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Photo by Cassandra Popescu

How has your approach to preparing for a live show changed over the years?

Zach: We’ve had the luxury of foresight to plan more accordingly, and practice for like, a couple of weeks before going out on the road, rather than just, like, “Oh, we got a show in two weeks, and we need new material! I don’t even know if we know how to play it!” We really put this set through the ropes this summer and feel really happy with the decisions we made and feel super confident.

Having gone through that experience of needing to come up with new material quickly, or put on a show last minute, do you feel like that has helped at all in your development?

Jordan: Good question. I don’t know – I don’t know if it helps. It’s definitely not smart!

Zach: Well, we’ve been here doing that for years and made it through. So if anything, it has taught us resilience. It taught us to get through very stressful situations as a group.

As your career has grown, your fan base and audience has grown along with you. It seems like fan interaction and fan engagement has remained a core value for you. With each new tour and release, what do you do to keep that fan appreciation as your focus?

Jordan: I think it’s just always top of mind. It’s just like a thing that’s always been a part of what we do. We’re only performing so that we can connect with people. And that connection is a really precious thing that we don’t take for granted. So, it’s built into the way that we operate. I don’t think we ever, like, sat around a table and made a decision to do that. It’s just always been a big part of it from day one.

Monowhales at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. Photo by Cassandra Popescu

You’re playing a packed Lee’s Palace hometown show. What does that mean to you?

Zach: The world! It’s a really nice thing to travel across this whole country and then come back home and play to our core fan base. We’ve been doing this for a long time. We played Lee’s before, and I played one of my first shows here. I played here underage, like a million years ago. Almost didn’t get in for that show. So it’s a special place to be here, especially to play to a packed room.

Jordan: Yeah, coming out of the pandemic too, we haven’t really played Toronto. We played a lot of shows, but we haven’t really played Toronto in a club since 2019, where we played The Horseshoe Tavern. So yeah, this feels like home.

Sally: This time, we’re ready. In the past, we’ve been really nervous about a Toronto show. But we feel ready, and we’re here with everybody….It’s friends, family, and fans. I mean, this is community. 


Cassandra Popescu

Cassandra Popescu

Contributor at ADDICTED
Cassandra is a writer and photographer based in Toronto, Ontario. In 2015, she picked up a camera and dove into concert photography. Since then, she has covered events like Festival d'été de Québec, Wayhome, Toronto Urban Roots Festival, Field Trip, Canadian Music Week, NXNE, and many more.
Cassandra Popescu