Mona On Hating Scenesters, Loving Taco Bell And Touring With Noel Gallagher
[pullquote quote="If we don't get into a fight then we're not doing it right."]“But we all know that we have those songs that you f**k to, fight to, cry to, play when you may have lost your loved one or whatever. You play songs when you walk down the aisle…Music controls our world,” waxed frontman of Mona, Nick Brown.
Sauntering into the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ in leather and jeans, fresh from a twilight excursion in Los Angeles traffic and a taping on the Jay Leno Tonight Show, Brown was joined by drummer Vince Gard, bassist Zach Lindsey, and guitarist Jordan Young.
Already renowned for their brash, explosive sounds and their tongue-in-cheek braggadocio, Mona broke-down their Sunset Strip party plans, “If we don’t get into a fight then we’re not doing it right,” said Brown after Young said with a cheeky, handsome smile, “And then there’s a little place I like to go called the Saddle Ranch…Listen, anywhere that has the mechanical bull, karaoke, cotton candy, and you can make s’mores. Oh wait, and you can get drunk there?”
Jokingly, I respond that Saddleranch was recently voted on of Los Angeles’ douchiest bars.
“You’ve gotta understand,” retorted Brown. “You’ve got two Ohio boys and two Kentucky boys here. If there’s trouble to get into, the kind of the cheesier of the demographic that we can make fun of then the better, so we like weird places.”
“It’s about making fun of all demographics,” continued Brown with the sort of devil-may-care attitude that has made him infamous with journalists ever since Mona first caught the public eye in 2010. “Everybody’s the same. We hate scenesters…We hate it all. People are just people. If everybody’s special then no one’s special. If somebody’s cute then no one’s cute. It’s one of those things of trivializing it to where it means nothing.”
[pullquote quote="Music is something for people that should be shared."]Gaining a spot on the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll; given the Brand New for 2011 title at the MTV Awards; scoring a slot as the opener for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds; signing to two major records labels in two countries, Mercury and Island.
Mona isn’t your average indie rock band. In fact, from the way they see it, they aren’t indie rock (as a genre) whatsoever. Their goals are much bigger. Like Taco Bell and Walmart Big.
When asked if he hates the word indie, Brown replied, “I really, really, really do. I like the word do-it-yourself like a true independent thing as far as like doing it yourself and homegrown and that kind of thing, but as far as a genre of indie, I think it’s for cowards,” exclaimed the singer.
“I think it’s the biggest lie. Why are you doing music if you don’t want anyone to hear it? Like the whole ‘too cool for school’ kind of staring at the floor…’I'm just doing this for my art.’”
Mona is a fan of accessibility in music; something that the masses, those demographics that they are so intrigued with, can latch onto.
“Music is something for people that should be shared. I think accessibility is a good word and, I mean, we’re not afraid of it,” continued Brown. “Was Zeppelin indie? Was Bob Dylan indie? He was on Columbia Records. So, was Bob Dylan a sell-out? We love big ideas and we’re from the Mid West. We love Taco Bell and Walmart and big ideas that are accessible.”
For all intents and purposes, Mona is just a good old-fashioned American rock band albeit with the quintessential rugged urban style of a New York garage rock band and the sort of international appeal that occurred during the ’90s Britpop invasion.
Mona is romantically retro but modern enough to be completely sans irony.
And despite their major label ties, the band is pacing their career slowly, expertly like the boxer that Brown keeps comparing himself to. They recorded their album in their “basement,” in “their underwear.”
They don’t really have music “writing sessions,” saying that they “sound like sh*t most of the time because it’s just chaos,” but that their music evolves at the end. They laughingly admit to having “Phil Collins Day” and putting on a “cheesy, dance pop station” while traveling and rocking out so hard to “embarrassing” stuff that they got pulled over.
They have no problem pointing out that some artists on their extensive international tours have been less-than-cordial while others, like Robert Plant and Johnny Marr taught them “by example” how they “want to treat people” and that “universal thing where music’s for everyone.”
