“One of the best live soul bands I have ever seen!” – Al Bell (Record producer, songwriter, executive, and co-owner of legendary Stax Records)
Monophonics are just hitting their stride as one of the premier soul bands in the country. The Bay Area band delivers cinematic songs with timeless hooks anchored by Kelly Finnigan’s soulful organ and powerhouse vocals. Their sound is inspired equally by classic soul, heavy funk, psychedelic rock, and classic American songwriting.
The band’s main members live just North of San Francisco, CA in Marin county, a place revered among artists, surfers, hippies and musicians; three of them grew up here. The band members simultaneously revere and honor the Bay Area’s colorblind and highly diverse musical tradition that dates back to Haight/Ashbury’s psychedelic revolution and Sly Stone and the Family Stone’s multiracial, funky grab-bag. Soulful vocals, funky drum-breaks, psychedelic guitar licks and fuzz bass intermingle effortlessly across the band’s catalogue, most effortlessly on their newest EP: “Mirrors”.
Mirrors delivers a six-song fix to fiending fans and curious newcomers in advance of a new Monophonics full-length later in 2018. The release is all cover tunes with some well-known songs mixed in with some seriously deep cuts, all band favorites. “Sound of Sinning” (Transistor Sound Records, 2015), the band’s second full-length album since lead singer, producer and keyboard player, Kelly Finningan joined the band. Evolving from their psychedelic soul roots with “In Your Brain,” (Ubiquity, 2012), “Sound of Sinning” displays the bands’ appreciation for classic song craft and Summer of Love pop-soul-psychedelia.
Monophonics’ meticulous, yet raw recordings start just like their raucous and soulful live shows, “in the same room, cutting live as a rhythm section together,” Finnigan explains. Ryan Scott and Mike Rinta’s horn and string arrangements add accents and sonic colors to the tracks, completing the soul symphony. In the tradition of Stax, Muscle Shoals, Daptone and Dunham, Monophonics’ sonic approach is equal parts classic analog gear, (everything’s recorded to an old Tascam eight-track 1/4” tape machine), old-fashioned woodshedding, and Ian McDonald and Kelly Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio wizardry. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can.”
Baked-in to any Monophonics record there’s a vibe, that elusive element that lesser bands can’t fake, as Kelly Finnigan put it: “I think it’s having people who are all on the same page, striving to capture that musical moment and being honest in their playing and being thoughtful and putting their ego to the side to serve the song.” Monophonics is Austin Bohlman (Drums), Ian McDonald (Guitar/Background Vocals), Ryan Scott (Trumpet/Back- ground Vocals/Percussion) & Kelly Finnigan (Keys/Lead Vocals) along with Max Ramey (Bass).
Alanna Royale makes classic-minded R&B and soul music for the modern age. It’s a sound rooted in big melodies, blasts of brass, percussive punch, and old-school grooves. The songs shine a light not only on frontwoman Alanna Quinn-Broadus’ larger-than-life voice, but her songwriting chops, too.
The band formed in Nashville, where Alanna and guitarist Jared Colby relocated after cutting their teeth as working-class musicians in Boston. Once in Tennessee, they teamed up with bassist Gabriel Golden, forming a core lineup that often swells to as many as ten members — including backup vocalists and a two-piece horn section — in concert. Together, the band looked beyond Nashville’s country-filled past and, instead, took inspiration from Motown’s soul, Stax’s funky strut, and rock & roll’s rebellion. Tattooed, brash, and unapologetically unique, they stood out in a town dominated by Americana music, charting a unique course whose highlights have since included an appearance at Bonnaroo, a string of cross-country shows supporting acts like Lee Fields and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and an audience that celebrates the band’s diversity.
On their fourth release, 2018’s So Bad You Can Taste It, Alanna matches the brassy spirit of the band’s previous records — including their full-length debut, ACHILLES — with rare vulnerability. There’s still plenty of soulful stomp here, from the upbeat sweep of the record’s lead single, “I Know,” to the funky fire of “Giving It All Away.” There’s also a more mature, sober look at the demands thrust upon independent artists — or anyone’s who’s willing to chase down an uncertain horizon, no matter how rough the journey may be. With songs that examine the midpoint between desperation and drive, So Bad You Can Taste It is the band’s most genuine work to date.
“There are mountains and valleys to any journey, and this record is about being in the valley,” explains Alanna Quinn-Broadus. “It’s about the low moments. It’s basically the opposite of someone’s Instagram feed, because it’s not a highlights reel. It’s just real.”
Low moments notwithstanding, So Bad You Can Taste It marks a creative high for Alanna Royale, whose members recorded the record’s six songs with producer Kelly Finnegan and engineer Mindy Watts across multiple studios. Joining them were guests like trombonist Nadav Nirenberg — known for his work alongside artists like Wyclef Jean, Breakdown Brass, and Wu Tang — as well as Kirk Donovan, Meggan Utech, and Alexis Saski. Working with this expanded crew, Alanna Royale carved out a song-based sound that targeted not only their audience’s dancing shoes, but their heads and hearts, too. Songs like the powerful, poignant ballad “I Used to Dream” were reworked multiple times, resulting in a record that’s nuanced, heartfelt, and unafraid to show off its own scars.
“The title, So Bad You Can Taste It, says it all,” Alanna explains. “This record is all about the idea of something that’s in front of you, and you can see it and feel it, but it’s just out of reach. That thing can be your sanity or your sobriety or your success. I sometimes think it’s harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel, rather than not seeing any light at all. Once you know the possibility of light is there, you have no option but to go after it. That can be really hard and really dangerous…which makes it really worthwhile to sing about.”