On the “story” page of her Moni Moni website, world renowned handbag and accessory designer and entrepreneur Cinzia Moniaci defines a “Moni Moni Girl” as “someone who doesn’t follow trends, she sets them and knows how to have fun with it.” Setting the pace in the design world, she’s enjoyed the patronage of top Hollywood fashionistas, from Halle Berry, Kristen Bell and Ashlee Simpson to Selma Blair, Emmy Rossum and Jessica Alba. While flourishing in this realm, the Italian born, Los Angeles based modern day Renaissance Woman has also been pursuing her other great passion, music, and laying the groundwork for her career as a solo artist. Embracing her full creative potential as a powerhouse vocalist and songwriter, Cinzia emerges full throttle with a self-titled debut EP infused with hope and driven by her dual love for alternative rock and electronica.
Those who know Cinzia, whose high school nickname was “Moni Moni,” best for her boho chic and classic Italian designs will be delightfully surprised and instantly impacted by the soaring, rock and roll vocals that fuel these four infectious tracks. While the CiNZiA EP marks her solo debut, she has been the lead singer in two unique bands (featuring her guitarist husband Rico Quevedo) that have been popular both in her native Italy and in her longtime home of L.A. Their early 2000s band Bionica – whose Indian/global pop sound was inspired by their many travels to Asia – earned major label interest and licensed songs to hit TV shows like “Dawson’s Creek,” “Charmed,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” Their later group, the alt rock band The Perfect Nines, released two projects (including a self-titled debut in 2009 and the EP Heartbreaker in 2013) and performed regularly at L.A. hotspots The Viper Room, Hotel Café and Saint Rocke in Manhattan Beach.
Fronting those bands, Cinzia worked with some of rock’s most acclaimed producers, including John Avila (Oingo Boingo, Reel Big Fish), Ross Robinson (Korn, Limp Bizkit, The Cure) and Jim Wirt (Incubus, Fiona Apple, Alien Ant Farm). For her new EP, she sought out a producer who could perfectly fuse the intimate soul of a rock oriented singer songwriter with electronica tracks that would add dramatic, symphonic energy behind her soaring vocals. She found the perfect mix in Warren Huart, whose extensive resume includes The Fray (including the Grammy nominated hit “How To Save A Life”), Augustana, James Blunt, Korn and Aerosmith. Huart performed all instruments on the EP, with the exception of the drums on “Do You Believe,” played by Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction.
“Too often these days, when you hear a band that tries to be alternative, the intimacy of the singer-songwriter is lost in the mix, hidden behind the big production,” says Cinzia. “That’s what I consider a very millennial approach. Warren is amazing at balancing the two elements, a powerful production that also features the emotion of the vocal up front. For the EP, I wanted something more eclectic, retro and traditional. Our process was pretty straightforward. I wrote the songs and brought them to him at his studio in Laurel Canyon and he laid down the multi-textured tracks that gave them life. When I was in Bionica, there was what I call a ‘female superhero’ vibe at the forefront. With the exception of artists like Florence and The Machine and Lana Del Rey, that powerful female voice these days is often drowned out in the production. Warren helped me capture that feeling in these tracks and launch an exciting new sound for me that I am very excited about.”
Lyrically, Cinzia explains that the common denominator of the EP’s four songs is a message of hope, which is in line with her entire career as a songwriter. “It’s inspirational,” she says, “but less in a religious way than offering a sense of interior strength that comes from experience.” The symphonic mid-tempo power ballad “Do You Believe” is a personal yet universal tune that opens up about the process of grief. “I wrote it because I lost someone dear to me,” she says. “The song addresses the question, ‘Does time erase the pain, and is there a life after life?’ Whether they’re mourning the loss of a person or a relationship, it brings a sense of hope and strength, the realization that there’s a way out of the pain.”
The contemplative anthem-like pop-rock ballad “The Answer” taps into our never-ending soul searching as we search for answers to life’s bigger (and sometimes overwhelming) questions. Always a socially conscious writer, Cinzia was inspired by the injustices she observed when traveling for business to territories without ample resources to help native people live prosperous lives. She thought hard about the relative opulence of Europe and American and the contrast between her homelands and those countries that lack even the basic necessities. She says, “If you have a question you doubt will ever be answered, where do you start looking? I think that begins inside of us. We all tend to doubt ourselves at times, but it’s good to reflect on our ability to bring joy and brightness to the lives of others.”
The CiNZiA EP also includes the spirited, hypnotically grooving “Run Through the Moments,” a tune about reflecting on a relationship that is ending, which advocates for self awareness and deep reflection to figure out where the shift took place. It runs like an interior dialogue of what each person has said to the other at any given time. The set concludes with “Tomorrow,” a dramatic song of hope and “light in the darkness” that was inspired by Cinzia experiencing an earthquake in the theatre while seeing the hit sci-fi action film Divergent. “It was empowering watching a female superhero and the strength that comes from experiencing a post apocalyptic world,” she says. “The song is one that I feel aligns perfectly with the themes in the movie. It was my way of inserting myself into the narrative!”
From TV fashion journalist with a PhD in Communications to acclaimed songwriter and performer, Cinzia Moniaci has a rich creative background that has led to the creation of Moni Moni handbags in 2005 and her continued evolution as a musical artist. Born and raised in Turin, Italy, she grew up listening to indie rock and embraced the sounds of eclectic bands and artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction, Bjork and Beck. She formed her first electronica band at 15, then created and became the lead singer of the band Blush while studying in Paris at the Sorbonne, where she moved when she was 18. Later moving to L.A. to pursue her fashion ambitions, she immersed herself into her husband Rico’s musical world, which was part European indie and part alt rock. Likewise, the singer drew inspiration from both Italy and SoCal to create her collection. She launched her handbags and accessory business after receiving a scholarship to FIDM from the Italian government and opening a showroom at California Mart in L.A.’s fashion district. She is currently in the process of doing a licensing deal to create and sell designer sunglasses.
“My fashion line took off much faster and stronger than I ever could have anticipated,” says Cinzia, “but through it all, I have been committed to developing as a singer-songwriter. Traveling the world with my brand and raising a young daughter have given me many unique experiences to draw from as an artist, and I am really excited about this new solo project and the unique sound I have created working with Warren. It was a pleasure to leave the sonic magic to him and free myself to work on recording the best vocals possible. I enjoyed every moment working in his studio. It was exciting to have the opportunity to drive to another place across town, where I was free from all of my fashion industry responsibilities and could immerse completely in my musical passions.”