Mona

author PP date 08/03/11

As I'm sitting at the top floor of Radisson Blu Royal, arguably the finest hotel in Copenhagen, interviewing newcomers Mona and their vocalist Nick Brown regarding their self-titled debut album due to be released through Island/Universal in a few month's time, I'm watching the unmatched view of Copenhagen from above and can't help but wonder: what the fuck are we doing here? The music industry is supposed to be in shambles due to piracy if you are to believe the propaganda reports from IFPI, BPI and RIAA, and here we have a major label shoveling money by the truckloads to promote a band that hasn't released a single record yet, hiring space in the top floor of a five-star hotel (not to even mention the rooms for the band) to host a few prominent magazines coming over for a talk. Sure, Mona is quite a good band for one that hasn't released anything but a few singles yet, and Nick Brown has that rock star aura surrounding him already complete with a light vibe of arrogance and passion when he answers my question, but the setting is more suitable for U2 or Rolling Stones than a band of Mona's size. Makes this scribe place a puzzled question mark on the business model of the major label industry as a whole. Megalomaniac spending aside, read on for an introduction to Mona, a rock band that's supposed to be the next big thing according to many "bands to watch in 2011" awards.

RF.net: How's the tour going?
Nick Brown: It's going great. Pretty much everything has been at capacity. The response has been unbelievable. I can't complain.

RF.net: You could say that Mona is a brand new band for everybody here in Denmark and most of Europe as well, given that you guys haven't released a single record yet. Maybe you can start by telling me the story of how the band was formed?
Nick Brown: I started the band in Dayton, Ohio. I grew up with our drummer Vince, and we had played music together in church. Basically we were playing with some guys and started playing out in bars and stuff like that. We started selling out basically every bar that we could play in, so we thought that maybe we had a shot at this thing. Vince and I left and we moved to Nashville just because LA and New York was too expensive and we were broke white trash, so we didn't have a whole lot of options. I moved down to Nashville first, and actually slept and lived in my car for a little bit until we could find a place to live. Then we started playing down there and through that we met Zach, our bass player, who was in another band at the time, and that kind of came to an end and we caught him and asked him to join forces. Then we needed a guitar player and through Zach we met Jordan. So the current lineup has been around about a year, and since then it's been good.

RF.net: How would you introduce the sound of Mona to somebody who has never listened to you guys before? I've read online comparisons to for example Kings Of Leon?
Nick Brown: Yeah. We sound like them, just not southern, and just different [chuckles]. I think comparisons are lazy, but that's what humans do. I've read everything from a northern Kings Of Leon to early U2, The Clash. People need examples because that's the way our brains work, but it definitely has its own personality and its own flavor. We're not trying to re-invent the wheel. It's straight forward rock and roll songs. They're lofty ideas and there's a certain ambition and longing that goes along with our music. It's not just indie. I think indie is for cowards...so yeah, there's a little bit of all that stuff in the music, but it definitely still has its own fingerprint.

RF.net: You said indie is for cowards?

Nick Brown: Yeah. I think indie music as a do it yourself thing is great. I think some people just call themselves indie because they're scared to be anything but that. I think it's become kind of a genre thing, where it's safe for someone to say that. Like "oh, we're indie". So if there's only a few people at your show and this little small group of people are into it, then you can call it indie instead of unsuccessful. But I think there's a certain kind of music that needs to do that as well. So it's not like I'm bashing it for everyone, but I think that it has just become...especially in the States, and even in London, there are these bands who go kind of like "yeah we're indie!" and for me, I kind of know what that means. You're just not going to be around that long. Like I said there are some bands that need to be that, who are artists and are great and should be respected. For us, we have much bigger ideas. From the middle of America where it's McDonald's and Starbucks, you know, Wall-Mart, where it's big and it's for everybody, and it's accessible. I want people singing our songs in Japan and I wanna hear the chants at the end of "Teenager" come back to me in a Danish accent. I think these songs are for everybody. For us, there's a much broader spectrum of what we're shooting for.

RF.net: You mentioned some band names before. Who would you say then have been the inspiration, maybe for you and then the band as a whole?
Nick Brown: I think it's probably pretty equal. Stuff that the band connects on is Nirvana, Pixies, The Clash, early U2, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. Me, more personally, it's more of the The Clash, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee, Elvis, a lot of the soul stuff like Martin Gaye, and Bob Dylan is probably my favorite.

RF.net: So that's a lot of classic bands from the old days. Would you say then that as a band Mona is going for the sort of classic rock'n'roll sound?

Nick Brown: Yeah, it's not like we're looking back to try to emulate anything. We related to that. I'm definitely into timeless. I think that there are some songs that have come out in the last several years that are just as timeless as an Elvis song, but I'm just into timeless. I'm not into trendy or fads.

RF.net: I've read that your band name is based on your grandmother, Mona Brown, so how come you decided to go with that?
Nick Brown: I don't know, I just said it once and it felt good. I just think that there's something kind of ironic about four rock and roll dudes who have a band named after...it's a beautiful name, a female name, I like the tension and release, I like the dualism and things. Plus my grandmother was from that era. She was a musician, it's definitely about acknowledging your roots and acknowledging your heritage. I just think it's important.

RF.net: So it's not weird for the rest of the guys in the band to be in a band that's called after your grandmother?

Nick Brown: No, I mean I started the band. They joined me. They came along and joined a vision that was already going. So all four of us didn't just start this band together. I started it myself, and then Vince, and then Zach, and then Jordan. But everyone is proud of it, we all know each other's families, they know my family, and even though my grandmother is dead, they know my father. And it was his mother, they know my sisters and all that kind of stuff, and we're all close. They're proud that it's family related.

