|Featured Band (8): Dubbed "Princes of Leon," Nashville-Based Mona Want To Be "Bigger Than Bono"|
|Written by DJ Space|
|Wednesday, 15 December 2010 23:00|
"Mona are Sun Studio’s Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Perkins, Lewis, Cash) rebooted 54 years on," the band's Blog claims. "They’re rock revivalists, in the sense that they like, as Nick [Brown, Mona's founder and frontman] puts it, 'the golden age of the United States – the James Dean, Marilyn Monroe type stuff'.” Nashville-based Mona plays rock'n'roll "songs for the city folk" and its sound is a cross between the music of fellow Nashville band Kings of Leon and the American heartland rock of singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen.
This iconography and idealism, the Blog quotes Brown as saying, informed the writing of "Listen to Your Love" – and the reasons why it became the band's first single.
“It felt kinda reminiscent of some of the old stuff,” Brown said. “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.”
"They're old-fashioned... Boasting huge sounds and epic gestures, this bunch of 50s throwbacks are on a mission to be 'bigger than Bono,' Paul Lester reported in the Guardian. "You hear the line 'the major labels are going mad for them' a lot these days, but with Mona you can believe it."
On its Facebook page, Mona lists its influences as: Elvis, Jerry lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, The Ramones, Philip Glass, Tom Petty, The Velvet Underground, The Pixies, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Otis Redding, John Lennon and those other 3 guys, whiskey, red wine, and chocolate chip cookies.
Mona is based in Nashville, but it's not a truly local band. After travelling to New York City, where he "met with every label in existence," Ohio-raised Nick Brown has difficulty recalling the last time his band played on a Nashville stage. "We haven't played there in months — and maybe only a handful of times in the past year."
The band's line-up consists of Brown (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Vince Gard (drums), Zach Lindsey (bass), and Jordan Young (guitar).
Brown and Gard grew up in Dayton, Ohio. They met via their church musical group. “I needed a drummer and Vince needed an outlet," Brown related. "We didn’t even get along as people, as friends, at all, it was more of a musical connection at first."
"The friendship thing developed much later," he continued. "But at first, growing up in church and having a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, you want someone that’s 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.”
Zach Lindsey is from Bowling Green, located in a "dry" (alcohol-free) county in Kentucky. For Brown and Gard non-religious music was banned. “But my mom would play me Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Police and tell me not to tell my dad,” Gard explained. in the bassist’s church non-religious music was tolerated. “I was born listening to The Beatles,” Lindsey confirmed.
Once relocated to "America’s Music City," they ran into Lindsey on the local scene. He in turn introduced them to Jordan Young, an old Kentucky friend who had grown up in the farm town of Breeding.
“Now we’re four horses pulling the carriage,” Brown said. He’s worked on the “idea” for Mona for years – not least because the band is named after his grandmother. “There’s a lot of people that wanted to be in this band. There’s a lot of people that locally support this band," Brown continued. "But as far as having people that understand their roles, and being happy with their roles, it’s chemistry, man. It’s just like a relationship. It’s a marriage.” Brown dispensed with the services of his previous lead guitarist by “breaking my fist on his face."
"Nick Brown is the enigmatic lead singer of four-piece Ohio-raised/Nashville-based band Mona, and his fractious musical and spiritual upbringing, combined with his unrelenting drive to create something special, has resulted in anthemic, emotionally charged vintage rock’n’roll of epic proportions," Nashville Scene reported.
“Along the way I saw how a song could enrage, heal, speak love, seduce, calm, provoke, challenge and surrender. All in three minutes. That’s what we’re all about,” Brown said.
"We've read a few things about Mona, from when they were based in Dayton, Ohio, that suggest Brown is a giant pain in the arse, but that's OK – he's going to have to be if he wants to be more famous than the most famous frontman on earth," Paul Lester wrote. "Brown says stuff like, 'If it lacks passion, it's not real' and 'I saw how a song could enrage, heal, speak love, seduce, calm, provoke, challenge and surrender. All in three minutes...'"
Brown’s top-to-bottom vision for Mona comprises everything from the archive pictures picked to feature on the largely monochromatic design of its Myspace, to creating their own label Zion Noiz, to hammering out a major record company deal that (unusually) stacks things in the band’s favour, to only making the odd song available... and only for brief period.
“Too many people have artistic bulimia. Eat and puke it up and they’re onto the next thing," Brown argued. "So we made people savour it.”
Rather than slowly winning over local promoters and concertgoers, Brown decided he would "step out and shoot for the moon."
Mona signed up with UK-based manager Saul Galpern - founder of the now-defunct Nude Records, a record label whose first success was with Suede (a.k.a. The London Suede) - and they haven't looked back.
"Like Suede, Mona are a good idea, and all they need is the right approach, the right delivery, and that idea will take shape and spread very fast indeed," Paul Lester told Guardian readers. "And before you know it, they will be on the cover of a music weekly being hailed as the Best New Band In America."
"They look like a boy band from the late-50s rock'n'roll era – like the Wild Ones eulogised by Suede."
Debut single “Listen to your Love” was released in September as a limited 7" through Rough Trade Shops and other stores with a vinyl-exclusive exclusive B-side “All This Time."
The video of "Listen to Your Love" can be viewed here .
The single was played by Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1 and earned plaudits from NME, who affectionately dubbed the foursome "The Princes of Leon."
"Obviously, you want to feel like you're doing your own thing," he explained. "But come on, it's four guys in a band. Ever since The Beatles, it's been 'this band's the next this. That band's the next that'."
