Monopoli | Serious About Kicking Ass

prof_monopoli_sm"This is a pretty politically minded city," says Rube, "and because we live in it, we're pretty politically minded. We do feel that there is a certain aspect of responsibility when you have the mic."

 

 

 

 

 

Alternately dreamy and moody, the music of the Washington, D.C.-based foursome Monopoli ultimately reveals the most common of all rock goals: to bend your ear and get you to shake your ass. "There are a lot of bands that look down upon writing a song that then people are going to hum," says guitarist Rube. "We take pride in that. If we're able to write a song that sticks in your head, then we've done our jobs." A band with big hooks, anthemic lyrics, and a strong melodic backbone—this is one band you'll soon be hearing more of. I recently met up with Rube to chat about Monopoli's genesis, life in the nation's capital, our mutual love of Big Star's "Thirteen," and the band's upcoming EP.

"The energy is a lot higher when we play live," reveals Rube, and while the songs on their albums may be more "harnessed and reeled in," Monopoli relishes the live show as their chance to give the songs bigger teeth. Touring earlier in the summer throughout the Northeast and Canada—in a van once owned by two other D.C.-based bands with strong national followings, the Dismemberment Plan and Q and Not U, respectively—the band has been building its national and international audience. However, it was at home in D.C. where Rube and lead vocalist Alfonso Velez met while working in adjacent bars in the city's U-Street corridor.

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Although Velez initially collaborated with Rube for an acoustic demo, the two soon were drawn to explore full-band instrumentation. "Melody is what drives us more than anything else," says Rube, whose more classic and alternative rock background has proven a strong complement to Velez's folk influences and delicate, emotive vocals. That melody is further supported through the backgrounds of Tracy (bass) and Dave (drums), who add some funk and punk to the mix, Rube citing everything from the obligatory Beatles and Bob Dylan to Primus, Chet Baker, and Big Star as being major influences.

Although comparisons to U2 and Coldplay have been applied, the band's individual identity remains intact. "I don't think that we're too afraid of wearing our influences on our sleeves," says Rube. "I think that there's a belief that, no matter what we do, it still goes through the filter of Monopoli." While their first EP contained a handful of compact, tightly melodic songs reminiscent of later Manic Street Preachers—not to make another unfair reference—their later songs are moving toward a more expansive sound and some bigger guitars.

Though some of their newer songs carry a more political edge than their previous material, Rube sees this as more of a natural side effect of living in the nation's capital than of consciously donning the moniker of a political band. "This is a pretty politically minded city," says Rube, "and because we live in it, we're pretty politically minded. We do feel that there is a certain aspect of responsibility when you have the mic."

Newer songs such as "Hit and Run," which speaks to "living in the belly of the beast," and "Lady Liberty," a song with a slow boil that finishes in a danceable flourish, definitely demonstrate that consciousness. Yet, when these songs are heard alongside "Love," a straightforward, bleeding-heart love song from their first EP which seems singularly crafted for the purpose of a heartfelt sing-along, the band's tone remains just as diverse as its influences.

For Rube, this all traces back to that purest of goals. "We're here to entertain. For that hour that we're onstage, we don't want you to think about your job, we don't want you to think about your ‘you know.' We want you to shake your ass and have a good time, clap your hands." Simple, and important as hell, it's definitely worth being serious about. | Leslie Wilson

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