The best way to describe the burgeoning, yet not quite coming-into-its-own, groove of the Monks of Mellonwah is pleasantly potent. The compositions are the customary rock formula that begins with subtle guitar introductions that lead into smooth drums, and then the earthy voice of the lead singer, Vikram Kaushik. Quickly and seamlessly synchronized, the four sounds come together in a crescendo reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers. At any given time in each piece, there is a powerful moment for one musician to show his stuff. But, the voice of the lead singer remains constantly infused throughout the pieces. His emotive vocals act more as an instrument rather than a storyteller. That is not to say that the Monks don't have a message behind their music. They speak with mystique about wounds of growth, lost identity, acceptance of oneself and cycles of life. They do not portray their message utilizing loud distortive guitar riffs, but collectively pulling you in immediately into their ethereal dimension.
This upcoming Sydney, Australia based quartet came onto the scene three years ago. Since then, they have made an appearance on MTV, won "Best Indie Rock Band" at the 2012 Artists in Music Awards, won "Best International Rock Artist" at the 2012 L.A. Music Awards, and they are currently working with the renowned producer Keith Olson who brought fame to Carlos Santana, Ozzy Osborne and Fleetwood Mac. Following the release of their second EP Neurogenesis, they have been filling up venues around the United States and sure to do more of the same in 2013 as they make travel preparations to the U.S. this spring. Other successes for these young Aussies came in the form of airtime on MTV for their video "Neverending Spirit." In their native land, the band -- composed of Vikram Kaushik (vocals), Joe de la Hoyde (guitar), John de la Hoyde (bass), and Josh Baissari (drums) -- tours regularly making tracks like "Neurogenesis," "Neverending Spirit," "Kyoto" and "You Shine" come to life on stage.
The Monks admit that when they sit to listen to music, they enjoy classic rock artists such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, as well as more contemporary rock groups such as Muse, Band of Skulls, and Incubus. And it is for this reason that we see how these forerunners inform their own soundscape. For instance, listening to the Monks' version of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" the vocals come across as rough, more nasal, with slurred words, not as pronounced as Syd Barrett's vocals. But, this same languid sound, which comes from Kaushik, works well on compositions like the opening "Neurogenesis" where the dreamy voice carries the song with a lot of support from the smooth guitar while the bass and drums sit in the back. The second track "Neverending Spirit" delivers that same smooth guitar and vocals complemented by the even paced drum in the background making reference to space and time. It is very difficult to distinguish the sound of the bass, but the voice -- it must be said -- carries the band. Joe de la Hoyde was quoted as saying, "[Kaushik] brings a great energy to the Monks, and I honestly couldn't see the band without him."
When reaching for a different sound, the Monks look toward the sounds of the Band of Skulls for the track "Kyoto" has a faster energy -- fresher and contemporary. All the four musicians strut their stuff more aggressively as Kaushik bellows out "We can't tell what we are now anymore / We don't know what the score is anymore." The opposite happens on the track "You Shine" where everything slows down, delivering a controlled tempo that builds up to a guitar solo. It is clear that they have been influenced by the past and the present, yet they are finding their way to their own creative responses.
As for their name, try not to make too much of it. It has nothing to do with a mystical geographical location or monastery. According to an interview they had with Technorati, it has all to do with a computer game called Hocus Pocus, which they played as kids. Since the Monks have only been around for three years and just beginning to transition from the "Do It Yourself" approach to having bigger names backing them, it will be fascinating to see what happens to them in the near future. 2013 already has a lot in store for them. With their release of a three-track EP in March, a debut album in June and a few singles/videos in the latter part of 2013, they are sure to have a busy year ahead of them. Since the Monks of Mellonwah have the same level of passion for performing and writing music together, spending this much time together will most likely set the stage on fire for those music lovers who appreciate the familiar.