[pullquote quote="It's more of a mentality of being blunt and being who you are without apologizing. "]And, when it comes down to it, Mona is down-to-earth and hilariously self-effacing. They are “literally that band that if we stay on the strip, we’ll go to every bar in a row” and consider tour headliner, Noel Gallagher, to be a musical icon that has stayed real with a “type of grace” that even his brother hasn’t mastered.
“I come off arrogant,” Brown rebuked when I commented that many journalists dub him as the word. “I’m blunt and I kind of like coming off arrogant. I think it’s funny…It’s more of a mentality of being blunt and being who you are without apologizing and I think sometimes not wanting to apologize for something comes off as being an a**hole.”
Kind of like Noel Gallagher, which we pointed out.
“There’s a dude who’s pretty much f**king stuck to his guns,” replied Brown. “Done what he’s wanted. Said what he’s wanted. And he’s considered, especially if you’re from Manchester or you’re from the U.K., they call him the Chief of Rock and Roll. Not just successful but his integrity is considered the real thing.”
“And we’re new to it,” Brown confided sincerely. “I’ve said things I shouldn’t have. I’ve done things I shouldn’t have. But f**k it. Your fans are going to see your music and see your heart and they’ll try to stick with you. You’ve got to give people room to fail and room to grow.”
Mona isn’t a fan of exclusive elitism, or judging themselves or others based on faults. Like they said before, it’s about making fun of “all demographics.” Exposing the beauty and the flaws in all ways of life. And not being afraid to laugh at their own mistakes.
“It’s about the love of music…We’re not here to try to make a splash and cash in and cash out. We want to do music for a long time,” explained Brown. “And, I think, you have to appreciate not only what society you’re in but the context and the timing of things and to do that you kind of have to have your ear to the ground. Hear what’s coming and what’s going. Be honest with yourself.”
Gard and Vince, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, are honest with their fans about their upbringing and those “rougher” aspects of their life growing up also contributed to their lives as musicians.
“Vince and I grew up in Pentecostal church where you did that,” when I asked the band about their propensity to freestyle when they write music. “You literally just played what you felt…It was very much like, ‘Feel it. Let the spirit flow.’ Like, very vibe-y. Like what most people would call New Age-y.”
“But you would just play and people would just get into it,” Brown continued. “And you’d respond to the rhythm and the music…There was nothing cerebral about the music. It’s all just emotional. If you can feel it, that’s how you could tell it was genuine.”
[pullquote quote="In an industry like this, you're a dime-a-dozen and the only way that you can survive is that if you literally have the will to keep fighting. "]Brown calls their lead single, “Lean Into The Fall,” the “Nestea plunge,” dispelling the ideas that its male chauvinist and more about being “punch drunk” from the demands of life.
“No one stands in the way of us more than us,” admitted Brown, “So, ‘Lean Into The Fall’ is saying all these things about life or where we’re at and then kind of letting go of them. Don’t f**k it up. Just get out-of-the-way.”
Part of how Mona has gotten out of their own way, is that they’ve adopted the attitude of boxers, especially Brown.
“I think I’ve always just had a fight mentality,” admitted Brown. “In an industry like this, you’re a dime-a-dozen and the only way that you can survive is that if you literally have the will to keep fighting and you’re honest because you can’t fool anybody in this thing.”
“Not everybody was Mike Tyson,” continued Brown. “We might not be the knock-out punch band, but there was Ricky Hatton and Sugar Ray Leonard who were known for dancing around and just going round for round for round and some of them end of champions and some of them end up nobodies.”
And when asked about their motto, “Dead Serious, Just Kidding,” Brown said with a laugh, “Rock and roll can change the world,” and then said sincerely, “but we’re just four dudes up there making noise.”
“Take what you do seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously,” concluded Brown. “We feel privileged and humble to be doing it, but we’re just four dudes that were lucky enough to run into each other to have a shot at making some noise.”
Buy Mona’s debut album on iTunes.