Major and The Monbacks with special guests Benjamin & the Dreamdancers + Jeremy And The Harlequins

Major and The Monbacks with special guests Benjamin & the Dreamdancers + Jeremy And The Harlequins

Benjamin & The Dreamdancers, Jeremy and the Harelquins

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$12.00 - $15.00

This event is 21 and over

$12 in advance; $15 day of show

Major and The Monbacks
Major and The Monbacks
Three years ago, Major and The Monbacks bought a used van, booked over 150 shows in nine months, and embarked on their first-ever national tour. There were no labels or booking agents or tour managers at the time, just a bunch of twenty-somethings with an independent streak and a shared love of making music. It wasn’t glamorous—it still isn’t—but they all agreed it beat the hell out of working a day job. The Monbacks – whose name is a portmanteau of the common southern farewell “C’mon back” – initially pushed that van to its limits and beyond with their relentless tour schedule, developing a rapport with the tow truck drivers of the greater Norfolk area as they burned through three different engines and blossomed from local favorites into one of the most promising young rock bands working today. They’ve got a new van now, and, more importantly, they’ve got a new album to go with it, one that fully delivers on their promise and then some.

Produced by fellow Virginia wunderkind Matthew E. White, ‘Moonlight Anthems’ is a raucous blend of soul, roots, and rock that tips its cap equally to Levon and Lennon. The album is Major and the Monbacks’ first for Yep Roc Records, and it finds them building off the wave of critical success garnered by their eponymous 2015 debut, which they recorded and released themselves. Pop Matters hailed that album’s “propulsive soul energy,” and Richmond, VA’s RVA Magazine raved that it had “not only revived, but given a psychedelic face-lift to the soundtrack of the dancehalls of the ’50s and ’60s.” The record offered but a taste of Major and the Monbacks’ ecstatic live show, which began to draw sell-out crowds across the region and earned the band a slew of high profile festival slots everywhere from Firefly to Floyd Fest in addition to support dates with Charles Bradley, Os Mutantes, Antibalas, and more.

It would have been hard to predict all of this back in the group’s early days, though. Major and the Monbacks grew out of informal, after-school bedroom jams led by bassist Cole Friedman and his twin brother Neal, a gifted keyboard player and singer. The sessions were what you’d expect from a bunch of teenagers: loose, fun, and all over the map. Players came and went as the band’s sound morphed and matured, but when the dust finally settled, a core six-piece remained: the Friedman twins, plus brothers Michael and Bryan Adkins (guitar/vocals and drums), percussionist Tyler West, and guitarist/vocalist Harry Slater.

Music ran deep in each of their veins. The Friedmans’ grandfather owned Frankie’s Birdland, a record store in a traditionally African American neighborhood which had served as the epicenter of The Norfolk Sound, an early mix of horn-fueled rock and soul that put artists like Gary “US” Bonds on the map. The Adkins’ father toured up and down the East Coast in the 70’s with a few different bands. West showed such a proclivity for percussion as a youngster (he’d create makeshift drum kits out of pots and pans) that his grandparents nicknamed him “Bammer,” and Slater was an instrument obsessive who made the unlikely transition from roadie to one of the group’s primary songwriters.

“I was really into collecting and tweaking electric guitars, and when the band first started playing, they always needed help with their instruments,” remembers Slater. “I would show up to the gigs with some extra guitars and strings and hang out, and it got to the point where one night they told me to just grab an acoustic and jump onstage.”

Though democracy has been the downfall of many a band, for Major and the Monbacks, it’s the defining feature of their sound. There is no single frontman, no one songwriter. While the kernels of most tracks begin with ideas from Neal, Michael, or Harry, the eclectic finished products are almost always the results of melodies and riffs run through the spin cycle of six wildly creative minds.

“Everybody’s got their own influences that they’re individually bringing to the table,” says Michael. “Creating a song for us is all about condensing that into a cohesive whole. Our only guiding principle, really, is that if it sounds cool, we like it.”

When it came time to record their second album, as far as the Monbacks were concerned, nobody sounded cooler than Matthew E. White, a fellow Virginia native who first caught their ear with his production work for Richmond’s Natalie Prass. White took on the role of mediator and mentor for the band, which he was surprised to find had such a fully realized sound already. The clarity of their vision enabled him to take a more holistic, big picture approach to capturing their songs.

“Matthew was used to writing a lot of the arrangements for other artists himself,” says Neal, “so he was excited that we had such fleshed out music already. He was able to step back and really be a coach for us and provide us with a valuable outside perspective.”

In their eleven days in the studio, the Monbacks recorded live as a band as much as possible in order to convey the excitement of their shows, but they made sure to leave time to get a little weird, too.

“Some of these songs we’d been playing on the road for a year and we really wanted to capture that live energy,” explains Cole, “but we also wanted to experiment and overdub. We’d manipulate the tape and mess around with the analog outboard gear, and a lot of those subtleties are really important to the sound.”

Album opener “There, There” sets the record’s tone perfectly, with bouncing piano, swirling organ, and psychedelic guitar all coming together in a chipper, harmony-rich earworm that seamlessly blends the sounds of the British invasion with sunny southern California. “Moonlight Anthem” and “You Only See Me (At Night)” channel the funky Americana of Big Pink, while “We Are Doing Fine” and “Here Comes The King” recall The Fab Four at their most playful, and “You Should Know” and “Happiness” take cues from the rich vocal layering of bands like CSNY and the Beach Boys. On “The Clap,” high-tempo R&B meets southern rock, and prog influences creep into the breezy soul of “Condition.” Far from feeling scattered, though, the ornately detailed arrangements and lush orchestrations enable the songs to play out as a remarkably cohesive collection. Pressing play on each track is like opening the door to another room in an eccentrically curated mansion; it’s impossible to predict what you’ll find, but every discovery is more fantastic than the last.

