Interview: Monsterwatch

Self-described as a groove-punk outfit, Seattle four-piece Monsterwatch have been generating plenty of buzz, and it’s about time they finally put something down on record. Their debut, Blabbermouth, a five-track release via Noise Noise Ouch Stop Records, is coming at you April 11th. It’s full of the same chaotic energy and relentless bass groove the band delivers in their live sets, see: downer punk with an upbeat heart, aggressive rhythms, and youthful exuberance.

Available for preorder via Bandcamp, you can also grab a copy of Blabbermouth during their upcoming show, Friday, April 7th at The Moon. In the meantime, see what the guys have to say about it below.

Seattle Music News: How would you guys describe the band in three words?
Monsterwatch: Loud. Sexy, certainly sexy. Groovy, gravy, energetic.

SMN: Well your live shows are very energetic, both you guys and the crowd.
MW: Yeah, we would hope that comes through on the recordings and all that jazz.
SMN: So that’s purposeful.
MW: Yeah. We’re loud, groovy, energetic.

SMN: So sexy just got cut from the mix. Where does the name “Monsterwatch” come from?
John Spinney: Me and Jack are both from New Hampshire, and there’s this mountain that – the tip of it’s shaped like a face – called the “Old Man of the Mountain,” it fell down a few years back, but there’s this sign in front of it with a quote by Daniel Webster. The quote has the word “monster” and the word “watch” right next to each other. I wanted to have a name that resembled us coming from New Hampshire, but didn’t want to call it “Old Man of the Mountain,” ‘cause that would be the most hipster name.

SMN: That would have given you guys a completely different vibe.
Charles Richards: We’d probably be an acoustic band. Folk rock.
SMN: There would have been a fiddle involved.
CR: More beards. And handlebar moustaches.

SMN: So you have your first record Blabbermouth coming out, another fun title.
JS: There’s one song that’s an iPhone demo where we were just stoned, jamming, trying to write a song. And I make up this really stupid noise with my voice for ten, fifteen seconds and I was like, “I sound like a blabbermouth.”

SMN: And then Charles, you’re are doing all the artwork?
CR: Yeah, and I’ve done all the t-shirt designs.

SMN: So the record has the demo, plus two original tracks along with their live versions, and a cover of “Inside Out” by 999, which you’ve been doing live. What about that song made you choose it to cover?
MW: The way we turned the song into what it is now, really fits our band. It’s a cool dynamic because it’s not a riffy, fast song. But a lot of people have said it sounds like something we’d make. It’s was a fun one to record because it has group backing vocals, so it’s a little more inclusive.

If you’re gonna sit down, spend the time in the studio, it’s just fun to get that across, to have another track where we’re all a bit more involved in it. And the recording is a little bit different than the way we’ve been playing it live, it’ll be cool hopefully.

SMN: So tell us a bit about how the recording process was?
MW: We did some of it on our own, between Johnny’s house and our practice space. Originally we were just gonna track drums at the studio to have a backlog of demos and we ended up with way more time than we thought, we just busted through the songs.

We went in thinking we would do like two songs, but we recorded four songs and wrote “Tuesday.”

SMN: So, a little over-productive.
MW: Yeah, we had two hours to kill so we wrote that song in the studio. We recorded with this guy, Arsen Lives, at Birdhouse Studios in Ballard. Basically we walked in there with a bunch of stems and rode that wave into recording.

It was really easy, there wasn’t a lot of mulling things over. It wasn’t a grueling recording process by any means, it went really smooth. Arsen was really easy to work with, and he likes our music, so it’s fun. It’s fun to have someone who enjoys doing it. So hopefully it sounds good.

SMN: That ease and cohesion definitely comes across live as well.
MW: Yeah I think that we just have a good chemistry. Whatever we do is just us and it comes out. It’s easy when you’re just being yourself, right? Easy is kind of a weird word, because it makes it sound like it’s simple, which it’s not. But it just kind of flows. Smooth sailing.

SMN: So far, so good. Who or what are you guys influenced by right now?
MW: We were talking about this recently, and it’s interesting because there are some staple influences that are shared amongst all of us, but all of us come from very different musical backgrounds. Whether it’s east coast hardcore or metal, or thrown together garage-punk bands, or Seattle indie-rock. All those things come together to make the sound.

But as far as current influences…beer, weed, coffee. Three out of the four of us have been in Seattle less than two years. And there’s something to say about the local music scene here that’s influenced us a lot. To come out here and see all of these different bands actively doing things. It would be naive to say that they don’t have an influence on all of us to some degree.

Every musician listens to records and is influenced by them, but when you go and see your friend’s show and then you want to write a song. To take inspiration from a friend, it feels so much more holistic. But Slaves is probably the most common band we listen to, as far as the energy, and that kind of groove.

SMN: So what’s the story behind the rat mask?
CR: What is the story? The rat mask was a total accident. It wasn’t ever intended to become such a big thing. It was probably our third or fourth show at the Sunset and there was a spot in our set list where a song ended and there was like a minute and a half where I didn’t play. So the day of the show I went to Archie McPhee, bought a rat mask, and was just like, “I’m gonna dance around in the crowd with people with this mask on.” And then it got this good response and I rode around on this child’s tricycle and we’ve just carried on with that. We don’t wear it at shows anymore but it’s in the videos and stuff.

SMN: So you’re stranded on a desert island, you get one book, one movie, and one album. What are they?
JS: For the movie, I’d do Hot Rod. Then there’s this book I have at home, and I have no idea what the name of it is. It’s just something I found in my dad’s house but it’s a book about this guy that travels the world during WWII or something and it’s his diaries. No idea what it’s called but I read it every once in awhile. The album would probably be Lonerism by Tame Impala.

CR: So I have this cool little book of erotic art, I don’t really read that much, I just like to look at pictures, unfortunately. So I have this book, it’s a collection of all these 19th and 20th-century erotic artists. Movie, Ferris Buelller’s Day Off. Album would Mac DeMarco 2. Beach vibes man, if I’m gonna be stuck on a beach forever I’m gonna be listening to Mac DeMarco on repeat. As long as I’ve got some beers to drink. Hopefully there’s beers on this deserted island.

Johnny Velazquez: I think for the book, I’d go with the Lord of the Rings series because I could get away with three of them and they’re really long. For the album, I could probably think of something better if I thought of it long enough, but I’d probably go with The Beatles, Revolver. It’s fucking classic. And the movie, I’d go with Idiocracy, the Mike Judge film, to remind me that I don’t want to go off the desert island.

Jack Cornwell: I was gonna say Mac DeMarco. Anything Mac DeMarco, or maybe like a Shins album. The book would probably be, I don’t remember the name of it, but one of my dad’s favorite poetry books that I have somewhere. It doesn’t rhyme, it’s just really crude and awesome. And that’s how my dad was. And the movie would probably be…I don’t know, I just have Castaway in my head, cause it’d be funny. I would probably say Tommy Boy.

Interview and photos by Stephanie Dore