Moneen
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Moneen

| INDIE | AFM

| INDIE | AFM
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"A Conversation with Moneen's Kenny Bridges"

By: Scott Heisel

With the release of their first-ever DVD, It All Started With A Red Stripe, earlier this month, Canadian emotional-rock quartet MONEEN have officially re-entered the consciousness of thousands of music fans. Brian Shultz caught up with frontman Kenny Bridges to discuss some of the more uncomfortable moments of the documentary, the band's strange parallels to a defunct labelmate and the all-encompassing power that is YouTube.

The "film" part of the DVD basically revolves around the demo sessions for The Red Tree and how Rich Egan basically wanted you guys to write and record some more before officially recording the album. How frustrating was that at the time?
KENNY BRIDGES: At the time, we didn't really know what was going on in the world, and it's funny when we think back to those times now. We were just like a bunch of whiny, stupid losers. If we had gone and recorded the record when we first thought we were going to, the record would've been completely different and completely garbage, probably.

So at the time, yeah, it kinda freaked us out because up until that point we'd never had anyone ever tell us what to do or...not even tell us what to do, but suggesting. We kinda did everything on our own. We worked really close with a lot of friends. Even when we recorded [Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now?] with Trever Keith and Chad Blinman, they were really good to us as far as letting us do our thing, where this time it was kinda, like, more people had invested a lot of time. Rich invested into us and we were really lucky for that. So at the time, we were frustrated, but we were never pissed. We were never one of those bands who were like, "Screw everyone! You don't know who we are!"

I think more than anything, at the time maybe our pride would've been hurt. We were really proud of the fact that we do a lot of things ourselves. But in the end, we thanked everyone for the fact that they [pushed] us around and opened our eyes up to the reality of that. We, at the time, weren't ready to write that record. We were writing a different record, which wouldn't have been what we really [wanted].

But it's funny how time goes by and we can look back at that now. Like, have we really grown that much in the couple years or three years or whatever it's been? And I think that's the funny thing. We've learned so much, and I don't think we'll ever repeat the stupid mistakes of a dumb, naive band, like [starts chanting] "We want fun! We want fun!" and then not think about what we're actually doing... If that makes any sense.

I think that relates to the part in the film where Brian McTernan is asking you about the meaning to the lyrics for "The Politics Of Living And The Shame In Dying." You seem pretty caught off guard.
Oh, yeah. No one's ever asked...[Laughs.]...before that, no one's ever asked, "What does this song mean?" That's funny that it's just the caliber of producing that Brian's at that we weren't used to. [He's] not just trying to record sounds; he wants to figure out what the song's about and where it's coming from, and that's really cool. That's another thing we learned.

Pretty much, I guess the whole movie's about, "watch how dumb Moneen is and then--[Laughs.]--see how they've learned from it." Here's the funny thing about that movie--it catches a time, but it's a very specific time. Other than, obviously, the flashbacks to the past, hovering around us doing pre-production for The Red Tree. That's what it was all about. There's two weeks of pre-production, and the movie focused around the first week of it [because] Alex Liu, the guy who directed it, went home the second week. The funny thing is how much change within the second week there is to see. All the songs come together, we're all having the greatest time ever the second week. We all went up to this little lake house and did vocals up there and got really creative. That's all the stuff you don't get to see, but I guess that's not the stuff you want to see because [it's not] people friggin' getting angry at each other and rolling around on the ground screaming, and [that makes] for good TV.

During one of the flashbacks to 2003, you say that if anyone ever left the band, that would be the end of it. I find it interesting that when you guys were jamming, Peter says he doesn't like this one song--I think it was listed in the credits as "Kenny's Shitty Song"--and it creates a lot of tension between him and you. And, of course, this past March, Peter left the band, but you guys didn't break up.
That's the ironic thing about the timing of it all is the fact that right when this DVD finally comes together and is gonna be released, us and Peter have to go our separate ways. At the time, "if any of us leave the band, it's not gonna be the same," but in the end, that's not the case. Basically, life has his own timeline and doesn't--[Laughs.]--care what you say. Probably, at one time we thought, "This band could - Alternative Press


