Whatever you do, don’t tell Monogold that they sound like Animal Collective. Or that they are a synthpop band.
“We’re a fucking rock band,” bassist Michael Falotico says. “Singer/guitar player, singer/bassist, singer/drummer, like, I’m sorry — that’s a rock band.”
The Animal Collective comparison is a particular point of tension with the three-piece Monogold, not because they hate Animal Collective, but because the comparison is wrongheaded — and yet has gotten passed around in nearly every bit of press about the band: here, here, and here, for example.
“With a lot of media outlets, they’ll say a couple things directly relevant to what you just put out,” lead singer and guitarist Keith Kelly says. “But then to describe you, they didn’t look at your whole catalog, so they’ll just Google…and there it goes. You become an Animal Collective synth thing.”
These misconceptions, however, have fueled their most recent work, which definitely doesn’t sound like Animal Collective. Their fourth release, Good Heavens, is an acoustic departure from their weird, ambient earlier efforts, with each member of the band doing things they normally never do — their drummer plays mainly keys; their bassist plays slide guitar. “It’s bedroom Monogold,” Falotico says.
New York–bred (all three members were born in different boroughs), Monogold today evince a fraught relationship with their hometown. They’ve stuck around despite a general feeling that the city’s current music scene has too many bands and not enough cool venues where they can play. Other options have been discussed: maybe upstate, where they play a festival called O+ every year, or Nashville, or Los Angeles, though Kelly has strong opinions on that last one. “I fucking hate L.A. I don’t want anything to do with that place,” he says. “More traffic than even here, plus you can’t get pizza at four in the morning, and if you do, it’s made with, like, shitty dough. Why bother?”
But living in New York comes at its own cost. Monogold, like almost every band here, are doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work themselves, whether that’s mixing the album or trying to get single placements in commercials — anything to sustain the music they’re making. “There’s no record company coming over with suitcases of cash anymore,” Kelly says. And even if there were, that would mean a loss of creative control. “You want control of your music, but then you don’t have enough time to make more music to be in control of because you’re controlling everything.”
It’s tiring. Drummer/pianist/singer Jared Apuzzo has two kids. Both Kelly and Falotico tend bar to make ends meet. That’s part of the reason why there’s a pretty large gap in Monogold’s discography, from 2011’s The Softest Glow to late 2014’s This Bloom. But This Bloom kicked off a rush of new music from the band, with Good Heavens released in September and another new album (reportedly “more poppy and weird”) on the way for spring 2016.
If that strikes you as a lot of new music for the average listener, you’re not wrong, but Monogold don’t feel like it’s out of the ordinary at all. Rather, it’s a way of making up for lost time, of testing their limits. The result is a three-album saga through Monogold’s inspirations. Kelly has been obsessed with the Pixies of late; the band as a whole has been tuned in to the Sundays. The three albums range from upbeat to calm to pop-influenced, which is part of Kelly’s strategy: “They bleed in and out,” he says, “but they’re always distinct.”
The band is still working out details for a potential tour behind Good Heavens (after their upcoming album release show at Rough Trade), but Monogold never want to put a flute on a laptop, so live shows are difficult. Luckily a new, more tourable record is on the horizon, giving Monogold another chance to stretch their wings.
But at the end of the day, as long as you’re actually listening to Monogold’s music, you can pretty much say whatever you want about them. “If someone’s like, ‘You sound like “Weird Al” Yankovic,’ and they say they’ve listened to the record, so be it,” Kelly says. The band admires musicians with eclectic catalogs, so even if they sounded like certain other bands on earlier records, they don’t want their next work to be reminiscent of their previous. “I don’t want anyone to be like, ‘Oh, that’s Monogold,’ ” Falotico says. “I want them to say, ‘Damn, that’s Monogold!’ ”
Kelly jumps in, “Or, ‘Damn, they sound just like Animal Collective!’ ”