wynkataug monks
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wynkataug monks

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The best kept secret in music


"But where in the world is Wynkataug?"

The Wynkataug Monks were barely three weeks old the day they hit the local music scene.

It wasn't long before they'd handed out 150 copies of a 10-song "album" they'd recorded in that first month of finding their sound.

Now little more than two years down the road, the Monks have staked their claim as one of Pittsburgh's most exciting bands, all youthful punk abandon backed by hooks that don't let go, a drummer who seems intent on pounding through his kit as his bandmates follow along in their spring-loaded sneakers, and a frontman who frequently captures the essence of young Paul Westerberg while sounding nothing like him.

And now, you can finally hear if it holds up without all that chaos and jumping around with the release of "Tanks," a four-song explosion of passion and hooks available Saturday night at Gooski's.

As frontman/guitarist John Dziuban explains, the goals are simple.

"Energy," he says. "And a loud sound, definitely. And it can be pretty abrasive, I guess, but catchy. Definitely catchy."

The band recorded "Tanks" at Psychodaisy studios with Silver Thread/Suburban Sect guitarist Tim Thomas producing and an eye toward capturing the essence of their live performance so that what you see is literally what you get.

"We didn't jazz it up or try too hard," says Dziuban. "We just kind of did it."

The Monks recorded enough material to fill a proper album, then weeded it down. "We did eight songs, I think, originally," he says. "And then, it might have been a bad idea, but I had a few acoustic things that I wanted to put on too. But we never got around to doing that. I mean, I have them all recorded, but I just decided that it would be best to be more straightforward for our first shot. We don't really have one definite sound, but we thought those four got the whole range without being all over the place."

He definitely feels as though it does a better job of capturing the band's appeal than the earlier record, which he doesn't consider a record.

"It was just something we did just for fun and just to get used to each other," he says. "It's not very good at all. In fact, it's terrible. I'm kind of embarrassed. This is the first time I've ever sung in a band, and I wasn't very good at the time. I mean, I think I've gotten better, but I was pretty bad at the time and we just kind of went for it and didn't really think about it, you know? Which is kind of how we approached the live thing, too."

The Monks grew up together in Peters. Dziuban says he's known bassist Jack Mullen since first grade and drummer Josh Egan since his early teens.

Before the Monks, he and Egan were in a band called Western Center.

"I played drums," he says. "And Josh played guitar and handled a lot of the singing. It was real droney, sort of Built to Spill-esque, a lot of musical tangents that last a few minutes and stuff. A lot different than us. A lot slower and weirder."

While Dziuban has nothing but positive things to say about his former bandmates, he was glad to put his Western Center days behind him.

"I think Josh and I sort of joined that band just 'cause we hadn't played in so long and we were really excited to play," he says. "But just through that experience, we realized that we could maybe do better on our own."

As luck would have it, that's around the time he started writing songs.

"It just happened," he says. "I started writing and bought a cheap little four-track and started demo-ing stuff by myself, which is still what I do for every song."

As for the band name, as Dziuban explains with a laugh, "It's nonsense, really. It was just a word that Jack made up, and I don't know what he was thinking or talking about. And I don't know why we still have it 'cause it's such a pain. I've tried like hell to change it a few times, but we're stuck with it."

The new EP is out on Lovely, a label Dziuban started with Shade's Brad Kiefer and Brad "Flash" Hlavach.

"It's sort of a collective of a couple bands," he says. "The more heads the better, I guess. It's just 'cause we're all really good friends."

They'll be sharing a stage -- or floor -- with Shade Saturday at Gooski's. And although the two bands don't sound anything alike, as Dziuban says, it works.

Not only do they often play together, they actively work at not playing against each other.

"We decided not to play on the same nights as each other," Dziuban says, "to try and get everyone to come out to see everyone. And it's worked really well for us."

Despite what the naysayers tell you, local music is in the midst of an exciting new era, and bands like the Wynkataug Monks, Black Tie Revue, Camera and Shade are out there on the front lines.

"There are a ton of good bands, I think," says Dziuban. "You always hear people say they think it's bad, but I think that's probably just because they're not really going out and seeing anything."

