Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Sam Patlove
Like their homies in fellow Nashvillians Kings of Leon, the four men of MONA, have found that the quickest way to some hearts, might just be picking the right hearts to start with. Rather than getting into a smelly and suspect van and traversing the hard to digest and hard to crack American countryside, MONA started nuzzling with the United Kingdom early on in its existence, leading to a buzz that would have taken years and years to accomplish had it decided to slug it out here in the States. The inroads that they made overseas are some of those wily things that can cause some major consternation for bands as they return to where they call home and perhaps they just look silly walking around in their tight jeans and sunglasses at all hours of the day, even though they could get away with it, even idolized for it thousands of miles from home. It can lead one to think, "What gives with these dullards? How come no one gets us?" It can lead to all kinds of unhealthy thoughts. For so many years, we read interviews with the Followill brothers bemoaning the cruelty of the home country indifference. It took a Grammy award to finally get the masses to notice properly. From the sounds of things, the lads in MONA are prepared for the long haul, even with some nice things popping off for them in the UK and they've got songs that could get them to where they want to be here.
The day these songs were taped in Austin, while the entire musical world was in town for this year's South By Southwest music conference, MONA were being trailed by a writer and photographer from the UK publication, Clash, following them around all week, chronicling the group's first SXSW experience. The focus of the feature was an insistence from the various members of the band that they're in it for the long haul and that sheer hard work and staying together could be the winning combination for them. The comments imply that the songs can speak for themselves and they mostly can, having reached into the bags of all kinds of arena rockers to find their favorite parts of anthems and ballads and gone forth to put those lessons to good use. Lead singer Nick Brown has the build of a former wrestler or pugilist and it's one that, with the right clothing and filling out, could transform itself into something Bono-esque someday. The way he sings and the things that he sings about - the looks in eyes, taking things slow, but always understanding that the moment is now to catch - has a way of reminding us of a younger and hungrier U2 if they'd had Chris Martin of Coldplay to look up to back then, when they were kids. "Trouble On The Way," is a piano number that features Brown bleeding there in front of us, with lust on fire, with a lit pair of eyes and a straining set of arms reaching out to a girl to get lost in the night with him. It's a different version of the Pitbull/Ne-Yo song about the same thing. It's living for tonight, but with the idea that there could be something special there, not just a romp in the sack. "Listen To Your Love" is that stomping, lighters in the air call for someone to open their eyes and look at the one who's been standing beneath their balcony for so long. Brown sings, "Come on, I'll treat you like no other," and it's a live sentiment, if not a brand new one.