A Human Band
Songwriting, Dream Collaborations, and Playing Real Instruments with MONA
Words by Emilia D’Albero
MONA is on the road plugging their 2013 LP, Torches & Pitchforks, and the Nashville-based rockers hit up New York City on November 7th for a headlining gig at the Studio @ Webster Hall. Before taking the stage, Nick Brown (vocals/keys/guitar), Vince Gard (drums), Zach Lindsey (bass), and Jordan Young (guitar) talk with us about everything from writing music to dressing in drag.
Hey guys, thanks for sitting down with me. So I’ve read a bunch of different interviews and articles on you guys, and you say that you all have a lot of different influences and bring different things musically to the table. What’s it like to write music when that happens? Is it difficult or does it make it easier?
Jordan: Uh…I think it makes it a little easier, honestly.
Zach: I think it makes it super easy. We wrote a song today at soundcheck…we don’t’ really write, we just kind of, like…play and it just kind of happens. Like today, we pretty much wrote an entire song at sound check, had no clue what we were doing, but it just kind of worked. I think drawing from so many different things and everybody having their own vibe kind of helps make it its own beast.
Vince: And having a respect for each other’s influences as well. Like, he’s a big Beatles fan (points to Zach) and kind of got his roots there, I’ve got Led Zeppelin, and he…(points to Jordan) he’s a little bit punk. Nick’s got a little bit of soul and R&B but we all listen to everything at the same time so it’s a matter of, like, I kind of know which avenue they’re coming from, so we kind of meet in a town square of songwriting.
Jordan: It’s a good place to meet.
So knowing all of this, if you could describe your genre in a few words, what would it be? When I listen, I get like a classic rock with a little bit of a punk vibe, but I’m interested to hear what you guys have to say.
Vince: I’d say rock ‘n roll.
Jordan: Yeah, rock ‘n roll.
Vince: Straight up rock ‘n roll.
Zach: Easy way out, I guess.
On your new album, Torches and Pitchforks, you incorporate a couple of more laid-back “interludes,” as you called them. Do they serve a specific purpose for the album or are they just there because they’re cool, or what?
Zach: Well they were originally going to be like full songs, and uh…
Jordan: We just got lazy. (all laugh)
Zach: Because ‘Baby Don’t Cry’, one of them we did, we recorded it as a whole song and then went back and like, cut it down because it just felt better as an interlude. The idea was to….they usually go in between two songs that have two totally different vibes going on, so it would just be to ease a transition instead of having like, super rock song into this love song that’s really ballad-y and soft. It just kind of helps the transition.
I think it’s really effective…I really enjoyed listening to it. So you guys played Coachella this year…I was there, it was fucking awesome. How was that for you? What are some of your favorite gigs that you’ve played so far this year?
Vince: Coachella was one of mine, I really digged that. Austin City Limits is another great festival.
Jordan: Coachella was a lot of fun because we got our old guitar tech high for the first time on April 20th, so that was awesome.
Yeah, I remember I got there and Nick was like “I’m so fuckin high right now!”
Jordan: It’s not often you’ll hear Nick say that….
Vince: He did some edibles…he doesn’t smoke, so that kind of set him a bit over the edge. We were all cool, we were all like “yeah this is cool, I’m having a great time, I wanna go swimming!” Nick was just about to have a panic attack in his hotel room, so…
I’ve seen you guys play a bunch of times and it’s always phenomenal, congrats on that….if you could see one band play this particular venue (the Studio at Webster Hall) who would it be?
Vince: Ooh, that’s a good question.
Jordan: Oh, man…I’d say the Ramones. That’d be a kickass show in this room.
Zach: I’ve been listening to Band of Skulls all day today, so I’m gonna go ahead and say Band of Skulls.
Vince: I’m gonna say Jay-Z. (laughs)
I actually saw some random rap group do a cover of a Jay-Z song here once and it was atrocious. (all laugh)
Jordan: Well, you can’t win ‘em all…
If you could do a collaboration with one artist, who would it be?
Jordan: Uhm…..Paul. Paul McCartney.
Vince: Leonard Cohen. I’d love to write with him, it’d be pretty awesome. I basically would just be sitting in the corner letting him write a song.
Zach: I’m gonna say something super nerdy and say Joe Bonamossa, cause I feel like I’d just sit with him and steal everything that he does, cause he’s amazing.
So back to talking about the album…what specific messages are you trying to get across with the songs on the album?
Jordan: That’s for the listener to figure out.
