|They blew into town like a hurricane, three greasy kids from Rhode Island. My unexcitable ex-boyfriend was the first I heard raving about them. “You’ve got to see this band,” he said. “They’re totally from the school of Kurt Cobain, but they actually fuckin’ rock. They’re called MONSTROUS.”
Promised a free drink, I obligingly went to hear them play. Sure enough they had the Nirvana sound down pat: loud, heavy guitars, a beast of a drummer and, amidst all the white noise, those irresistible pop hooks that sent Nirvana to the top of the charts.
“This is the best Nirvana cover band I’ve ever seen! Well, since that last awesome Nirvana cover band, anyway.” I quipped. Monstrous seemed like a precious joke to me; the boys were hardly more than teenagers and looked appropriately angsty and gothic with their matching greasy long black hair forever falling in their eyes. Soon the joke got even better.
“The best thing is they’re all brothers! And they live in their van!” My unexcitable ex was genuinely excited.
I downed the last of my Wild Turkey and, looking around for the cocktail waitress, noticed that the tiny bar was absolutely packed with hipsters! Well, everybody loves a great joke, right? Plus, I had to admit that as adorable as I found them to be, the Brothers Monstrous did indeed totally rock.
After the set I asked one of the brothers—his name was Led (as in Zeppelin)—for an interview, but his grunted response deterred me. Maybe Monstrous (taking a cue from late-era Cobain) thought they were too good for interviews. Or maybe they didn’t speak English, only Caveman.
About a month later, a friend was rocking out to what sounded like a really upbeat Elliot Smith CD. When I asked what it was she grinned and begged me to guess.
I LOVE playing Name That Band. I guessed the usual pop-punk suspects. Was it the Nice Boys? Spoon? Some rare Exploding Hearts seven-inch? Elliot Smith? The Shins?
She giggled maniacally and tossed the CD case at me. It was MONSTROUS!!
Back at home I listened to the whole CD, Not A Studio Record. The first nine songs were bitchin’ Nirvana anthems with titles like “Tyrannosaurus,” “Nothing to Depend On,” and “Drive Me to Violence.” Songs ten through nineteen, however, were perfectly-penned pop hits, with piano leads and Beach Boys backing vocals and titles like “Sunshine City” and “Say You’ll Try.” It was like a best-of compilation of the Northwest’s two very different signature sounds: loud + angry and soft + bittersweet. Still the disk was uniquely Monstrous, displaying sophisticated songwriting and awesome instrumentation. All this from three brothers who were living in Slabtown’s parking lot and were possibly unfamiliar with the English language!
Eventually an interview was convened. The boys’ manager, Mattress, approached me at the bar while I waited for the band. Mattress clearly knows what he has with Monstrous; he was dressed like the Sex Pistols’ svengali Malcolm Maclaren and within minutes was filling me in on all the rock star details of the band he called “the next Beatles.” Eventually the boys rolled out of bed (that would be their van) and, over a round of Bud, told me their story. (Turns out Monstrous is fluent in English. It’s just that they talk verrrrrry slooooooowww and only when absolutely necessary.)
VIVA: How long have you been on the road?
MONSTROUS: We’ve been on a year-long adventure…
VIVA: When did you start playing music? You dropped out of school in 5th, 7th and 9th grade, according to Mattress. Were you all playing by then?
MONSTROUS: Yeah, we started young. Eight, nine… Our dad set up a stage in our house before we started school. We had fake guitars and drums from age five. Our parents had a restaurant where blues singers would come through and play, so that all seemed pretty normal.
VIVA: So you guys have been jamming since day one. Were you weaned on the Beatles?
MONSTROUS: At first we were just into like early nineties, mostly stuff like Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth and Nirvana. Babes in Toyland. Then we got into the Beatles and some local singer songwriters.
VIVA: Did you know you wanted to be in a band from a very young age?
MONSTROUS: Yeah. We knew we had no other choice. We all played in our own bands for a while, until we were eighteen. Then we slowly started to realize that no one else was as serious as we were. Other people had problems with leaving town and really just living off of nothing.
VIVA: Living in a van. That’s the rock’n’roll dream! Mattress told me that you all have solo records out.
MONSTROUS: We’re always trying to work on things that are a little different, more experimental. We compile it into the Monstrous material; we like it to be more weird each song.
VIVA: So you really dropped out in 5th grade? I didn’t know you could do that!
MONSTROUS: Well, the DCYF was always after us so we had to keep running away. We’d hop on a Greyhound and end up in Colorado or wherever.
VIVA: You guys have two very different sounds. You’re like two completely different bands: a heavy Nirvana-sounding band and then a poppy Beatles band.
MONSTROUS: We all write like three different types of songs. We don’t just write pop or folk or rock or Beatles-type songs. We love straight-forward power chord rock songs, but we know that we want to experiment more too, especially with melody, so we’re not one-dimensional.
