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For Monsters of Folk, it's in the stars

By Brian Baker, September 2009

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Given the exploratory nature of the recording, MOF's studio experience generated a number of interesting scenarios. For Ward, one high point stands out among the rest.

"Watching Jim, Conor and Mike behind the drum kit," he says. "You love to see your friends challenging themselves. We knew we weren't going to hire session musicians to play instruments we don't normally play. Everyone had a hand in the production, but Mike Mogis is an extremely gifted engineer so he was behind the board at all times, setting up microphones and picking outboard gear and things like that. Other than that, Conor and Jim and I were playing musical chairs. We didn't bring in anyone extra, so that's something I'll probably never forget."

After the initial tracking in Omaha, the quartet dispersed, taking copies of the recordings with them. They reassembled at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu a few months later with fresh ideas for the tracks they'd started as well as ideas for new songs, and then returned to Omaha earlier this year to complete the recordings.

"I personally loved the freedom to be able to live with the demos for awhile so I could add things that I had been hearing for the last year or so," says Ward.

Monsters of Folk is clearly comprised of four very unique creative identities, and as such, it seems natural that they would be somewhat vigilant to assure all four identities are represented in equal measure. Luckily, that issue didn't need to be addressed.

"There was never anything like that to work out," says Ward. "If you have lunch with three of your friends, it doesn't become, "Is this person taking over the conversation?' I think that's the best metaphor for this."

They may be the Monsters of Folk, but the quartet has clearly colored well outside of genre lines on their debut album. There is a Marvin Gaye-meets-Moby ambient soul texture to Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.), which is followed by the Jeff Lynne-flavored Say Please, the Wilbury/Beatlesque pop of Whole Lotta Losin' and the MMJ reverb shimmer of Temazcal. The Monsters don't ignore the folk, though, from the George Harrison country romp The Right Place to the Wilco-at-a-bluegrass-festival protest song Man Named Truth to the ambient gospel of Goodway. Considering the band's nebulous approach to writing, the album is understandably diverse and unexpectedly cohesive.

At this juncture, weighing everyone's busy schedules - although they are making time for a tour to support the album's release - it seems natural to wonder if there will be a second chapter to the Monsters of Folk story.

"Absolutely," says Ward. "We all had such a great time and, scheduling notwithstanding, it was such an easy process. And we're going to be touring it in the fall."

"All of us, across the board, are pleased with the record," says Mogis. "And that's made us talk about what we should do next. If we make another record, it's just going to have to fall together just like this one. And more of the same would be fine with me because it's all so different."

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