Bellingham’s ‘Drunk/Punk’ Quartet Mono Men Come Out Of Hibernation
(CBS Seattle) — Ask and you shall receive…that’s kind of how one of Bellingham’s most prized bands came out of hibernation.
After agreeing to regroup and play a friend’s (technically invite-only) 40th birthday party in February, the Mono Men have awoken from a seven-year nap and are playing two Northwest shows this weekend — The West Seattle Summerfest on Friday and Bellingham’s The Wild Buffalo on Saturday.
Before the four-piece garage outfit hopped on stage at the Green Frog Tavern earlier this year — and before they were summoned by Mexico City to play a handful of shows this past spring — the guys had been fairly preoccupied with their non-Mono lives.
Since the group last played in 2006 (an abbreviated tour in Spain), Aaron Roeder (drums) had to close down the site of what many considered the best place in Washington to see live music, the legendary 3B Tavern. John Mortensen (guitars, vocals) stuck to video producing and occasionally played with the Star Spangled Bastards; Ledge Morrisette (bass) moved to Denver, and Dave Crider (guitars, vocals) has split his time between maintaining Estrus Records — the label that Mono Men (and countless other punk-surf-primal trash rock bands) got rolling on — and serving as the guitarist for the band The Dt’s.
The Mono Men, who carry the label “kings of drunk/punk,” were garage rock machines in the early 90s releasing roughly three-dozen singles, ten albums and EPs and touring the globe. And while musical chaos erupted in Seattle during that same era, the band was perfectly content maintaining its home turf in the tavern-heavy college town of Bellingham. In fact, the Mono Men found themselves building relationships with bands (and fans) outside of the Northwest thanks to Crider’s label and an annual festival it put on called Garage Shock.
Aside from the age factor, what’s the biggest difference between walking into the practice room now and walking in back in 1993?
John Mortensen: It’s harder (laughs).
Dave Crider: It smells different (laughs).
Aaron Roeder: Dave brought this up earlier – we’d been talking about song selections and that sorta thing – we used to scream a lot, both on-stage and off-stage. And I was thinking, “I’m just not that pissed off anymore. I’m just not angry anymore (laughs).”
JM: I’m actually more angry (laughs). I was fine in ’93, I’m really f****** mad now.
Ledge Morrisette: That’s ironic, Aaron, we must have an anger equilibrium because I am less angry too. When I was practicing [for the February Bellingham Show] I was like, “my god! I can’t play this stuff anymore ‘cause I’m not pissed!” … I had to figure out a different way to play because I couldn’t do it the old way.
Staying in that decade (the 1990s)…It seems like you guys made it a point to stay out of all the mayhem that was going on in Seattle. What was the reason for that?
DC: Well it wasn’t that hard ‘cause we lived in Bellingham. That 84 miles is pretty far.
JM: I don’t think we ever really felt part of that whole scene thing.
LM: We were outsiders in Bellingham, and we were outsiders in Seattle too. You know there was a few places in the states that liked us, but it was those Latin-speaking countries that got what we played.
Are you finding that the crowds continue to be young when you go and play the Latin countries?
LM: Yes! Most of the crowds in Mexico City hadn’t been born the last time we were there – or they were like little, bitty kids. It was totally awesome … they love the garage rock. It was really cool because it was like the torch had been passed from the people that saw us more than 20 years ago.
For those who don’t venture to Bellingham, what is the music scene like these days?
LM: There are steep hills (laughs).
AR: It’s pretty diverse in Bellingham – it’s always been surprisingly strong with artistic talent. You get all kinds of good…dare I say…metal bands. There’s a pretty strong metal scene, some stoner rock stuff. But then there’s a lot of cool roots musicians here that play like bluegrass – some really astonishing, accomplished musicians … It’s kinda cool for a town this size we can keep up with bigger cities as far as a talent pool here.
Based on your output from 1990 to 1997, mathematically speaking, you all should have one or two singles out since reforming in February…
JM: That is fairly accurate (laughs).
DC: I think we’ve slowed down a little bit.
AR: The Estrus seed isn’t quite as potent as it used to be (laughs).
Hypothetically speaking, if you were approached by another label, perhaps overseas, would that be something you guys would be interested in doing again?
DC: I think that opportunity is there, I just think we have to get around to doing it. Recording at this point I don’t think is a priority…we’re still trying to relearn the songs, ya know?
AR: If anything fits into all of our schedules and sounds inviting and attractive enough to us, we’ll do it.
Anyone in particular you’re excited to share the stage with at the West Seattle Summerfest?
DC: Well, I am super super super super stoked to be playing with the [Young Fresh] Fellows. They’re really good friends and were really kinda important to us early on. They actually gave us our first out-of-town show. Scott McCaughey was always really supportive with his column and everything else – we just don’t get to see those guys that much anymore…it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
AR: That speaks pretty much for the rest of the band.
Is it back into hibernation after these two shows are over?
DC: There’s nothing else planned here in the states. We’re gonna do a round of shows down in South America in late August and early September – Chile, Argentina and Brazil at this point. But like Aaron said, if the right opportunity comes up, we’ll do it. Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, birthday parties (laughs).
JM: Just for myself, we’re having so much fun – ya know, playing with the Mono Men again. We just had a frickin’ blast in Mexico…it’s just super fun.
LM: It’s one of those things where you don’t appreciate it the first time around, and this is sorta our double blessing … And, it’s humbling that people still like us, man.
The Mono Men take the stage at the West Seattle Summerfest at 8:40 pm — more information can be found here.
–Chris Coyle, CBS Seattle