Discography

It All Started With a Red Stripe (DVD) - Vagrant Records (2008)

Saying Something You Have Already Said Before - Self-Released (2007)

The Red Tree - Vagrant Records (2006)

The Switcheroo Series w/Alexisonfire -Vagrant/Dine
Alone Records (2005)

Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now? - Vagrant/Smallman Records (2003)

The Theory of Harmonial Value - Smallman Records (2001)

Smaller Chairs for the Early 1900's - Smallman Records (2000)

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Bio

Working on their latest album The Red Tree, Moneen had a new awakening. For a band that is accustomed to touring extensively and taking only a month off to write an album before going back on the road, having real time to work on their songs was a concept they weren't used to. The process was both refreshing and painful, but the frustration that came from continually analyzing their work turned into determination to make the best album they could. The payoff is a mature and diverse record where each song is epic, not in length but in scope.

After three relatively solid years of touring to promote Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now, playing Europe and the UK for the first time, and sharing the stage with bands such as Muse and Taking Back Sunday, the band spent half a year at home in and around Toronto working on material. When they went to Baltimore in July 2005 to work with producer Brian McTernan (Hot Water Music, Snapcase, Thrice) they began the dissecting and rebuilding their songs. At times disheartening, the process caused friction that was documented in the film The Start to This May Be the End to Another by Alex Liu. Since this was the only period of the recording process that was filmed, the documentary gives the impression that making this album was torturous for Moneen. Though the first week was tough, the following weeks found the members coming together and enjoying themselves. "When we got home I was so motivated, all I cared about was this band and the songs, more than ever before," gushes singer Kenny Bridges. "Now I was on a mission and, not to sound like I'm trying to be Brian Wilson or anything, I was trying to write the best songs I could and not let anything hold me back." Unlike Wilson, Bridges managed to tackle this challenge without letting neuroses or nerves get in his way. Instead, all the obstacles created a catapult to bring them closer to the album they wanted. "If we didn't go through all that crap of thinking we were the worst band ever and that we couldn't write a song if we tried, then we never would have got this record we have now," says Bridges.

After the release of Are We Really Happy... the boys became legendary for their tight, stop-start arrangements, and song titles that go on for miles. While the names of their tunes haven't shortened at all—in fact the new album features some monikers that certainly won't fit on an iPod screen, such as "The Frightening Reality Of The Fact That We Will All Have To Grow Up And Settle Down One Day" and "There Are A Million Reasons For Why This May Not Work...And Just One Good One For Why It Will"—the new songs are more cohesive and less frenetic than past albums.

Their live shows, however, show no sign of taming, just improving. Bridges feels that, as much as their nutty stage show is important to maintain, the time off of the road made them focus more on stepping up their playing abilities. "It's one thing to be like, 'Look at me, I can spin on my back!'" he says. "But if I'm spinning on my back and singing so bad and playing nothing on my guitar, then that's no good."

In pre production, Bridges says that it seemed the album was going to be very dark.

Lyrics such as "Let's be tragic/Let's be sad," "He said, 'we're all dead'" and "This kind of love won't last it never did" do seem to suggest lamenting and morbidity, but the music itself promotes excitement rather than depression. Writing lyrics this time around was less a glance inward for Bridges as it was a look outward at the rest of world. Inspired by the news and current event that make him want to smash his television, the lyrics have an element of storytelling which isn't as prevalent on previous albums.

Though the lyrics don't always reflect directly on the band, the line "I found a box which said "open and choose"/You'll find two notes/One says you might succeed/ The other reads you'll ruin everything" pretty much sums up Moneen: both optimistic and self-deprecating. This dichotomy also shows in the way Bridges speaks. Many of his answers end in something like "but then again, maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about." As much as he is confident in the direction Moneen is headed, he is hesitant to show his certainty for fear of seeming too cocky. Even when he describes the journey that lead them to record The Red Tree he has to downplay his pride. "It goes to show," he says. "You've got to suck before you rule."