Next big things? It may be a cliche, but Mona are the real rock deal
EVERYONE’S compiling their Next Big Thing lists for 2011 and this year it’s quite straightforward because most predictions and polls namecheck one of the most crucial guitar bands to emerge in the last five years. They’re standing in the wings at the moment, limbering up for their debut album release in March (and, from what we’ve heard so far, it will be one of the year’s big sellers), and getting ready to grace Glastonbury, Oxegen et al with their rawk presence. At this stage it’s safe to predict that they will top many of next year’s Best Band awards. Welcome please, Mona. These kinds of old-fashioned record company bidding wars aren’t supposed to happen anymore – telephone number advance fees thrown around like confetti, a band able to dictate their own terms. But in September there was a ginormous bun fight to secure Mona. The buzz around them has been blowing up all year and, after they held a series of open auditions in Nashville, the huge money offers flowed in. Mona eventually signed to Island Records.
From Dayton, Ohio and now based in Nashville, Mona are a southern-fried-rock traditional four-piece who all look like pissedoff James Dean types. Musically they come on like the Kings of Leon’s snarly younger brothers; influences include Sun Records, Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones, early Clash, The Black Crowes (on amphetamines) and Rocket from the Crypt.
It’s unreconstructed rock music, and the way it’s artfully assembled – guitar attacks and almost pop-like melody lines – makes Mona a band who will skip through the transition from sweaty dive bars (where they were a short time ago) to arena/stadium level within a year. These are big, outdoor songs that will enhance many a field next summer.
Frontman Nick Brown makes for a strong sullen/arrogant presence, which is what you want and expect. He’s already declared, accurately, that Mona is “the new face of rock’n’roll” and predicts that he will soon be “bigger than Bono”. Of an early Mona single, Brown proclaimed: “I saw how a song could enrage, heal, speak, love, seduce, calm, provoke, challenge and surrender. All in three minutes. That’s what we’re all about. If it lacks passion, it’s not real.”
All of this is, in context, very commendable. The likes of Thom Yorke and Michael Stipe are fine in their own socially aware anguishedabout-the-environment way, but Brown and his boys are more bar-brawler types, already calling people out and shouting the odds.
Manager Saul Galpern (founder of key indie label Nude Records) was quick to recognise Brown’s tough guy appeal. “He reminded me of a boxer, so driven and so ambitious, so hungry for success in a really good way.”
The debut album could have been out this year, but a slow build (by today’s standards) was favoured so Mona could be seen playing live a few times.
If such a fuss is kicking up about Mona, it’s because it’s ultra-rare these days to come across a guitar/ bass/drums band who are so polished and ready-to-go. While the urban and r’n’b sectors have been able to throw new acts right to the top of the charts, rock usually needs a much longer lead-in time. Kings of Leon, the last big international rock breakthrough act, had been going for nine years and didn’t truly cross over unitl their fourth studio release (Only by the Night).
Which is why Mona are the new The Strokes – not only will they sell internationally, they could very well have a knock-on effect on the guitar rock genre in terms of influence and inspiration.
Listen for yourself on your local video social networking site; Mona’s new single, Trouble on the Way, is up now and is officially released next Friday. myspace.com/monatheband
Like The Black Crowes on amphetamines: Nashville-based Mona