As I have mentioned before, there are four bands that I consider my top favorites and I would be honored for a chance to speak with them. These bands are: MONA, The 1975, The Kooks and Taking Back Sunday. Fortunately I’ve had the pleasure of having a chat with the lead singer of one of them, the always talented Nick Brown from MONA. This honestly was one of the best experiences I’ve had, speaking with someone I always listen to and getting a sneak peak into how inspiration works for him was truly enlightening.
Interview with Nick Brown from Mona
Before to the questions there was the typical “Hi, how are you” and a showcase of my excitement since I was interviewing one of the most talented singer/songwriters in the indie music scene.
Here we go…
It’s been a while since you guys made an album, it’s been over two years from the last record, right?
Nick: Yeah, a little bit over two years and we wanted to take time since there was a member change (a member left and we added two guys) and we were off of that record deal, so we were figuring out and redefining our philosophies to understand why we wanted to do music, how we wanted to do it and what were we doing. Sometimes you just can’t rush that process, I mean let alone the writing and recording process can bring their own adventure and journey. We had done the major label thing and we’ve seen a lot of things done wrong and a lot of things that we despise about the industry and about most of the people in the industry. We were trying to figure out how not to be that and we were doing the equivalent of soul searching and it took us a little bit.
It’s good to hear that the reason behind it and what happened allowed you guys to come up with an amazing new record. It’s good to hear that the spirit that I always tell my friends is intact- MONA is music that is made for everyone, it’s middle-class rock (not quality because they are amazing, but the societal structure for people) and anyone can relate to it.
Nick: I am white trash man, I grew up in a trailer park and I like nice things now but you nailed it on the head. My entire goal in life is accessibility and I want everyone. I think if it’s good it should be for everyone and I just don’t believe that way about music, I believe that way about health care, I believe that way about a lot of things. I love accessibility and I love the common man coming out on top. I love that you said it like that.
(I spoke about my rotation of albums on my car – which is top secret info, well not really but hey…tell you later)
Right now you guys are doing everything in an independent record label, right?
Nick: Yes, it’s a label called Bright Antenna and they are based in the San Francisco Area. But don’t let that word independent fool you, it’s a lot of people with a lot of ambition. It’s definitely a hands on passionate approach as oppose to some of the sterile bullshit that we had to deal with at the major label.
(We spoke about my love of independent labels and how they don’t represent small but actually a lot of passion plus spoke about another project I’m on which you will start seeing more out here as well)
Music should connect with the people and not with their pockets.
Nick: Everything should resonate with the reason that the artist wants it to do and not with what the people pulling the strings want. I understand that you have to get paid and people have to eat, but when it’s motivated by the wrong thing you are already in trouble and you know…every musician is lying when they say they don’t care about making money because obviously they want to pay the bills, but that does not have to be the sole motivation of why you are making music. There’s a lot of dangers and people that have convoluted dreams, you have to figure it out and you want to give it to the people in a pure form. It’s the same thing as like food in America, we preserve it by chemicals, not everything should be preserved as long as we are preserving them. Let’s try the healthiest and purest form to get it out there, that’s what we try to do with the tunes.
Sometimes we just everything to last longer; our face, our skin, our youth and I just say hey let it flow, it has path that it needs to take. You don’t need to put the break on it always, just let it flow. Sometimes it can grow to something beautiful.
Nick: Yeah, if it was up to me I would stop all forms of recording so that you could have always listen to musicians live, but there’s our money problem because then people would have to pay to come a watch the shows. But you know, someone would try to find a way to monopolize that system as well unfortunately.
In the current album, what experiences and stories inspired In The Middle EP?
Nick: Mmm … I am not a very good story-teller, as dumb as it sounds I am more of an emotionalist. Sometimes I just write an emotion and I think that In The Middle was a transition time for us both inside and outside the band. I mean geographically it was a transition and a lot of bands don’t make it to the other side of that transition period with a body of work which is summing that up. Out of this six songs we have more songs that are written and ready to go but this six songs embodied that feeling of transition. I could go song by song and tell you what emotion is in there, but that’s for me as a writer. Also it has been kinda great to see everyone’s response. It’s not like everyone is saying “I love In the Middle” but everyone has their own favorite and that to me shows me we are doing a good job. Because like we talked about in the beginning of the conversation, there’s accessibility there and a little something for everybody.
It’s always good to have and actually the name fits what you are talking about, about being in that grey area in which you don’t know where you are going, where you are at or what you need to do. It’s actually a great name.
Nick: It definitely kinda summed up our heads and our hearts for the last two and half years.