VIVA: Monstrous has a style that almost seems preconceived. You have matching hair, matching outfits, you’re brothers, and one of you has the name Led… Do you ever play the poppier stuff live? I think Portland would absolutely flip for it, yet I’ve only heard you play the heaver songs.
MONSTROUS: We try to do live what’s most fun for us, which is generally turning up and rocking out and making shit up on the spot. We definitely want our first impression on the world to be as a rock band. But we practice the other stuff and plan to play it occasionally. We want to prove that this generation isn’t everything you hear on the radio, that it’s not so one-dimensional, where you hear the record and every song is a bad rip-off of the hit single. Alternative music started as being very diverse. We want to prove that we are probably the best and most pure result of alternative rock existing and influencing children.
VIVA: What’s your favorite Rolling Stones record?
MONSTROUS: We’re not really Stones fans. We’re more into the Beatles.
VIVA: Favorite Beatles record?
MONSTROUS: Abbey Road. Revolver. The thing I didn’t really like about the Rolling Stones is that they never showed a quirky kind of side; it was always like just being cool and stuff. We’re into people being a little goofy, too. All the old Beatles movies are more cartoonish and not afraid to show a weirder side.
VIVA: Favorite Bob Dylan record?
MONSTROUS: We never really got into Dylan. For that kind of music I always thought Donovan or Leonard Cohen were better. “Suzanne” and “So Long Maryanne” are more inspiring to me than any Bob Dylan records.
VIVA: Favorite Pretenders song?
MONSTROUS: We’ve only really heard the hits. We’re more kids of the nineties. For classic rock we like Tom Petty. If we had to choose between the Pretenders and the Clash and the Ramones, we’d buy the Ramones.
VIVA: Sexiest singer ever?
MONSTROUS: J. Mascis. Kat from Babes in Toyland. Brody from the Distillers.
VIVA: Sexiest thing you’ve ever seen onstage ever?
MONSTROUS: Probably a chick smashing a guitar. The bass player chick in the Burning Brides once went to the front of the stage and started puking all over the front rows. That’s hot. Girl bass players puking.
VIVA: Sexiest song ever?
MONSTROUS: Bowie—something off of Ziggy Stardust. Maybe “Ziggy Stardust” the song. Donovan’s “Atlantis” is a really elegant sounding song. The singer in Ash sings really sexy songs. Didn’t we spend time in her apartment?
VIVA: Who gets the most action?
MONSTROUS: Some would say Alex… He’s the youngest.
VIVA: And you sleep in your van?
MONSTROUS: At least 80% of the time.
VIVA: Unless a chick takes you home? Do you have special ladies back home in Rhode Island we should know about?
MONSTROUS: What strippers need to know about this?
VIVA: All of them!
MONSTROUS: We’re ugly! No strippers will like us. Why did we call ourselves “Monstrous?” We looked in the mirror!
VIVA: So Alex gets the most action?
MONSTROUS: We’re not sisters! We’re brothers.
VIVA: What the hell does that mean?
MONSTROUS: We don’t talk about that shit. Besides, when the night’s done and we wake up in the morning we can’t even remember.
VIVA: What kind of van is it?
MONSTROUS: It’s a big GMC candy truck. It’s a step-van.
VIVA: Does it have a shower? I personally love showered guys. I mean I love rocker guys but I love showered guys.
MONSTROUS: You need to interview like a sexy band.
VIVA: I am! You guys are very sexy. Would you rather go bow hunting with Ted Nugent or drink till you puke with Lemmy Kilmister?
MONSTROUS: Why not do both of them together? Shoot a deer, drink a shot every time you kill something, then puke on Ted Nugent’s face… Then kill him and leave him for dead. Then cook him up—boil the liver!—and feed him to strippers.
MATTRESS: Maybe you should add here that Ken was pretty bummed out when his mom told him he couldn’t be a werewolf when he grew up.
VIVA: How darling! Final question: what color panties are you wearing and how long have you been wearing them?
KEN from MONSTROUS: Regular boxers; black; I change every day.
VIVA: Really? I never hear that…
LED from MONSTROUS [avoiding the question]: I’m Led; I play guitar. Kenny plays bass and Alex plays drums.
VIVA: And what color panties are you wearing?
LED: And we all write the songs equally and we’re in a band called Monstrous.
ALEX from MONSTROUS: I’m wearing blue ripped up…uh…boxers.
VIVA: For how long?
ALEX: Ten years.
VIVA: And when are you playing next?
MONSTROUS: October 5th @ the Fez with DJ Makeout. Would you like to see the inside of the truck?
VIVA: Really? YES!!!
What happened next is strictly off the record, but I will say that if virgins need to be sacrificed to appease the gods of rock’n’roll, there’s no better place for it than the inside of the MONSTROUS van. It’s a legend in the making.
Visit www.monstrous.us for tour dates and to buy shit.