“It’d be difficult for anyone to pinpoint a specific musical identity or pigeonhole what we do into a set genre,” reflects Michael. “With us, the diversity is the point.”
Benjamin & The Dreamdancers
Jeremy and the Harelquins
You know you’re doing something right when Bruce Springsteen’s right hand man decides your song is the coolest track in the world. That’s exactly what Steve Van Zandt did this June –picking ‘Trip Into The Light’ for that very accolade on his Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show. It’s easy to hear why – the opening song from Jeremy And The Harlequins’ debut full-length, American Dreamer, it sparkles and shimmers with the glamor of rock’n’roll’s past while simultaneously forging forward into the future with confidence. Channeling the influences of 1950s and ’60s rock’n’roll through the (cell phone) camera lens of 2015, Jeremy And The Harlequins – Jeremy Fury (vocals), Craig Bonich and Patrick Meyer (guitars), Stevie Fury (drums) and Bobby Ever (bass) – have managed to capture the sound of New York both in the here and now and the there and then. It’s a record about love and loss, tragedy and romanticism, dreams and reality, as well as everything in between, and its ten songs are at once familiar and fresh, a new friend it feels like you’ve known for decades.

“In both the pop music world and the indie music world,” explains Jeremy, “everything’s very electronic and very produced-sounding. In the indie world, everything seems like it’s long songs with no choruses and it doesn’t feel to me like something I’ll be singing along with in 20 years and going back to, and the pop world seems to have lost its human element. Music should make you feel something, and I don’t get that from much music nowadays, so we wanted to strip things down again and get back to the essence of rock’n’roll and pop music.”

That’s precisely what American Dreamer does – from title to the artwork, the lyrics to the melodies and arrangements of these songs, everything has been created with the mythology of rock’n’roll in mind. Yet at the same, these are songs for the modern day, universal tales of living in a digital age but with analogue sensibilities.

“We don’t just want it to sound like it’s in a musical or something,” says Jeremy. “It has to have its own edge and relevance to the time. Part of that, we consciously tried to do lyrically. Take a song like ‘Right Out Of Love’ – it sounds almost like a clichéd love song, but it’s actually about falling out of love. Or ‘Cam Girl’, which uses technology in the lyrics to make it stand out. My hope is that in 50 or 100 years, if someone were to find it and listen to it, they’d be ‘Wait – it sounds like this, but it’s referencing all these things came out years later.’ I wanted to do something where I could have something new to say in music.”

It all started when Stevie, Jeremy’s brother, moved back to New York from Paris. They’d played music together before (“He was probably eight years old and I was ten,” chuckles Jeremy), as had Jeremy and Craig, who had been working on new music together when they found their current sound. Suddenly, it all clicked, the members each sharing the same kind of vision for what they wanted to do. That chemistry is clearly visible onstage when they play live, but, unusually, you can also hear it within the grooves of the record.

“I had most of the songs for The Harlequins written,” says Jeremy, “but a lot of the sound comes from not just the songwriter, but everyone in the group. Stevie and I were on the same page as far as what we wanted to do musically, and once we had that vision everyone just found their role.”That vision is something, in addition to the backing of Little Steven, that’s won them a great deal of attention, and saw them top the Best of 2014 Readers and Fans' Poll of New York’s emerging music website, Deli NYC, thanks to their catchy hooks and their knack for writing timeless pop songs. In addition to its gong on Little Steven’s radio show, ‘Trip Into The Light’ was also featured in the Tom Cruise movie Edge Of Tomorrow. It’s precisely that high quality of songwriting, as well as the earnest emotion they’ve put into it, which makes Jeremy And The Harlequins’ music stand out so much from the rest of the crowd.

“One of the hardest things for a band to do is to reach people,” says Jeremy. “Which sounds weird, because it’s so easy to reach people, but because everyone can reach people so easily, there’s so much more going on. So we wanted a sound that was almost shockingly different. I was at a bar in France and we put on our record, and people were coming up to the iPod looking at – it was so different to everything that was playing before it that it caught people off guard. But it’s difficult.”Tough as it may be, thanks to both American Dreamer and the band’s energetic live shows, Jeremy And The Harlequins has been reaching more and more people more and more often. Very much a part of the New York scene – and very much following the line of its heritage – the five-piece have managed to capture, with a beautiful, timeless zest, the sense and the sound of the city they call home. “The time and place and people that you’re around really do affect you,” says Jeremy, “and you can either choose to go with it, or rebel against it. New York has definitely influenced our sound, and from a really classic perspective, too. Even if you go to coffee shops and bars, a lot of what you hear right now is a lot of older rock’n’roll music – and I think it just turns a light on in your brain that this is really awesome stuff. It makes you ask why music like this isn’t being played anymore.”Well – until now, that is. True its title, American Dreamer is steeped in the reverie of nostalgia but also traverses the streets of today, merging the two until they blend into just one path, a road weaving through New York’s avenues and streets and into the hearts and minds of a whole nation.
Venue Information:
Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY, 11249
http://www.brooklynbowl.com/

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