I am glad to hear you guys again, to hear that music again. Because I was looking and looking and couldn’t find something new and I was telling myself that you guys were probably working on something.
Nick: Yeah, it’s a dark world out there and the music industry is even darker. So sometimes the roads for artists to get their stuff released is a little bit more evil and treacherous than what the average listener knows. I don’t want to be that cliche of like a dude in a band that’s bashing the industry but unfortunately that cliche of the industry being evil is true. And more and more nowadays, artists don’t care about preserving anything, they just want to get paid. So you have more sellouts now in the industry than any time in history controlled by the industry that only wants sellouts. So when you have something to say that actually means something, there’s a battle that becomes way more intense than it should. The fact that we even made it to make this release is a victory.
Actually I always try to push artists that even if I don’t accept to write about them to keep their originality. They might not connect with me but I appreciate the fight and the uniqueness because it stands out. Sometimes they just need to work on lyrics or some technical issues within the track or something. Because it’s not about people down but pushing them to keep on working because they are getting there.
Nick: Historically with major record label deals there’s people that have 9,7,5 albums. Even in the early 2000’s bands like Cage the Elephant and Kings of Leon, they were starting in a different time and they had 5, 7, 4 albums to prove themselves. So there’s a developmental period that doesn’t exist anymore, if people come out with their first body of work and if it’s not loved immediately you are done and that’s wrong. It’s not the way that it was and some of these bands that everyone loves, you would have never heard of Bruce Springsteen or some of these people if the had not had time to develop. These huge bands that around now probably we would have never had the possibility to enjoy if the industry was the way it is now. The people that do break through, it’s kind off maddening to see what gets big and what doesn’t, because there’s a lot of talent and voices out there not being heard.
That is so true, sometimes I heard the small guys that send me music and they blow me away. There are guys that have that wow factor and I wonder why they are not on radio and I’ve even told some of them this.
Nick: I guarantee you we have already slapped the next Bod Dylan in the face, I guarantee you the next U2 has already been dropped from their label and I guarantee you the next Michael Jackson is probably working at a Starbucks, because that’s what the music industry does to people now.
As an artist it makes you fight that much harder and you know we have no intention of trying to be the biggest band in the world or trying to be rich and famous. When we had to deal with the hype of the first time around we saw how comical and carnivore the good press and the bad press can be. It really is about doing great work that you believe in and I think that humans like that. That’s why we are on the planet and that’s who we are doing music for, humans and not an industry nor press or any of it. We connect with people and that’s what keeps us going.
That is so true, even I as a writer try to keep the website my voice, keep it me and I mean it might not be like “I would buy this dude if he wrote a book” but at least I get to feel like I am talking to the reader and letting them know about a new great band or singer or simply a track and letting them know why I like it. If you like it great and if you don’t it’s still great.
Nick: We now have blogs like yourself that we wouldn’t have had back in the day. So we do get some honest opinions out there. You always have to separate the good from the bad, but there’s so much of both now and sometimes it’s hard to get to it.
I personally prefer to not waste my time of writing negativity because I am a one man team. The website might look like I have a few guys, but no unfortunately. I try to give it my best to ensure that Wolf in a Suit is a good home for music. You know it’s just me so why waste my time about writing how I don’t like something or something negative when if I like something I can be passionate about my writing.
Nick: Exactly. Mother Theresa once said she would never go to an anti rally of anything, because we should always be positive. There’s a lot to learn and apply in all areas with that mentality and you know, good for you man.
The last question…the one I always ask: What’s the mantra and/or philosophy behind MONA?
Nick: That’s a great question. I mean what I think of the band is personal to me and probably not all five members feel the same, but I know that we push on a general motto: We want to provoke people to feel. And it the day in age of left vs right, white vs black, Pepsi vs Coca-Cola we don’t want to push brands and we don’t want to push sides. It’s being very preachy without a message. I am not going to give you something to believe, I am not going to tell you what to believe but I am going to encourage you to believe in something. I am going to push and I am going to provoke and we want you to have feelings but we are not going to tell you what to feel or what to do. I don’t feel it’s an artist job to tell people to go vote, I disagree with that. A lot people use their platform to kinda try to push their own opinions. I don’t give a shit about my opinions, I want you to come to your opinion by yourself and if you do that I want to do it with passion and do it with belief. We don’t care what you feel as long as you are feeling as long as you are alive. We want to promote unity and accessibility and not draw lines in the sand.
We don’t like apathy, we are not ok with it. Apathy is our greatest enemy.
(As the interview ended I thanked Nick for his time and for this amazing chance to interview the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, MONA)