Born of three freshman fledglings in the winter of 2001 and originally named Barbarian BBQ, Mons spent most of its time tinkering with chords and experimenting with new sounds. Jack Conway, Tristan Hendy and Joe Rothfarb crammed their equipment into South Quad’s overcrowded practice room for jam sessions and often feared the reverberations bouncing off of every wall would permanently destroy their hearing. Most of the early songs didn’t even have lyrics.
By their sophomore year, they had found the style and skill they’d been searching for. Conway covered guitar, Hendy had the bass and, after much hunting, Rothfarb secured his drums. Within no time, the band had gigs at the Blind Pig and the Wired Frog. There were links to live concert MP3s on their website and a CD in the works.
Hendy explains, “We got serious about playing and then went straight to the recording studio.”
They each have their personal goals for their music, but these interests meld together without too much effort. Rothfarb appreciates the more complex rhythms and the break from traditional 4/4 world. As an English major, he’s also interested in the writing, not only of the lyrics but the music as well.
“I write my songs on the guitar. I write a lot in general: stories, poetry, etc.”
Hendy, too, writes some songs without the aid of his bass. A piano player for 14 years, he uses that skill as his inspiration on occasion.
While Mons’ sound isn’t really reminiscent of any one band, it does incorporate several into its individual sound. Its members credit Rush, Rage Against the Machine, Planet X, with a hint of Tool.
Hendy says, “In other words, we have an identity crisis.”
The boys often go to incredible lengths in an effort to make their shows as interesting and fun as possible, even to the point of physical injury.
“I usually smash my hands at one point. Blood goes all over me and my drums,” Rothfarb proudly points to a few stains on his pants.
Most artists will tell you a concert just isn’t complete without the right audience, and the boys of Mons are certainly no different. While hard-core moshing is greatly appreciated, smiles and a feeling of presence can be enough to please the band. Audience participation can bridge the gap between a good show and a kick-ass rock fest.
Conway jokes, “We know we’re on musically if girls hug us after the show. So far, our hug count is three.”
Though the band is relatively new, they’ve already discovered the difficulties inherent in Ann Arbor’s music scene. Compared to some college towns, Ann Arbor seems like a barren wasteland for musical groups. In fact, the number of legends to come from this little city is almost laughable. But this improbability doesn’t bother Mons.
“It’s kind of frustrating in a good way, like we’re creating something here,” Conway says.
The group agreed that the Michigan League is one of the best venues they’ve played. The setting is intimate and free for students. More importantly, its staff is always welcoming and helpful. Mons was even asked to play a special Welcome Week performance at the League this past fall. They are returning once again for free performances Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. and Feb. 7 at 8:30 p.m.
Conway, Hendy and Rothfarb may appear to be shy college students at first, but their enthusiasm for their upcoming shows soon becomes abundantly clear. From cleaning out their bank accounts to roaming the state for new venues, they’re willing to do all they can to get their music into circulation.