Monks of Mellonwah may not be real monks, but they certainly transfix audiences into a state that can only be described as “otherworldly”.
They have got converts all throughout Australia and America hooked on their blend of progressive and indie rock.
Heading out one tour in support of their second EP Neurogenesis, Monks of Mellonwah’s Joe De La Hoyde discusses the band’s rise to fame, their democratic songwriting process and the eternal question: where did that name come from?
“When we first got together, our guitarist used to play a game called Hocus Pocus,” explains De La Hoyde.
“There was a character stage where the bosses where called the Seven Mad Monks of Mellonwah. I thought it was kind of cool, a bit quirky, fresh, funky. It kind of just stuck. Some people love it, some people hate it.”
Having played together since 2009, the band is a creation made up of Joe, brother John De La Hoyde, singer Will Maher and drummer Josh Baissari.
Although they label their music as “alternative/funk”, the band’s strength lies in the eccentric musical influences each of the members bring to the process.
“We all listen to such different music,” begins De La Hoyde “…I think its just a blend of everyone together. We all love Pink Floyd, the whole epic-ness and spaces.”
Alongside Pink Floyd, the band claims influence from Led Zeppelin drawing from their production techniques and musicality.
” [It’s] the virtuoso nature,” extrapolates De La Hoyde, “the way its strung together with riffs and the spaciness. Our vocalist has a bit of Robert Plant in him [too].”
The Monks of Mellonwah may draw ties with the indie scene, but instead of the sunshine and Instagrammed imagery of many of Sydney’s indie bands, the Monks create an extra-terrestrial psychotic world with their extended song structures and powerful rock hooks.
Their songwriting, says De La Hoyde, is a long process – akin to a sculpture as it is refined and smoothed.
“We are all pretty active writing members,” says the guitarist. “Sometimes I’ll write a riff or a chord combination. [I] then usually bring it to the band, we jam it. Before vocals are added, we’ll play it as an intro or a jam at a gig and see how it goes. And then from there we sit down together and develop the vocals.”
“Will comes up with his lyrics -it’s a really drawn out process. Sometimes it happens really quickly, depending on the song. Usually it develops over a long time. Once it hits recording it develops even more there.”
Will’s lyric for the title track ‘Neurogenesis’ became the central point for the band’s EP.
By referencing the process of neuron generation in the brain, ‘Neurogenesis’ is potent and dark narrative about crushing guilt over a horrific invention: the atomic bomb.
“‘Neurogenesis’ was our favourite track. The song is about the creation of the atomic bomb and realising what you’ve done. Sort of a Frankenstein and his monster kind of thing,” Joe said.
“Will just came up with that and it sounded awesome. It sounded like a great concept for the EP.”
Alongside making a killer EP, the Monks of Mellonwah have achieved what many Aussie bands spend their entire careers doing: developing a strong American audience.
Although as Joe says “Americans love Aussies”, only a few bands seem to have developed a following in the United States.
Not only have the Monks developed a name for themselves in the American indie scene, earlier this year the foursome bagged the Award for best Indie Rock Band at the LA Arts Music Awards.
“It [took] a lot of hard work from our manager,” Joe admits.
“He did a lot of promoting through a site called Musicxray and got in contact with a producer called Jeff Bova,” whose other credits includes work for Blondie, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel and even Iron Maiden. But De La Hoyde remembers him as the guy “who has played keys for Michael Jackson – he ended up mixing a few tracks for us.”
“We ended up entering our song to be considered for the LA Arts Music Awards which was a new upcoming awards for unsigned indie bands,” he continues. “They ended up loving us, nominating us and we performed at the showcase in February this year.”
“[We] won the award for best Indie Rock band!” enthuses De La Hoyde – pretty amazing for a band barely three years old.
The Monks Of Mellonwah’s current tour for Neurogenesis included an appearance at the iconic Sandringham which was reported last month to be in receivership, hammering another nail in the coffin for Sydney’s live music scene.
Being active players on the local scene, the Monks guitarist believes that commercial music is making it harder for local live bands to attract audiences.
“Live music is difficult in Sydney. Its sort of picking up, but not picking up. I think the whole commercial, R&B becoming dance and how everything’s sounding the same kind of thing. People would rather go out and get drunk than watching a quality live band.”
He remains positive that “there’s always been a place for rock music,” but he’s not entirely critical of the commercial music.
“I speak for a lot of people when I say that that Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is a pretty good song,” admits De La Hoyde.
Bold statements aside, The Monks Of Mellonwah are keen on taking over the world with high ambitions.
“The dream gig would probably be a packed crowd at Wembley,” says De La Hoyde emphatically. “I really want that huge stadium rock. Will is a really powerful vocalist and draws on the big arena sound. INXS and all that.”
And if it was a support slot the Monks could nab?
“For me the dream band… I would love to support Muse. I think those guys are on top of the world at the moment.”
With their widespread success, unique sound, addictive EP and a live show that has wowed audiences both sides of the Globe, it may not be too long before the Monks of Mellonwah scale the same dizzying heights.
Neurogenesis is out now and Monks Of Mellonwah are currently touring their EP, playing Manly’s Boatshed in NSW this Sunday; then dates throughout September. Full show details here.