While there are many bands out there trying to make a name for themselves in the alternative music scene, five-piece Nashville rock band, MONA has been steadily pouring in your favorite bangers since 2007. With eclectic tunes like “Shooting the Moon” and “Like I Do,” theres a sure song for every taste. Mona’s 3 week fresh released track, “In the Middle,” is pushing near 1,000,000 streams on Spotify alone already, give it a listen here to see what all the hype is about. I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Alex and Nick a couple of weeks ago before their show with label mates, The Wombats, speaking on rockstar moments, spooky films, and Nickelback.
Textured Music: So many different sounds and styles go into your music. How is the songwriting process for you as a whole?
Nick: I grew up in church where things are very spontaneous, so we don’t sit with notebooks and write. I don’t think there’s one piece of paper that we’ve ever written an idea on, ever. So we get in a room, I own our studio where we’ve done everything and we self-produce everything, and basically we go and if there’s an idea we record it, we revisit it, and we fine tune it. If you can’t remember it, it’s kind of one of those things where I feel like, it’s not worth doing it. So most of our ideas, if they’re good, we just remember them. A lot of the main chord progressions are something someone will come up with, and then everyone kind of adds their pieces. So with me, it’s fun because I play two roles, as the producer, then as one of the songwriters, a lot of times I can give them a skeleton version of something and then everyone brings their own. Like (Alex) will bring a completely different guitar idea. It’s a democracy with a vision. There’s always kind of an idea we’re all chasing, and then you have whatever freedom for your part, and then, as long as it makes the song better, it’s all good.
TM: You can always tell what kind of band actually sits down and says “Alright, this is what we need to sound like, this is what we need to write to get on the charts”, instead of writing what they feel, and you can tell how the crowd reacts to that.
TM: What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve had to overcome since starting as a band?
Nick: I don’t know how much you know of our career, but Justin and Alex are new on this album cycle, so for whatever reasons, if you go through member changes or; we were on Island Def Jam, now we’re on Bright Antenna, through Warner Brothers, so you go through label changes and we now have a new manager, so we go through new manager changes. Then just the artistic push and pull that comes with trying to create in general, and to be honest and not write for radio or for other people but write stuff that you genuinely like yourself as well. It’s so much more rewarding, like you said, to get half a million spins on something that you are proud of whether it had 10 spins, or 10 million spins. So if it does bad, then you’re stuck with like “well fuck we just tried to write some shit we don’t believe in AND it failed”. And then if it succeeds, well you’re trapped into doing it again. It’s the same problems as any human that’s on the planet and trying to be honest, except for artists, our job is to be honest out loud so that other people can sing along and relate to it. Simultaneously we get higher highs, and lower low’s. It’s a different kind of difficult.
TM: Speaking on label changes, you guys recently joined Bright Antenna, congrats on that. How has it been touring with your label mates, The Wombats, now that it is coming to an end?
Nick: They’re like our dudes. Murph and I got to hang out way before we even knew we had this tour and we got along really quick. Once we found out we were doing it, it was great because, you know, you’re rooting for each other. We’ve been a headliner for more than most of our career, so being able to open for people that you like and respect, it makes it fun. Every night we’re ususally looking forward to it, we’ll rile up a crowd that’s getting ready to listen to one of the bands we’re friends with and like as well.
TM: What was your first, “Mom I made it” moment?
Nick:When we signed our deal with Island, I was in London and we were at this crazy huge long table, and it was a major label, so there was a lot of money being spent. Everyone was getting ready to cheers and salute, and I made everyone sit down and gave the president of the label my cell phone and I said, “You call my mom and you tell her I made it” so he talks to her and my mom is crying, people at the table started crying, so then I said “Alright give me my phone back.”
Alex: Oh man, I’m really not sure. I don’t even know if my mom thinks I’ve made it yet.
