Hailing from one of Australia’s most popular cities is a quartet which is as close as you can get to alt-rock perfection. The Monks of Mellownah leave nothing to chance; the vocal inflections are carefully shoehorned, the guitars flare up at just the right moments and the drums will have you head-banging just enough to avoid whiplash. And this religious attention to detail (no pun intended) has garnered the Monks global recognition and a slew of awards. Among these accolades are the ‘International Rock Artist of the Year’ at the 2012 Annual LA Music Awards and the ‘Best Indie Rock Band’ at the Artists in Music Awards of the same year. They have been invited to stages from Singapore to the US and their music graces the airwaves the world over. Not bad for a unit that was formed just over four years ago.
It was somewhere in the fall of 2009 when vocal lead Vikram Kaushik, guitarist Joseph de la Hoyde, drummer Joshua Baissari and bassist John de la Hoyde abandoned their past lives, giving it all up to become the Monks of Mellownah. Vows may not have been recited but each member of the Sydney-based group lives for the glory of original, heartfelt compositions that are more a reflection of who they are and what they feel rather than an attempt to subscribe to the boundaries of any one genre. They are bound together by their love of music, and are most alive when they’re expressing themselves in front of live audiences.
Besides scintillating live shows, the synergy of M.O.M’s members has yielded three EPs so far. The first was the 5-track ‘Stars Are Out’ released in 2010. This offering contained the first of the Monks’ singles to be played on Australian radio. It was followed, two years later, by ‘Neurogenesis’ which also comprised five choice cuts that finally got the rockers the attention and praise they deserved. 2013 saw the band drop a project that veered sharply from the edgy alt-rock template they had set in their previous effort and really let their creative spirits wander. None of the three tracks of ‘Sky and Dark Night’ fits into the typical rock classification. But this 8-minute musical escapade was just a foretaste of the full-length album that is scheduled for official release in March 2014.
However, the Monks have benevolently chosen to bless us with glimpses of ‘Turn the People’ in the form of three volumes, two of which are already available. The first of these is ‘Volume 1: Ghost Stories’ which was released in June and the second is October’s ‘Volume 2: Afraid to Die’. The last instalment, ‘Volume 3: Pulse’, will be dropped simultaneously with the full album. But even now you can sample ‘Turn the People’ in its entirety from Bandcamp.
And what a joy it is to listen to. Right from the first cut, ‘Ghost Stories’, you are welcomed with cheerful guitar riffs, a sugary snare and Vikram’s powerful, pleading intonations. Like the rest of the twelve tracks, it carries a distinct pop edge that renders it readily palatable. ‘Tear You Hate’ starts with a programmed drum pattern that takes you back to when a skinny, flat-topped Bobby Brown ruled R&B. And the rest of the song continues in this retro vein with the keyboard effects and tempered drums that were the hallmark of the eighties and early nineties. The guitars find their full expression again, accompanied by bursts of strings, in ‘Escaping Alcatraz’ as Vikram urges listeners to emancipate their souls from all restraint. You can sense the silent genius of Grammy award-winning producer mixing and polishing components into irresistible pieces of art on this and several other tracks. The title track provides yet another twist that steers ‘Turn the People’ further from the well-trodden alternative path. The Monks of Mellownah set out to tear down rock n roll and rebuild it in their image and, I dare say, they have succeeded. Grab this gem soon as it hits the stores.
Miami Based, Internationally Known