Zach: There was definitely a very conscious effort to try to cover a lot of different emotions and mindsets and everything, on the album, so hopefully you can kind of pull something out of it, anything really.
Jordan: Yeah, as long as it is something.
Zach: There’s lots of longing and lots of anger and lots of…
Vince: Good times. ‘Darlin’s got a good feeling to it.
That’s one of my favorites.
Vince: Then we’ll make sure not to play that one tonight! (all laugh)
Another one of my personal favorites is “Like You Do”. I think it’s really kind of haunting and delicate, but at the same time it’s full of really strong emotion. What’s the inspiration behind that, if you don’t mind me asking. I’m curious because it’s so different.
Vince: That one was an older song that Nick started writing lyrics to back when I actually first joined the band. It had a lot to do with what he and I were going through at the time; he went through a pretty severe breakup of 7 years and I went through a divorce of 3 years but I was with her for 7, so we were kind of dealing with a lot of things in life. So it’s about how you can’t, like, I can’t do what you’re doing, I can’t be the way you want me to be because you’re wanting to live this nice Midwest life and we want to do this, so I can’t live like you do, sorry. It’s basically just going your separate ways with that mentality of conforming and being comfortable with just…that…and not expanding yourself a bit.
Yeah I totally understand, I think everybody has gone through something along those lines at some point in their lives. It was something that I really related to when I heard it and now that I know what’s behind it, I like it even more. What are some of your personal favorite songs off of the album?
Vince: ‘Love Divine’ is by far my personal favorite.
Jordan: I’d say ‘Wasted or Like You Do’.
Zach: Mine’s probably ‘Torches and Pitchforks’. That one was fun to come up with.
Jordan: Look who decided to show up!
(Nick walks in, wearing a coat that makes him look like a frozen vampire)
Nick: Hey, nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you too.
Jordan: You wanna sit down?
Nick: No, I’m just gonna stand here and look weird. (sits)
So what do you hope people will get out of Torches and Pitchforks?
Jordan: I hope people will get the feeling that they’ll buy our next one. (all laugh)
Nick: Both of our first two albums were 4 people that came together because of their love of music and love of actually playing music, actually playing real instruments and I mean that’s the thing with both albums that I think I’m the most proud of- that there’s not click tracks or fake drums or…I’m not saying that we’re against any of that stuff or that we would never use it but at the same time, our first two albums were just bare bones rock ‘n roll and we’re a human band. It’s focusing on this simple songs and provoking human emotions…we’ve had just on this run, one guy say he’s walking down the aisle to one of our songs, another guy say that it’s the first song they played at the wedding dance. We’ve had all kinds of people that have applied our music to real life and I think that that just shows the power of why you start a band in the first place. But what do I know?
The last question is kind of an interesting one; I ask it to every band I interview. Which one of you guys would look the best in drag and why?
Vince: Because I’ve…dressed in drag before.
Jordan: Because he’s dressed in drag before.
Vince: Last year for Halloween my girlfriend and I went as Sid and Nancy and she was Sid and I was Nancy.
Jordan: The question was who looks the best? That’s a whole different question.
It’s so funny how every time I ask that, every band has an answer planned out already. Like every band is like “oh, this one member has already done it and looked great.”
Nick: Maybe me, because I have the most feminine legs….I’ve got some skinny chicken legs. Actually I don’t know if “feminine” is the right word or “13 year old girl”… (all laugh)
Jordan: I don’t know…you guys have never seen me in drag and I do have some sexy legs.
Vince: And you look a lot like your mom and your mom is hot, so…
Jordan: I will take that title.
Vince: We’d probably all look good in drag.
Nick: I’m not gonna lie, we’re a pretty fucking decent-looking group of boys.
Zach: Very effeminate.
Well next time you play New York, you should all play in drag.
Nick: Where is this going? What do I get out of this?
Nick: I’ll do a deal. We’ll dress up in drag, but what are you gonna dress up as?
Um…I don’t know.
Vince: A 21 year old.
Nick: I think like a naughty nurse or something.
(à la Animaniacs) Helloooooo nurse!
Jordan: (even more enthusiastically) HELLOOOOOO NURSE!
Nick: We love nurses.
Alright so maybe the next time you play New York I’ll dress up as a…naughty….nurse…..(laughs)
Nick: Can we play very soon? Can we be back tomorrow? Cause I’m into that.
Well thanks a lot, guys, that was very interesting and very insightful. Any last questions or comments or anything?
Nick: Any statements that were said before I got here do not reflect the overall view of this band.
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