Welcome to Rare Monk, the experimental indie rock band out of Portland, Oregon. They just dropped their third collection in October – a three track EP titled Death by Proxy - and are currently touring the west coast. They play at the Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles tonight at 9:00pm. So be there.
I had a chance to meet up with the band today in Echo Park to ask them a few questions about their music, experiences as young musicians on tour, and the daily balance between working and holding a strong commitment to Rare Monk – the Rarest, funkiest Monk of them all.
Listen to the Rare Monk Death by Proxy EP after the interview and download it HERE.
First, what does “Death by Proxy” mean?
Who do you want to sound more like, and less like? Have you been compared to any bands?
I mean, the biggest comparisons we draw on are bands like Modest Mouse and Phoenix, but we are really not trying to sound like anybody. Kind of cliché thing to say but it’s true. We are trying to do our own thing without getting caught up in what the “popular” sound is like today. That being said, there are a ton of bands that we love, but I think at this point in our careers, we aren’t trying to have that greatly influence the music we’re creating.
I’m curious about women, or men, who have come on to you strongly at or after shows. Do you ever look out into the audience while playing and think to yourself, “that girl right there wants me real bad.” And then with soaring eagle confidence you bring the house down with a beautiful solo while staring into her eyes.
It’s funny I feel like we are sometimes more of a musician’s band, meaning I feel like people pop musical boners for us more than anything else. Times are changing as the sex icon rockstar thing is being replaced by computer wielding DJ’s.
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you guys on tour? Broken down van? Broken instruments? Has anyone ever been like fuck it lets go home I hate Valencia? Then everyone has to rally that one guy and be like man c’mon we’re a team!
We’ve had several van breakdowns that were pretty shitty. We broke down in the middle of nowhere Texas in 115 degree heat last summer, without any cell service or passerbys. Luckily, we had just overheated and had a gallon water jug in the car, so after an hour or so we were ready to go. Isaac was playing some spaghetti western type of soundtrack as tumbleweeds went by our feet… it was surreally fucked.
What’s the best show you’ve ever played? What about it was good? Fans? Performance? Combination of many factors?
One of the best shows we ever played didn’t necessarily have the biggest crowd, but it had all of the best treatment, sound, and professional aspects. We played at this place called Wonder Ballroom in Portland and we had our own dressing room, stocked with beer, food, multiple couches, the whole nine yards. And for a band that is used to playing small clubs without any green room or backstage area, having those factors was pretty rad. We even had to walk down a long hallway and make sure not to get lost on the way to the stage. On top of that, the stage sound was incredible and the whole sound crew took care to make sure our shit was tight. If we could have treatment like that every night on the road, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to stop.
What are your jobs away from music? How hard is it to be committed to a band and still have to put in hours at another job to pay your rent? At what point can you all quit and just be rockstars? Who’s got the best job and who has the worst out of you guys?
Let’s see: Isaac works with troubled teens, Jake works at a tennis shop, Dorian works at a music shop, Rick works at a taco cart, and Forest works for a music licensing company. It’s really hard to organize practice/performance schedules around jobs because everyone has different work schedules. We usually end up practicing till like 2-3am during the week because it’s the only time we can all get together. We would all quit our jobs as soon as we had enough money/resources to stay on the road most of the year. The worst job two years running is going to have to go to Rick, dog groomer and taco stand, but I would say that Forest has the best because he works somewhere that treats him well and understands a musicians schedule/lifestyle.
I feel rappers have warped my image of what being in the studio is like. From what I can discern from reality tv, there’s a lot less weed and Dre Beats than I expected. What is it like to work in a studio when you only have a set amount of time? Is it stressful? Do you even go in at the same time? Is it harder to play your separate parts and put them all together than recording as a group?
The studio experience is always different. We’ve recorded in bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, all kinds of crazy shit, which usually involved a lot more said weed and beverages, but this time around we went into a much better studio environment. We’ve been in the studio for three months, getting in whenever we have the time. The majority of the recording was done in about two weeks, but now we’ve been mixing for the last month or two making sure everything is to our liking. The producer we are working with, Skyler Norwood, is an amazing engineer and all around cool dude, so he’s made the studio experience amazing. Working with good people makes things much less stressful and in the case of Skyler he’s able to get really good takes out of us because of the studio environment. We lay down initial tracking with all of us playing at the same time, then we start overdubbing and laying down individual parts. Then, we grab the drum and bass takes from the live recording, capturing the right “feel” of the song, making it much easier to put everybody else’s part into the mix with similar feel and intensity.
Last one – You guys are sponsored by Ninkasi. I saw like 14 empty boxes in your house on 30th. If you could have another sponsor, (besides God, and Google, same thing?) who would it be, and why?
Having a beer sponsor is pretty sweet, it’s like one of the best things a band could be sponsored by, but if we could have another sponsor having like a hotel, gas or food sponsor would be amazing. Being on the road can be shitty when you have to cover all these expenses, so morally as much as we would hate to be sponsored by Chevron or something, not paying 100 dollars every 4-5 hours on the road to fill up our gas guzzling van would keep us on the road much longer. We might even be able to make some money on the road! But probably not…