As one of 2011s hottest new acts ranking
highly in lots of Ones To Watch lists Mona (who are
managed by Suedes former label boss, Saul Galpern) are a band
armed with stadium-sized songs and even bigger dreams! Understandably,
press time with the group is now extremely precious, although I was
still fortunate enough to be able to put 10 quick questions to the guys
before their rocket-fuelled gig in Oxford supporting The Walkmen, where
all of Monas talk of writing music with honesty and worth
(think Springsteen playing The Clashs songbook) was more than
proven! But before our interview, and for the benefit of those of you
who may be unfamiliar with the bands backstory, heres their
complete official biography to feast your eyes on
Devotion. Faith. Abandonment. The ecstasy of
salvation, the salvation of ecstasy
Theres a thin line between
rocknroll and religion, and nowhere thinner than in the
intense, sharp, sweat-drenched, duelling-guitar euphoria of Mona. The
four-piece Nashville-based band or family, or gang, or band of
brothers are young, charismatic punk preachers. Theyll
testify to the thrill they get from hunkering down in a Nashville, Tennessee
basement, writing and recording the best debut album of 2011. Theyll
hymn the praises of visceral rock with heavenly fireworks in its soul.
They want to convert everyone they come across.
Mona are Sun Studios Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Perkins, Lewis, Cash) rebooted 54 years on. Theyre rock revivalists, in the sense that they like, as Nick puts it, the golden age of the United States the James Dean, Marilyn Monroe type stuff. This iconography and idealism, he says, informed the writing of Listen To Your Love and the reasons why it became their first single. It felt kinda reminiscent of some of the old stuff, he says of the song, released on already-rare and already-pricey seven-inch vinyl only. Even Roy Orbison-type melodies. But still, a little bit of a punk thing in there. It just felt like a good first introduction, a first impression. Nick and Vince grew up in Dayton, Ohio. They met via their church musical group. Says Nick, I needed a drummer and Vince needed an outlet. We didnt even get along as people, as friends, at all, it was more of a musical connection at first. The friendship thing developed much later. But at first, growing up in church and having a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, you want someone thats gonna play aggressively and have fun with it. And both of us were very zealous, even in the church, very passionate people. He beat the shit out of the drums and I used to break pianos. As musical support act to the pastor, they learnt how to improvise, and jam, to follow the flow of the service. Thats kinda how we view rocknroll now. I know theres a lot of stuff thats about scheduling with radio and TV and the market now, they want you to fit in to a thing. But weve always prided ourselves on the timelessness of the experience. Just let it happen. Even when we write we dont book writing sessions or schedule time to write. We just get together and whatever happens, happens. Zach Lindsey is from Bowling Green, located in a dry (booze-free) country in Kentucky. Whereas for Nick and Vince non-religious music was banned (Vince: but my mom would play me Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Police and tell me not to tell my dad ), in the bassists church non-religious music was tolerated. I was born listening to The Beatles. With musical options dead in the water in Dayton, Nick and Vince moved to Nashville. Why? Nick: It was five hours drive away as opposed to 14 hours to New York or 26 hours to LA. And way cheaper. Were a bunch of poor kids.
Once relocated to Americas Music City, they ran into Zach on the local gig scene. He in turn introduced them to Jordan Young, an old Kentucky friend who had grown up in the farm town of Breeding. Having gone through serial line-up upheaval including the bust-up with the unfortunate guitarist with the broken face Mona was complete. Now were four horses pulling the carriage, says Nick, whos worked on the idea for Mona for years not least because the band is named after his grandmother. Theres a lot of people that wanted to be in this band. Theres a lot of people that locally support this band. But as far as having people that understand their roles, and being happy with their roles, its chemistry, man. Its just like a relationship. Its a marriage. Nicks top-to-bottom vision for Mona encompasses everything from the archive pictures picked to feature on the largely monochromatic design of their MySpace; to only making the odd song available, and briefly (too many people have artistic bulimia, he spits, eat and puke it up and theyre onto the next thing. So we made people saviour it); to creating their own label Zion Noiz; to hammering out a major record company deal that, unusually, stacks things in the bands favour. In 2011, Mona wont be hard to find. Theyve already caused a rumpus in the UK this autumn, with the buzzed-about release of Listen To Your Love and two crushing-room-only London shows at Rough Trade East in Brick Lane and at The Flowerpot in Kentish Town. Their next release is the aggressively melodic Trouble On The Way. Nick: Its pretty self-explanatory theres a sound on the horizon and the volumes gonna grow. And even though we are full of ambition and very grandiose, at the end of the day its about having our own voice and our own career. And we wanna do this for the rest of our lives. And at the end of the day, despite that huge, dramatic claim, he says with a grin, were just four dudes making some noise in a garage and just having fun. After that, Teenager is scheduled to be their first fully commercially-available single. Nick: Its the song that sums up being a chump, dealing with love and hate and very basic human emotions.
The only thing slick about Mona is their hair. The rest is arm-pumping, vein-throbbing, knee-jittering, raw-throated, singalong rocknroll. Thank God theyve come.
1.In Keith Richards Autobiography, Life, he says that for
him, playing music is almost like riding a wild horse. But
how would you describe the feeling?
A very special thanks to Mona and to Andy @ DawBell, for all of their time and help.