--Ed Masley - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"the wynkataug monks"

In the wake of the official news that after nearly 20 years, Guided By Voices is legitimately calling it quits, a resurgence of
interest in the band's suburban pop anthems and catchy-as-heck licks is sure to follow. The Wynkataug Monks have been
cultivating their own sort of guitar-driven jangle-pop that conjures similar aesthetics. Although admitted admirers of
GBV and other indie icons that dominated the 1990s, they celebrate the high-spirited nature of such bands without being
derivative. Guitarist/vocalist John Dziuban, bassist Jack Mullen, guitarist Kevin Happe and drummer Josh Egan all grew up
together in Peters Township and even lived together for a brief period, which probably says something for the band's
natural chemistry. A few years ago, Dziuban and Egan both played together in another local band, the Western Center,
and the night the band broke up, the two stayed behind and started tinkering with ideas. Immediately after, they
formed the Monks and held late-night marathon practices. "We kind of dove right in and played a show," says Dziuban.
Two years later, they've established themselves in the local music community and are about to release their debut
effort, (Tanks). The four-song EP also marks the first release on Lovely Recordings, a local label Dziuban partly
runs. Taking their time with the album, they sporadically visited Tim Thomas' Psychodaisy studios between last October and
January, where it was recorded, mixed and then sent off to be mastered by John Golden, famous for his work with groups
like the Mountain Goats and Don Caballero. The result is four glorious songs that are equally infectious, raw and completely ensconced in the high energy inherent to rock music.
- Pittsburgh Pulp

"(tanks) -review by Randal DeVallance"

The Wynkataug Monks' influences are beyond reproach. Drawing from British Invasion groups like The Beatles and The Who, and later indie legends Guided by Voices, the Monks mesh well-crafted pop songs with the grittiness of Stones/Stooges inspired punk. Their new EP, (tanks), contains four songs recorded this past year at Psychodaisy Studios. The title track, "(tanks)," is a favorite at live shows - a straight ahead rocker reminiscent of Electric Frankenstein, with an easy sing-along chorus. "At the Main School" slows things down, a moodier song that recalls early Weezer. That same crunchy guitar sound carries over on "Hurry Down to the Chemical Spill," but with the darker, more sinister edge of In Utero-era Nirvana. Wrapping it all up is "Method Act," a six-minute epic that slowly builds from simple guitar-and-drum sing-along to full-blown anthem. Of course, a diverse list of influences is only good if the band in question can move beyond them, creating a sound wholly their own. In this respect, the Monks succeed. Borrowing freely without ever devolving into imitation, they cut and paste like Burroughs in his prime, and create something completely new that's as good as anything to come out of New York. If, like everyone claims, Pittsburgh's finally going to get big then the Wynkataug Monks will play a huge role.
content of article is copyright 2004 by deek magazine.
- Deek Magazine


(tanks), ep. may, 2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Wynkataug Monks came together in December of 2001, practicing less than a month before their first show- a rather subdued presentation of their first batch of songs, on January 12, 2002. Since then, their history can be characterized by many adjectives, but subdued certainly isn't one of them. In their two-year existence, the Wynkataug Monks progress is evident: playing more than 100 shows has increased their repertoire to over 30 original songs, offered on any given night with a vigor and enthusiasm that emanates from the band members directly into their energetic audiences.

But the foundations of the band go back much farther: the Monks all come from the same patch of land in the glorious, expansive suburbs south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attending the same schools; and it is arguably the solid friendship between the four-man line up (guitarist/lead singer John Dziuban and drummer Josh Egan, who served time as band-mates in The Western Center, are joined by lefty turned right-handed guitarist Kevin Happe, and "all-around good guy" bassist Jack Mullen) that is the foremost element of their chemistry, and their success.

But it is the Monk's music that is the product of this bond, as well as their consistency. Consistency, in the world of easily changed musical fads, can be taken as a code word for stagnation--but as it applies to the Monks, consistency translates into an ever-evolving, dynamic sound that ensures the listener's pleasure--should they be interested in serious rocking. Characterized by a raw, live wall of sound coupled with melodies even the Carpenters would have been proud to sing, the Monks blend of heavy rock with modern sensibility, tempered with almost oldies-style hooks, manages what is indeed a mammoth task: it is both original and familiar, both blaringly loud and curiously pleasing to delicate eardrums. Strong song writing is their obvious goal, and their most consistent achievement.

On the other hand, those looking for a physical manifestation of their own style-of-the-moment may be disappointed: The Wynkataug Monks, though snappy dressers in their own right with often preternatural instincts for what constitutes a good hairdo, may never follow musical fashion suit and write an acoustic ballad about the girl who "dissed" them in the eighth grade, (though if they were to do so, one suspects their lyrical cleverness would never let you know it) and they will never release a dance-hall remix or a song "featuring" a rapper. With a line-up that is the sum of its parts, the Monks roster will also never expand to include the Royal Philharmonic. Progressing, possibly prophetically, to the cutting-edge of rock-n-roll, the Monks stolidly refuse to do so by leaving the rock behind, bewilderingly asking what it ever did to deserve such treatment. And it is, finally, this seeming lack that points to the clue that they possess staying power: they play for the Moment, but are removed from the moment's lack of longevity.

These boys practice 20 hours a week, they have a good time delivering their music, and people love to see them live. One might never meet a more unpretentious crew in the music world: forget the hairdo's, these boys have the itch, and the love. The Wynkataug Monks: say it like you spell it.