The band did itself no favors with "Listen to Your Love." The introduction to the song "sounds, nearly note for note, like the intro to Kings of Leon's single 'Radioactive,' which is itself a thinly veiled homage to The Breeders' 'Cannonball'," Nashville Scene commented.
"I don't really know what to say to that," Brown responded. "I mean, our song came out first." He shrugged his shoulders. "There's a consciousness to the way pop culture moves. Is everyone copying everyone else, or is it a movement? They're an internationally known band, and here we are just coming out with our first single and, like you said, similar riff."
"'Listen to Your Love,' their first and presumably their last independently released record, is a conventionally thrilling three-minute affair, sort of U2's I Will Follow meets Rocket from the Crypt's On a Rope," Paul Lester wrote. "The single is notable for its two guitar tones – the buzzing riff overlaid by the anthemic jangle – and Brown's voice, which is as gutsy and passionate as you'd expect from someone who once declared that he would one day be 'bigger than Bono.'"
"It is basically a song about dualism. The push and pull... Your love or your lover? Sometimes those two things are combative, other times in sync," Brown told NME. "Same with all things whether it's faith, fighting, love or hate. Balance is always the key and always the challenge. Even in music the concept of addressing real human emotion in a three-minute pop song is a challenge and a naive idea. But what a great idea, and we'll take that challenge."
Mona's new single, the "aggressively melodic" track "Trouble On the Way," is out now on limited edition 7" with exclusive B-side "Brick Shoes," and it can be ordered from Rough Trade Shops. The band unveiled its second single in a live session for XFM radio station. The track is available for download from iTunes as of this Sunday, December 19.
“It’s pretty self-explanatory – there’s a sound on the horizon and the volume’s gonna grow. And even though we are full of ambition and very grandiose, at the end of the day it’s about having our own voice and our own career. And we wanna do this for the rest of our lives," Brown explained. "And at the end of the day, despite that huge, dramatic claim, we’re just four dudes making some noise in a garage and just having fun."
The video can be viewed here .
"An unrelenting, fearless, out and out vintage rock song," Rough Trade wrote.
Fearne Cotton named "Trouble On the Way" as her Record of the Week on BBC Radio 1.
Nonetheless, it is the track "Teenager" that is scheduled to be Mona's first, fully commercially-available single. “It’s the song that sums up being a chump, dealing with love and hate and very basic human emotions,” Brown confirmed.
"Mona aren't a studio band, they're a live band whose songs feature pounding drums, ringing guitars, propulsive bass lines and two-part melodies: the teasing verse and the explosive chorus," Paul Lester told Guardian readers.
"Romantic rock'n'roll for city folk," Rough Trade wrote.
"It appears that in Mona we may have found a big-sounding, big hearted rock 'n' roll band to believe in again," NME reported.
"Mona have been justly lauded as one of the hottest acts to watch out for next year," MTV said.
"Arm-pumping, vein-throbbing, knee-jittering, raw-throated, singalong rock’n’roll," Mona's Blog states.
Mona had over 180,000 profile views on Myspace before it had even posted a track, and the band had to stop mixing its new album at a recording studios in LA to fly to the UK for its first British TV appearance on "Later... with Jools Holland," which was shown live on BBC2 in November with an extended version of the show broadcast a few days later. Mona played three tracks on the program: "Listen To Your Love," "Teenager," and "Lines In the Sand."
The video of "Listen to Your Love" played on "Later... Live with Jools Holland" can be viewed here .
The video of "Teenager" played on "Later... with Jools Holland" can be viewed here .
The video of "Lines In the Sand" played on "Later... with Jools Holland" can be viewed here .
Before its first UK tour, Nashville's Mona followed the example of The Beatles and cut their teeth in Hamburg, Germany. The "Princes of Leon" then jump-started their career in the UK.
"I've been to Northern Ireland [before], we went to Belfast like 10 years ago - I was 17 and the day we were there someone got blown up in a car and shot in the head so we weren't allowed to go anywhere without protection," Brown told NME. "We had bottles thrown at us too, because we were American."
Mona had a huge impact in the UK in the autumn with the release of "Listen to Your Love" and two packed, wall-to-wall London shows at Rough Trade East in Brick Lane and at The Flowerpot in Kentish Town.
Following this successful first visit to London, Mona received enthusiastic reviews in music magazines, Q Magazine, Clash Music, The Fly, and Music News, and in the newspapers, the Guardian, the Mirror, and The Sun, was included on NME’s Best New Bands list, and was signed by Island (Universal) Records.
Mona has recently commenced a new tour of the UK and is currently performing at venues in cities including Glasgow, Brighton, London, and Manchester. The band has been selected to play at XFM's Winter Wonderland run at the Brixton Academy on December 15, where it will be sharing the stage with the Manic Street Preachers, White Lies, and The Drums.
"To have any credibility in the States, you need to have a certain ambiguous mystery to make it feel special and genuine," Brown concluded. "If someone knows you're just down the street, they're like 'Ah, they're just down the street.' But if someone hears [a band's] doing something in Paris or London ... well, Americans are funny like that."
Only time will tell whether Mona will be "bigger than Bono," but it is easy to imagine that the band dubbed the "Princes of Leon" is more than capable of bringing a smile to the face of even the other, and for the time being, more famous Mona, Leonardo da Vinci's enigmatic Mona Lisa.
Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM
|Last Updated on Thursday, 16 December 2010 12:03|