The Monjees are your essential college band. This does not mean that they will eternally reside within such creative confines. No, they’ll probably be “out like Mariah” the moment the members put on their funny little hats and snatch their $30,000 pieces of paper. Or, maybe it’ll be the golden moment when Master P decides to fly a director down to Miami to shoot their first video for No Limit Records. Whichever comes first. In the meantime, they’re chilling, playing shows, toking, listening to lots of vinyl and hating on Dashboard Confessional. There’s no rush, just good vibrations.
This is a relaxed, down-to-earth chat with the Monjees. Never heard of them? They’re good peoples and a sweet reggae band. Who do they sound like? A little like Sublime, without jocking their steez. Throw in some soul, some ska (the real deal, not the stuff your lame, little brother hums to himself while he’s perfecting the art of Handi-Snacks (among other things)), and some distant punk influence and it’s on. While you’re at it, throw in a case of Red Stripe and a pack of cherry-flavored beedies.
This is the time to ask questions. Where can you see them perform? Tonight at the Hard Rock Cafe, 401 Biscayne Blvd., with punk rockers Better Off Dead and the acclaimed, underground hip hop of Algorithm. Who? Shut it. Why? Reggae is one of the only types of music that’s easy to enjoy live, regardless of your musical preference. The Monjees happen to be especially sick. In fact, they’re so sick that they’re opening for Talib Kweli at the Hard Rock Cafe on October 11. Plus, chicks dig reggae bands because it puts a “warm glow around everything,” and you know what that means. How much? Like $5 or something. What’s your deal? It’s 5 a.m., and this interview is bomb, so just read it.
Q: So, I did some research for this interview and opened a dictionary. The word “monjee” is not in it. What in the hell?
MJS: We’re the “monjees.” It’s us.
Q: And you guys started playing as a band in ’97 or ’99, right?
MJS: 1999, but we sucked. We started off as a ska band. I (Paul = lead singer) liked a lot of ska and reggae and he (Andrew = trombone/keyboard) liked a lot of hip hop and jazz. Our guitar player, who loved pop-punk, I mean loved it, was the roommate of the drummer from New Found Glory, and he wrote the songs. We wrote some shi**y songs, and once him and our old drummer left, who just totally sucked man…
Q: I heard he was a heavy drinker?
MJS: We should have never let him play drums. He was really good at drinking rum and reading, that’s it. But the thing is, he would never have fun when he was drinking, he’d just bitch about being an alcoholic.
Q: What’s he doing now?
MJS: No clue. Last I heard he was in AA.
Q: So he’s MIA?
MJS: Yeah, M.I.AA. He’ll be a linear note in our CD. Actually, there’s a lyric in one of our songs that goes “Tim was on the bucket, and then we said f*** him.” He originally started out playing a bucket, and he was way better at the bucket than the drums. He rocked the bucket, ’cause there was only one thing to hit. Once he got five things in front of him, he got confused.
Q: That’s hilarious. He probably saw five buckets when he was hitting the one, so he thought he was playing the drums. Master P recently signed you guys to his label, No Limit Records. What’s the deal?
MJS: We were hanging out at Hard Rock in May, and the promoter was like “Master P is coming and he wants tables reserved!” and we thought, “let’s give this guy a good show.” So after the show, we went over to meet him, but the thought of getting signed, honestly, never cross our minds. I mean it’s No Limit. He talked about doing something with us, so we gave him a demo, and a couple weeks later he flew down this dude, Boz, and we signed with them in this shi**y pizza place in SoBe. It was weird. He’s straight business, and he does everything himself. Basically P runs this global, multi-million dollar operation with his celly. It’s hot, and even when things get frustrating waiting for decisions, it sure beats a major label bossing us around, you know? We have total creative control. Better Master P than Ja Rule (laughs).
Q: Since you play reggae, do people ever ask where your dreads are?
MJS: Yes, all the time. It’s either that, or “can you sell us weed?” People don’t know what reggae and Rastafarianism is all about. They know about it on a surface level, where it’s Rasta+dreadlocks+reggae = weed. There are so many people who like Marley only because he smoked. Dreads in the Rasta culture are a sign of strength, it’s in the Bible as well, but you don’t need them to play reggae or to be Rasta. It’s just dedication, they call it “livication.” I want people to know that it doesn’t matter who you are, you can listen to our music. As long as you like to sway to the music, you can drink a beer and enjoy it.
Q: I heard that you fellas use to drink and write poetry with Chris Carraba from Dashboard Confessional? What in the hell?
MJS: Hah, f*** this kid. Do you know how tall that dude is? He’s 4’9″. He’s screwed a lot of people in this scene over, and I know for a fact that he’s a little girly bi***. The worst part is that he’s been married for, like, years, but he still writes songs about breaking up with girls. If I ever see Carraba, I’m going to punch him.
