Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rising Artist Pick: Monks Of Mellonwah

When you ask Joe de la Hoyde who were some of his earliest musical influences, one name stands out among a long list of names. It stands out because it's the one name most people would never know.

John de la Hoyde is his brother, who taught himself to play guitar by downloading tabs from the Internet. Joe eventually did the same, falling in love with the guitar and diving deep into classical guitar studies, which he eventually pursued in school.

It was at school that one accidental happening would be the foundation of the Sydney-based indie rock band Monks of Mellonwah. The two brothers and three classmates — Will Maher from performing arts; Josh Baiddari from music studies; and Josh's friend Vikram Kaushik, who was already an accomplished guitar and violin player — planned to learn a few cover songs to raise money for the school's charity day. 

"Sometimes you are on a special journey and don't even realize it," says Joe de la Hoyde. "It was from there that we grew into our own band, Monks of Mellonwah."

Aside from Kaushik, who left the band to study overseas shortly after recording their first EP, the Monks of Mellonwah have always been the same bunch. What isn't exactly the same is the sound. Their upcoming 4-track EP, Neurogenesis, carries an unexpected maturity for a band that hasn't cut an album.

Some of the credit belongs producer Ryan Miller (RM Music). Joe de la Hoyde says Miller gave them much more freedom in the studio, reinforcing the band's decision not to be hung up on traditional structures or hurting to cut every song under the 3:30 finish line.

"Some parts were done with Miller and others in different recording spaces, in different frames of mind," says Joe de la Hoyde. "The result could be seen as a product of those places and moments, giving it all a big open and free feel with nothing ever feeling rushed."

Free is a fitting description for the album. All four of the band members are spiritual, with the idea of an existence outside of the physical one very real to them. Underscoring this point is the inspiration behind the second track, which the Monks of Mellonwah are using as an introduction to the EP. Some of the video footage is as personal as the song.

"When we were writing these songs, John and Joe's grandfather passed away," says singer Will Maher.  "This event in their lives and in ours had a very heavy influence on the Neverending Spirit. It's about coping with loss by embracing the idea of another life. Their love can't escape your heart."

According Maher, the band is equally attached to all of the songs. Each has a particular connection to one or more of the band members for different reasons. Kyoto is about someone losing their mind and forgetting who they are. You Shine is about love and the power to heal. And the opening track, which is clearly the standout of the four, is about J. Robert Oppenheimer, often called the father of the atomic bomb. 

"I was trying to get inside Oppenheimer's head when I wrote it. I mean: What was his emotional reaction to what he had to create? What did it mean to him?" says Maher. "The chorus suggests a kind of attachment between Oppenheimer and his creation, like Frankenstein and his monster. It's a dark attachment."

Like many of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer had mixed feelings about the necessity of bringing the atomic age to life. He later said that it brought to mind words from Bhagavad Gita. Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. (Verse 32, Chapter 11). 

"Neurogenesis is probably a standout as it touches deeply, particularly when we play it live," he said. "When we get up on stage and connect with the audience, it feels amazing. Music breaks down cultural barriers and in some cases makes a positive change in people's lives. Connecting the universe through art is the ultimate experience."

Incidentally, Neurogenesis and Neverending Spirit were mixed by Jeff Bova (Michael Jackson, Billy Joel) and Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) put together the final mixes. For their upcoming album, the band will be entering the studio with Keith Olsen (Fleetwood Mac, Ozzy Osbourne, Grateful Dead) in November. The expected release date is early 2013. 

Neurogenesis By The Monks Of Mellonwah Explodes At 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Advanced tracks of Neurogenesis have earned some wildly mixed reviews, from flaming to fawning for their departure from the more funky rock and indie pop sound that epitomized Stars Are Out. Our take is that Neurogenesis is a progression that will easily pave the way to greater things for this band, with Neurogenesis being darkly brilliant, Neverending Spirit carelessly confessional, and Kyoto perfectly distributed. 

Although the EP originally had a release date of May 25, the iTunes release date was kicked back to June 6. We'll update this interview with download links as soon as the album is available. In the interim, you can give the three remaining songs on the album a spin on the band's website. Their early work as a 5-piece, Stars Are Out, can be found Amazon or downloaded from iTunes. 
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