Nick: He entered at a different time than his brother. We had that whirlwind thing. One of the reasons we wanted to go with Bright Antenna is because it’s a smaller team, its more of a family oriented thing. There’s a little bit of the glitz and glam that’s not there, but we’re shooting for long term. We’ve done the thing where you explode, we were touring the UK, Europe, Australia, and Japan but we didn’t really break through the way we wanted to here in the US. So we’d rather take the steps that are going to keep us around longer, than to just be just a flash in the pan. And so, baby (Alex) kind of came in during the rebuilding process.
TM: We’ll have to get back with you on that “Mom, I made it” moment at a later date.
TM: Was there any one song or album growing up that made you stop and think, “Damn this is it, I wanna make music”?
Nick: I think now as songwriters, we like people, or we’re competitive with people. Or we’re competitive with people we actually like. When I hear stuff now, I enjoy it but it’s not like that moment of being super young, listening to my sister singing “With or Without You” thinking, ‘Who is this dude that wrote this song that girls are screaming while they’re getting ready?’ I think growing up everyone had that Nirvana or The Strokes phase.
Alex: My childhood one was fucking watching “How the West Was Won,” Led Zeppelin documentary. I had baseball practice and I was just crying like, ‘Mom please don’t make me fucking play baseball, I just wanna play guitar now.’
TM: Halloween is just around the corner, what are some of your favorite spooky films?
Alex: Oh my goodness, there’s a lot of them. “Chopping Mall.” have you ever heard of “Chopping Mall?”
TM: No I haven’t, is it one of those low budget indie films?
Alex: Kind of, it’s an awful movie but I love it a lot.
Nick: I don’t really like spooky movies. They’re either funny, or I tune out. Funny story, so the first Paranormal Activity. I was at my buddy, Jared’s house and he has a theatre and we were sitting there watching it. He didn’t tell me what we were watching, we just sat down and were watching the whole thing and he’s like, “dude you’ve gotta check this out.” So it’s at the end where the thing jumps out and I have a glass of wine and I jump out & land on him and dump wine everywhere. I squeezed his neck and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs and he’s just cracking up. I didn’t know what we were watching so it surprised me.
TM: If you were stranded on a desert island, and you could only listen to ONE album from the 90’s the entire time, what would it be?
Nick: Wow, there’s a lot in the 90’s.
Alex: I would probably go with “In Utero.” It’s my favorite Nirvana album. “The Lonesome Crowded West” by Modest Mouse, is another that’s a fucking brilliant album.
Nick: “Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too” by New Radicals, I listened to that a lot back then. Probably Jeff Buckley’s, “Grace.” That for me, vocally and as a songwriter; he was a good bridge between beautiful music and rock. To me, those were two different worlds and I think he was someone that was bridging the gap.
TM: Time for a little speed round of this or that questions!
TM: Sour or sweet?
TM: Sunset or Sunrise?
Alex: Sunrise; after a long night, watching the sun come up is one of the most peaceful things ever.
Nick: Both, because if you’ve seen the sunrise on our lifestyle, you’ve probably already seen the sunset as well. Or I want nothing, just pure darkness.
TM: Dogs or Cats?
Alex: Cats, but I have a bull terrier named Maeby.
TM: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Alex: Star Wars.
Nick: My dad loves Star Trek, but all my cousins love Star Wars. So I’d sit and watch all the tv shows with my dad, but I’d watch the movies with my cousins, and I thought they were both nerds.
TM: Probably the most hard hitting question here, R Kelly or Nickelback?
Alex: R Kelly
Nick: R Kelly
TM: Utter dissapointment, but fair play.
TM: Final question to wrap up our night, Can you collectively name all 5 Spice Girls?
Alex: Hmm, Scary Spice, the one with red hair.
Nick: Posh, Sporty, Baby, and Ginger.
Mona will be supporting July Talk, on their Fall tour this November and December, dates below! Make sure to snag their EP, “In The Middle,” released 10/28. You won’t want to sleep on this group, big things are coming their way & headed through the sound waves soon.
MONA- Official Website