CULTURE- FRIDAYS UPDATE New Monsoon: Fewer players, harder rocking
New Monsoon has been around for a few years, but they've really weathered some major challenges since 2006. Jeff Miller and Bo Carper met in college and started the band together after relocating to the west coast. They went on to play shows at Bonnaroo, Red Rocks, and the Fillmore, and to win early accolades from jamband web mecca Jambase.com.
Recently, however, they've seen their share of turbulence: tabla player Rajiv Parikh and percussionist Brian Carey departed last year, compromising the promising formula the band had developed.
"For people who are fans of percussion, it was kind of a dream band," says Carper. "It definitely appealed to a lot of people, and we became known to some degree for that. Especially the tablas, because that's such an unusual instrument to have in a rock band."
Still, funny drums do not necessarily make for a high-class cultural experience, and Carper admits that their departure created room to focus on the rock and roll core.
"The sound has tightened up, become a little bit leaner and a bit cleaner," he says, "and it rocks a little harder. When you're managing all those parts, especially three different percussion parts, it can be challenging."
The addition of bassist Ron Johnson, formerly of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, was another major change. "He has a very signature sound and a really funky finesse," says Carper. "He's really solid and adds a lot of power. He brings a lot of experience to the table, as well– he's been touring for at least twice as long as we have."
In March and April, as soon as things settled down, they decided to cut into their usual rigorous touring schedule to make a new record, which is currently in a sort of pre-release limbo– it doesn't officially come out until mid-August, but they've pressed up a thousand copies to bring on tour with them anyway.
"We really made an attempt to maybe represent what might be the essence of our sound now as a five-piece," says Carper. "Our last record was almost a concept album– we put a lot of stuff on there that we hadn't necessarily been playing out live."
Still, the core of Carper and Miller has remained intact, so Carper doesn't think the band's identity has been fundamentally altered.
"It's made us stronger as a band because it has forced us to rely on fewer tools to create the same level of energy," he says. "The hardest part was finding a way to bring the energy to that peak without having the convenience of congas and timbales, learning to raise the energy without that sort of ace in the hole."
New Monsoon plays at the July 13 Friday's after Five, sometime... after 5pm. Pavilion at the east end of the Downtown Mall.