Q: Did you guys see him on MTV’s “Unplugged”?
MJS: He’s unplugged to begin with, so it doesn’t make any sense. He should get plugged in for once, that’ll be a stretch. He should get plugged period!
Q: What do you say to the person reading this, who’s like “Gee whiz guys, these guys are cool and all, but ska music just sucks?” Can you understand why some people find ska to be so redundant?
MJS: Well, there’s a lot of ska out there. It’s like punk, there’s something out there for everyone. It’s sort of like comparing the Sex Pistols to the Ramones – so different. If I had only heard the Sex Pistols, I might’ve passed on it, but I discovered the Clash, and that changed everything. And then you have a band like Bad Brains, who are easily one of the greatest bands of all time, but people in general just sleep on them.
Q: Are you fellas chummy with New Found Glory or what?
MJS: Chummy? Could you have used a gayer expression? Hah, no, not really.
Q: Yeah, well, in my opinion those guys are straight Chartwells. They eat it, and true punk bands don’t have their music being blasted in malls and inside Hot Topic. Moving on…can you guys elaborate on letting kids freestyle @ your shows?
MJS: That’s how I (Paul) came up personally. Those were my first experiences performing live. But, it’s funny because some people will come up to the mic and say, “Hey man, I’ve got a freestyle I just wrote.” And then there’s always the Eminem kid that comes up and says “Yo, yo, my mom is crazy and she does drugs, I have to go to my dawg to get hugs…” and I’m always like you are wack as hell. We should find that dude and put him on our next CD.
Q: Corona, Red Stripe or Pap’s Blue Ribbon?
MJS: Red Stripe. Mos’ definitely. Everyone out there should try Kalik and support the local Hurricane Reef, Caribbean Pilsner. Oh yeah, the sampler at Titanic is also pretty top notch (plug, plug).
Q: You guys use to have a house together, but you got evicted because you didn’t pay rent, right? Or, was it all the parties?
MJS: Hah. No, we were just total slobs. All we did was drink, eat and practice. No one ever wanted to take out the trash, so we’d have like a fortress of beer bottles, practically guarding us from our landlord. We threw all the trash onto this table, and it just kept building and building. The real reason why we left is because the refrigerator broke down, and we had crabs in there, seafood, and it drained all over the floor, and it got so hot inside the house. The smell was ridiculous. We just packed up our stuff, and we ended up leaving a lot of stuff there. It was so bad that we couldn’t take it, and of course laziness played a factor.
Q: Where do you see the Miami music scene heading in the future?
MJS: Live music in Miami is going to get much bigger. I think a lot of these SoBe places have opened up to live music, because the techno thing’s not working, especially at a $25 cover. That and the fact that the doormen are still herbs, that’s why I’m not going to go. Hard Rock is starting to throw the hottest shows, like the Beatnuts last month, and De La and EPMD coming up for like $15-20, with little hassle. The De La show is, like, $8 plus 2 cans of food, because the Bob Marley Foundation is doing it. I don’t how many kids at UM have seen these groups live, but they’re amazing. You can’t beat the price. As for our band, no matter what, we want to rep Miami to the fullest. This is where we got our start, and we will always play our best shows here.
Q: Let’s say you guys blow up and you suddenly have a choice between Avril Lavigne, Brody from the Distillers, or Gwen Stefani? To even things out, let’s say it’s a pre-Bush Stefani, because Gavin’s probably tapped her out by now.
MJS: Gwen Stefani pre-banging the dude from Bush? Whoa. Avril, I don’t know man. We played at this summer’s Warped Tour, and there were like fifty girls who looked just like her, and her music sucks. Avril would be like a one time thing, and the Brody-thing freaks me out because of Mallrats, so pre-Bush Gwen. No many people know that Avril was a Canadian country singer before she flipped it to punk – seriously. Now, MTV calls her the “punk rock princess.”
Q: Why should people check out the show tonight @ Hard Rock?
MJS: There’s some great f***ing bands playing. If you like punk, if you like hip hop, if you like dancehall, if you just like to dance, you’ll like it. If you’re in a sorority, you’ll like us. Plus, the Hard Rock Cafe is a chill place to drink and live it up.
Q: What do you guys think of the Life & Art section of The Miami Hurricane?
MJS: It’s hot. Now there’s stuff in there that’s actually worth reading. It’s no longer like “How to Get to Key West” part 7 and “Top 40 Grove Hot Spots.” We’re feeling it. Props.
Look for upcoming Monjees concert dates, including the De La Soul show, in the Life & Art calendar.
Hunter Stephenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.