NEW MONSOON: New Monsoon is seven guys. Brian Carey, Rajiv Parikh on tablas, Marty Ylitalo. We have Jeff Miller on electric guitar and mandolin, Bo Carper on acoustic guitar and banjo, and we have Ben Bernstein on Bass and Phil Ferlino on keyboards. And the band is from San Francisco. That’s where we are based out of.
AD: You said you’re from the Bay Area. What other Bay Area bands influence your work?
NM: Santana would be the biggest Bay area band that has the biggest influence on our sound. Certainly the percussion is an influence and the guitars–that would be the biggest influence on the sound. Plus, the whole San Francisco scene has been very multicultural over the years and a lot of the world music kind of embraces that vibe and we try to capture that in our music. Also the Grateful Dead of course — they were pioneers of the touring phenomenon–what they did and how they affected the culture and fan base. We definitely admire their work ethic and the music they created. Carrying in that tradition, in what we’re trying to do, not necessarily sounding like the Grateful Dead or Santana but still having the essence of the San Francisco sound for this generation and bringing it to the fans that are our age and continuing it. Because the bay area is a really special place where many amazing musicians reside and it’s really wonderful to be a part of that scene. There are a lot of great bands that are coming out of there now including Michael Franti, Spearhead, Hot Buttered Rum and Green Leaf Tea.AD: How would you categorize your music, if you were to?
NM: I would say world rock. Simply put. It’s a foundation of rock and roll with drums, guitar and bass. We try to take in kind of Latin/Indian rhythms and kind of mix that in with the rock format but then we occasionally kind of throw in a blue grass kind of vibe. But not doing necessarily one particular thing. It’s kind of a salad. This nice mixture–this blend.
It is somewhat difficult to encapsulate the sound New Monsoon. Ultimately for us, the goal is that when someone hears five different songs from New Monsoon they will know that that is the sound of New Monsoon. When you hear the Dead or Santana or the Allman Brothers you don’t think to yourself what kind of music is that, you know that, “Oh, that’s that band” and so that’s what we are trying to achieve with our sound.
AD: What do you want to achieve with your music?
NM: You know it’s kind of an on going process at what we are trying to achieve. It’s trying to create the best music you can and just spreading that to the audience. It’s a very circular energy that happens between what we do on stage and what happens with the fans and part of what we are trying to achieve is for the fans to be in the moment of our music and just be present and to really just go where we’re going musically. Take them on journeys and just take them away from the stresses and worries of their everyday life. It’s really important to provide that kind of healing part of your music–soul and heart and passion. It’s hard to do those things.
We’re also always trying to achieve better songs and trying to even perform the songs we have already done over and over again better. So it’s not a static thing. Just because we wrote one song it doesn’t necessarily say, ok, that’s the way it is from here on out. You know, it’s an evolving thing and we are always trying to better the music. Always trying to write a better song.
AD: What do you like about Austin?
NM: The energy there is great for music. Every time we’ve been there it’s just been one music club after another. The first time we were there we opened up for another band. We just walked around town and it was like, jazz here, blues here, a rock band, a punk band here and all of them were crowded with people that were into seeing music. After that, going to Austin City Limits Music Festival and just having that amount of people in one city that want to come and see all of these bands from across the world was great, we loved it.
We did a Halloween show there at Stubbs and it was just an amazing night. It was a Monday night and it was just packed and everybody was dressed up and it was after a Galactic and MOFRO show at the indoor venue of Stubbs. It was just ridiculous– people were so festive and so into it. The show ended and it was like 3 or 4 in the morning and the streets were still crowded with people. It was just a great scene.
AD: Tell us about your new recordings.
NM: The newest studio album is called “The Sound”. It was recorded up in Sonoma County in California. It is probably the first album that we’ve done that we kind of showcase more of our songs rather than our jams. We have an album called “Live at Telluride” which is basically our set from the Telluride Music Festival that is more showcasing of our live playing. “The sound” is more with how to deal with the studio and what kind of songs to be created to kind of take that format to its highest level
It was really exciting because we involved Michael Shrieve from Santana–he was the original drummer from Santana. He helped produce the album and to have him want to be part of this project was very inspiring for us because he is just kind of a legend–he played at Woodstock and he’s been with Santana for several years. We played a show in Seattle and he came to see us and didn’t really know anything about us and kind of fell in love with the band and it was like an instant chemistry and he wanted to work with us. So to have him involved in the production of the CD was very special.
Jeff and Phil wrote most of the songs and did most of the singing. And it’s kind of like a snapshot in time of where we were and what we experienced on the road and everything you do on the road and touring live and creating songs from it and recording it and then we’re done and you move on.
So we captured that period of New Monsoon and put it onto tape. It was the first time we had producers. The previous albums were kind of self-done at our practice space on the computer. This time we went to a real studio and had that kind of person there to say that works, that doesn’t work, no you’re done with your part or no, you can do this better as opposed to us. We’re a democracy in the band, there’s not one guy that is a leader so that is good and bad in the sense of making an album– everyone has an equal say. But with a producer they really have the final say and that’s what we kind of wanted so it worked out great.