RF.net: Your due to release your self-titled debut album on May 16th through Island Records, a subsidiary of Universal. I guess a lot of people would like to know how you guys managed to get straight into a major label instead of going through the usual route of releasing like a one really successful record and then getting noticed?
Nick Brown: Yeah, I mean when you got the goods, you don't have to do the bullshit. We got to skip a lot of stuff because we took time. It took a lot longer than what people realize. "Listen To Your Love", our first single, was released on my own label Zion Noiz. We worked long and hard making the right connections and letting the right people hear the music. I believe in working hard, but I also believe in working smart. I think sometimes bands go through these things where they sign a deal and it's probably not that smart, and then they get into a situation where they wanna go up, and they have to get bought out by a major. There's all this kind of stuff, these processes. I didn't want to deal with any of that, I wanted to wait until it was right and just kind of shoot for the moon type thing. We got lucky, too. It's not like I just think "oh we're so awesome and we deserve this". There are a lot of talented people who work their asses off just like we did that never make it and never get the same chances that we did. So we're very humble and grateful. But at the same time we're proud of what we do and we think it's worth it. We carry ourselves like that, and people are drawn to that. When we started meeting with labels, we weren't eager to jump to their hoops. A lot of bands think "okay please yeah we'll sign". And we were like "fuck you, this is the way we're doing it, if you're not interested, go fuck yourself". I think they responded to that with the idea of "there's something to this". An artist needs to be unmovable, and I'm pretty stubborn so it's a good combination.

RF.net: So what should music fans be expecting from the Mona debut album. Why should they go to the store on day one and buy a copy of it?
Nick Brown: Well for one, it's humans playing instruments, which is what music was originally supposed to be. Not robots and drum machines. Once again there's room for dance music, there's room for hip hop and pop, but I think that people need to be reminded that it's still an art form, not just entertainment. There's a lot of passion and honesty. I've said before that I want us to be the most human band on the planet, and what I mean by that is that if you have a human emotion, you want to touch it, no matter what it is. Now whether it's anger, rage, it could be crying, laughing, whatever may be, I talk about the three F's all the time: Faith, Fighting, and Fucking. That's what makes all humans tick. There's nothing else. We try to relate to those emotions. We want people to find themselves or lose themselves in something. I don't know the first time you heard Nirvana, or maybe it was Zeppelin, or maybe it was U2, The Beatles, whatever it was. It could've been The Pixies, Rolling Stones, there's a million of them. But I think everybody has that band that made them find themselves. It was human, there's a lot of passion. We're trying to be passionate and honest with this stuff. It's pretty simple, but sadly enough it's more rare these days.

RF.net: I read that you guys produced the record yourselves in a basement in Nashville. And you had Rich Costey mix it. It has a really rich and large sound for a self-production, so I'm curious to hear how you were able to get such a large sound out of so little?
Nick Brown: I just kind of had it in my head what I wanted it to sound like. If you'd see our basement, you'd laugh, it's smaller than the room we're currently in. I messed around with the amps a lot, and the mic placement. I had sounds in my head and we just did it until I got those sounds off my head. It's not like I'm a proper...I mean I've learned a lot now obviously, but at the time I wasn't some proper engineer. I just knew what I wanted. I think that's powerful, I think that having a clear vision and ambition for anything...there's a will, there's a way type of thing. I didn't consciously try to make a big sounding thing, it was consciously just a certain feel that I was going for, more so than large.

RF.net: You guys have been nominated and awarded a number of those bands to look out for in 2011 sort of things. Do you feel any sort of pressure for the album to live up for the expectations?
Nick Brown: Not really man. I'm proud of our record. Once again, as an artist, you stick to your guns. I'm happy. If it comes out and people hate it, I don't really care. It's one of those things that if they like these first three singles that we've released, they'll like the rest of it. I think it's more about people getting involved for the ride of things and iTunes kind of fucked things up because it made people fall in love with the songs instead of bands, instead of artists, instead of albums. There's a cohesive context of things that make a composition, something that's beautiful. There's a tension and release, and there's a ride to an album that people don't experience as much anymore. For me, we're proud of the ride, we're proud of the whole composition. So yeah, there's no pressure. It can't be on your mind. You gotta just be proud of what you do.

RF.net: You played here last night in Loppen. How did that show go?
Nick Brown: I didn't like it. It was a weird, probably the worst show we've had on this tour. It was weird. I don't think it's Copenhagen's fault or the people's fault, I think there was just a lot of miscommunication on what was going down last night, but we'll move on from that.

RF.net: Okay, so otherwise when people to a Mona show, what should they be expecting?

Nick Brown: A lot of passion, a lot of energy, and even the people who came said...well, it'd take me too long to explain everything but there was a lot of troubleshooting we had to deal with, but they said they were really surprised at how much energy and how intense it was, even in a not the best of situations. And that's the thing. We give it all no matter what. We've played to nine people, we've played to thousands. So it's about the passion, it's about the energy, and we're excited about the songs, excited about the music, so we're gonna give it our best every time.

RF.net: The last question I have is: what has been the most memorable part of the last 12 months would you say?
Nick Brown: There's a lot of them. Just signing a deal in general was a big thing. It doesn't happen that often, especially at this level that it happened for us. That was a big "this is really happening" thing. But there has been several, getting to hang out with Arcade Fire and Robert Plant on the same day, and then get to see them all play, that was pretty amazing. There has been a few things. Winning the MTV Brand New thing was pretty cool, because usually a pop artist wins that, so for rock'n'roll to kind of...plus the people vote, so for us it was really huge to know we have that kind of support from our fans.

RF.net: Great. Thanks for the interview!

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