Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mini-Interview: The Monolators

If you reside within the LA city limits and catch live music regularly, you've probably heard of and/or seen The Monolators before. If you haven't, this is probably a pretty decent introduction to the group, who are equal parts entertaining and ubiquitous.

But, either way? By the end of this interview, we'll have all learned something... [Puts hand on chin.]

Hi, Eli. How’re you doing today?

Eli: Just dandy. Mary’s here too.

Mary: I’ll put my two cents in here and there.

How long have The Monolators been around? How did you start? You began as a three-piece, correct?

Eli: We started as a three-piece back in, let’s see, 2002. We were very, very different then. I was the bass player, and a friend of ours, Mike, played guitar. He was big into rockabilly and we had much more of a retro/surf kind of sound. We recorded our first record (in our garage) with Mike and it very much had that sound.

Later on, in about the summer of 2005, Mike left, so I switched (reluctantly, with lots of whining and complaining) to guitar and Mary and I started playing as a duo, and we’ve done two tours since then as a two-piece. But now we’ve got Andy, who also plays in 8-Bit, and he’s on bass, so we’re back to a trio again, which is great.

Mary: Man, you should have heard the complaining. Of course, you should hear me complain when it comes to drum practice.

And you’d say your main influences as a group are Buddy Holly, Television, and The Modern Lovers?

Ah, that list is so old, we’ve got to update it! I think we did have quite the Modern Lovers sound there when Mike was with us, but as much as I love that first record of theirs we’ve gradually moved away from that towards other things; and Television, I should have put down that we enjoy and appreciate Television, but probably sound nothing like them. Certainly I can’t play guitar like those guys. We played this Television tribute night a while back and a heckler told us that we “didn’t sound enough like the records,” so there you go.

Buddy Holly is still a big hero of mine, and I’m still fascinated by schmaltzy 1950's pop, but Mary and I are also both heavily into Pulp, and Mary especially is influenced by dance music–-which is tricky, since we don’t especially want to jump on the disco/punk bandwagon, but we try to make sure that people can dance to all of our songs.

Mary: I would move Pulp, The Lovemakers, plus CBGB’s bands Blondie and Talking Heads further up the list. It will be really interesting to see what influences Andy brings into the band. I’m very excited about this.

Eli: Okay, so we’ll change that list one of these days.

What do you think are the pluses and minuses of being a band in LA?

Eli: It’s hot and our garage doesn’t have a decent AC unit, so we’re sweating all the time. Um, the big minus is that there are eighty skillion bands here and all of them, without exception, can play better than we can. So competition is fierce and it’s taken us years to establish ourselves.

The big plus is that, ignoring the Sunset Strip stuff, I really honestly believe that Los Angeles has some of the best local bands in any scene anywhere and I feel very lucky to be a part of that.

But then there’s the ants. They’re everywhere in the summer. They drive us crazy!

What’s it like playing in a band with a spouse?

Mary: Generally, it’s great. We are both really busy so it’s important that we do the band together. We have a role model in Eli’s parents: they are both archaeologists. Eli’s whole family would go out on the digs together and then his parents would write books. Instead of digs, we’ll be doing tours.

Eli: Yeah, it’s really helpful to be married to your drummer especially -- drummers are hard to find. I recommend that everyone marry their drummer if possible.

What the hell's a monolator?

Eli: A monolator...well, when we were looking for band names years ago, I decided I really liked the word “modulator.” But of course there already is a band called The Modulators, so I started changing letters until I came up with ‘Monolators,’ which had a nice ring to it. It was a made-up nonsense word.

Later, I found out that it is indeed a real word, but you can only find it in theological dictionaries, and it didn’t occur to me to look in one of those at the time... so that was unintended. It basically means ‘monotheist,’ which isn’t very rock and roll, unfortunately.

Sometimes I think that ‘Monolators’ is a bit too garage-punk a name to cover all the different kinds of music we’re interested in, but it stuck. I am quite taken with the name we came up with for our acoustic side project, which is Cobra Lilies.

You two seem to perform as much as humanly possible. Why?

Eli: We play about 3-4 times a month, which seems kinda normal to me; I was watching The Kids Are Alright and it said The Who played almost every night when they were starting off, so in comparison I feel like we don’t play nearly enough!

But really what it comes down to is that we all love playing shows, even the crummy ones when we’re on tour and it’s two in the morning and there’s nobody there.

The video you made for the song Strawberry Roan looks like it was really fun to make, what with all the ninjas and everything. Was it?

Mary: That was a really fun shoot. John Duarte and the cast and crew were really great. It was generally a big party. Half the footage wasn’t even used which is too bad. I’m dying to see more of the Ninja-Pirate dance sequence. It looked awesome when we were shooting it. There was also a break dancing Rabbi that didn’t make the cut.

Eli: I also got this incredibly great cowboy shirt for free when we did that. I wear it all the time. It has these sort of pseudo-lacy things all over it–I’m very interested in investigating lace in everyday clothes now. If it’s good enough for the 17th Century Dutch, it’s good enough for me.

Let's take a look...

Eli: Our previous video, the black and white fascist one Locke Webster directed for We Fell Dead, that was tremendous fun to make too.

Mary’s hair took a long time to recover from that. She looks amazing.

Let's take a look at that one, too...

What’s next for you? More recording, a residency, more videos, or what?

A residency would be great, and I hope one presents itself soon.

We’re going to record some new songs soon so that we can keep the EP’s coming! We’ve also got some people working on dance remixes of We Fell Dead, and I’m very excited about that. Oh, and we’re going to play a few dates next month in Tennessee and Alabama, so that’ll be fun too.

Final question: What other current LA bands are you listening to these days?

That’s a tough question to answer because there’s so many--most of the records I listen to now are from local bands. We like listening to our friends, bands we play with: 8-Bit, Castledoor, The Mormons, Henry Clay People, Airborne Toxic Event, The Sweet Hurt, Idaho Falls, E>K>U>K, The Transmissions, Wait Think Fast, I Make This Sound, Tenlons Fort, Ema And The Ghosts, The Breakups, Summer Darling, The Amateurs, Kissing Cousins, The Shark That Ate My Friend... I know I've skipped some...

There’s lots of other local bands that I admire and would love to play a show with someday. My fingers are crossed.

That’s it. Thanks for your time, Eli.

You’re welcome. Thanks for talking with us! Gotta get back to fighting the ants now.

The Monolators will play next at... well, you should click here because they have a lot of shows and then you can see the full list.

DOWNLOAD: Strawberry Roan MP3


Blogger JAX said...

I honestly think The Monolators are one of the best live bands in LA. They should play everynight. I say we do a Monolators Residency in my living room!!!

1:20 AM  
Blogger elana said...

Nice interview! They're such a great band.

2:20 PM  

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