'munro' Marks Next Chapter of Ian Munro’s Artistic Evolution
Few artists embody the idea of artistic evolution better than Ian Munro. The New Zealand-based producer and vocalist first made waves with the hard-hitting trap sound of his debut EP Stay Lit on Quality Goods Records. Over the past half-decade, each release has seen the artist refine and grow. “Fever Dream” and his sophomore EP Liminal showcased pieces of his prior sound but opened up a deeper and more emotional side of his art. The latter direction is something he’s continued to lean into over the years with Solipism and Let Her Alone, For Now, exploring moody indie electronic tendencies. The sonic differences could seem jarring if the evolution weren’t so fluid and honest. Each release appears to unlock a new dimension of Ian as an artist and person.
This year sees Ian Munro’s most impactful progression. Dropping his first name, simplifying his brand to munro, and refining his sonic offering once again. munro builds upon the foundation he’s laid over the years, blending experimental production and stirring vocal performances with a fresh UKG-influenced approach which shines through on his first release under the new moniker “Ever Day (Is Always The Same).”
The birth of munro marks a new chapter in the artist’s journey, but what prompted the name change? “I think it was a long time coming. I’d been releasing music under my birth name since I was what, 15? I’m certainly not the same person I was then — I wouldn’t even say I’m the same person I was a year ago. It feels like the more refined version of what I was trying to achieve previously,” munro tells us.
The artist elaborates on the importance of simplification, saying, “I’ve always loved how personal it felt releasing music under my name. And I didn’t want to lose that by rebranding. Munro felt like a happy medium between personal but gave me a bit of room to separate myself from the music.”
Throughout munro’s journey, his relationship with Quality Goods Records has been constant. Other notable labels, including bitbird and Lowly Palace, have released his music. However, QGR has always felt like home.
“The QGR family were honestly the first industry people to take a chance on me and really recognise the vision. UZ has always been an inspiration to me, and his legacy from DJ, to producer, to tastemaker is unrivaled. To be honest, it’s just refreshing to work with a team that actually gives a fuck,” munro explains.
Some artists jump from genre to genre, running after the next wave. Munro has never been one to chase. Instead, his evolution is a result of self-reflection and personal growth.
“I feel like music is so tied in with my state of being — it’s definitely in a state of constant flux. When I started out with QGR, it was all still so new to me, I was so excited by it all, just playing around in my bass music era. Call it chapters, call it whatever, I think it’s impossible for artists not to change and evolve over time. As their tastes change [and] livelihoods change.”
UK garage is a big part of his new sonic direction. The genre isn’t a new flame for munro but rather a piece of him that’s been waiting to be unlocked and explored.
Munro drifts into nostalgia as he recalls his upbringing in Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand.
“Growing up in Aotearoa, there’s always been a pretty deep-rooted UK bass music culture, a lot of drum and bass, a lot of that classic UK dubstep. It’s been there, but I really fell into it in the future garage era [through] Koan Sound, Stumbleine, Sorrow, Burial, etc. Those really lush, wet-sounding soundscapes. I have this strangely detailed memory of reading The Handmaid’s Tale in high school English with Stumbleine’s “Leave The Light On” remix (on repeat) on my little orange iPod shuffle. I guess I’ve always wanted to explore this world, but I held myself back — who knows why.”
Nostalgia isn’t just a part of our conversation. It’s embedded in his brand. His artist motto promises “future nostalgia,” a concept that seems counterintuitive until you hear his work and listen to him explain it for himself.
“I’ve always had a disdain for how fleeting contemporary dance music is, especially in the bass scene. A record comes out, gets rinsed for like a week, then fades into obscurity. I missed the timelessness of the dance classics, especially from the early UKG world. With the munro project, I’m trying to write music that exists in the past, present, and future. Referencing the classics with a forward-thinking twist.” Munro doubles down on this saying, “You pick up a random record, and you can’t pinpoint if it was made today, next week or thirty years ago? That’s the goal.” Timelessness is a lofty target, but why not aim high when creating?
A big part of the timeless effort comes from crafting emotionally powerful music. Whether it’s giving you butterflies, creating a sense of melancholy, exploring heartbreak, or drifting through the darkness, each release is part of munro’s soul. Putting one’s soul on display can be cathartic for some and exhausting for others. He says it’s a bit of both.
“It’s hard and it’s therapeutic. But healing is hard! I found my voice through music and I’m so grateful for it. I wouldn’t have been able to make the huge leaps I made in my personal wellness journey. It’s easy though to play the tortured artist trope, and I definitely fell down that rabbit hole. I can honestly say, mental illness aside, I’m so fulfilled with my art, no matter how draining (or rewarding) it may be,” he admits.
Openness seems to be one of munro’s most endearing qualities, musically and personally. After struggling for years to find his footing, it seems a sense of clarity is on the horizon.
“We talk about the pin dropping a lot and it’s funny when it happens. I think Covid really had a lot to play in that. I was already falling downwards, but the pandemic really accelerated the fall. That rock bottom really was the flooring I needed to push through. I’ve come to terms with my diagnoses and have learned to accept that they’ll be with me for life. I’ve been sober for a year and a half now and that’s really brought a whole new world of clarity. Trying just to exist more and not live inside my head. It’s slow but it’s steady,” munro reflects.
Existing more and not living inside one’s head is a goal we can all relate to. Munro is gearing up to live by those words. He’s been hoarding music as he prepared his rebrand, and it’s finally time to start letting it go. His new single “Better Off Not Knowing” with dabl is out now, and he promises more collaborations are on the way.
The next chapter for munro feels riddled with promise as the ever-evolving artist continues to unveil more of himself with each release.