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Monophonics: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

25 July 2019

Photo: Monophonics

In yesterday’s installment of our Psycho Las Vegas preview series, in which we’re profiling bands playing next month’s festival, we showcased Polyrhythmics — and emphasized how unlikely it will be to see a funk-soul octet rubbing shoulders with black-metal and post-rock bands.

Today we shift the spotlight to their kindred spirits Monophonics, a Bay Area quartet that is friends with Polyrhythmics and, like them, is partial to soul, funk and psychedelic music.

Featuring vocalist/keyboardist Kelly Finnigan, electric bassist Max Ramey, drummer Austin Bohlman and trumpet player/percussionist Ryan Scott, Monophonics also hold the distinction as one of two bands (along with Led Zeppelin 2) scheduled to play multiple sets at Psycho Las Vegas: at the August 15 pre-party and two days later.

During their performance at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the collective will likely touch on their 2018 EP, Mirrors, and the four albums in their catalog. (Finnigan, for his own part, recently released his solo debut, the hip-hop-inflected The Tales People Tell.)

We touched base with the Monophonics frontman via email about a month ago to talk about the band’s excitement to play for a crowd that might be new to their sound, his plan to “kiss some hands and shake some babies,” and whether the psychedelic-music fan has actually had experience with psychedelics.

[Check out our YouTube playlists for videos of all the bands playing each day at Psycho Las Vegas.]

Why are you particularly excited to play Psycho? From your point of view, what makes the festival special — both from a performance perspective and as a personal experience?

FINNIGAN: We are always excited to be playing any and all fests, but this one is special because its lineup is very eclectic and different versus other festivals we’ve been a part of. We always enjoy playing in front of new music lovers who might not know about our music.

What are your expectations?

FINNIGAN: We expect a high-energy crowd and lots of smiling people having fun, given the festivities and being in Vegas. 

Do you have any surprises planned for your Psycho set, whether they be songs you wouldn’t normally play, added stage elements, etc.?

FINNIGAN: We are currently discussing a couple special tunes but we are gonna keep it a surprise :) — mum’s the word! 

Do you prefer playing in the heat or in the cold? Indoors or outdoors?

FINNIGAN: Well, both have their challenges for different reasons, but I would say we enjoy playing out in the heat more. It’s pretty hard to play your instrument when you can’t feel your hands or stay loose ‘cause it’s freezing cold. We are also from California, so we are used to playing under the sun.

As much as we enjoy playing outside, there is something special about playing inside. It can obviously feel a lot more intimate. It’s a special feeling when what’s going on outside doesn’t matter because right now you’re here in this place having a unique and exciting experience with the people in the crowd, just focusing on the music and show. 

Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas.

FINNIGAN: All we’ll say is psychedelics and the Bellagio fountains.

What other bands are you most excited to see perform at Psycho?

FINNIGAN: The Black Angels and Bad Religion.

[Check back soon for our interview with the Black Angels.]

What friends of yours are also playing at the festival? Who are you planning or hoping to hang with in your downtime?

FINNIGAN: We are actually hoping to make some new fans and hang with new friends. Kiss some hands and shake some babies! 

What can fans and newcomers expect from your performance(s) at the festival?

FINNIGAN: We are gonna give you a energetic and soulful show. We play heavy and deep soul that leans toward California psychedelic pop, so I think folks will dig the songs and performance.

For previous installments of the Big Takeover’s Psycho Las Vegas preview series, check out our interviews with:

• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist for Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Jason Shi and Scott Key, singer/guitarist and drummer, respectively, for melodic hard-rock masters ASG
• Jay Bentley, founding bassist for politically progressive punk pros Bad Religion
• Stephen McBean, singer/guitarist of long-running psychedelic-rock project Black Mountain
• Jean-Paul Gaster, drummer for “the quintessential American rock band,” Clutch
• Jeff Walker, vocalist/bassist for extreme-metal behemoths Carcass
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• George Clarke, vocalist for shoegaze/black-metal powerhouses Deafheaven
• DJ Painkiller, an L.A.-based metalhead who will be spinning between sets
• Darkest Prince, lead guitarist for black-metal punks Devil Master
• Victor Vicart of Scottish progressive-metal quintet Dvne
• Laura Dolan, vocalist for Cincinnati rock ’n’ roll purists Electric Citizen
• Todd Fink, frontman for electro-pop punks the Faint
• Zack Simmons, drummer for blackened death-metal demigods Goatwhore
• Emil Amos, drummer for experimental post-rock band Grails
• Julien Chanut, guitarist for French sludge-doom band Hangman’s Chair
• Tony Campos, guitarist and founder of thrash revivalists Hell Fire
• Nashville cosmic-riff connoisseurs Howling Giant
• Gabriel Franco, vocalist/guitarist for gothy post-punks Idle Hands
• Joshy, drummer for crusty death/doom-metal outfit Ilsa
• Johanna Sadonis, vocalist for “heavy magic rock” band Lucifer
• Invincible crooner and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan
• Stuart Braithwaite, founding guitarist/vocalist for beloved post-rock legends Mogwai
• Thomas Eriksen, centrifugal force behind true Norwegian black-metallers Mork
• Teddi Tarnoff, frontwoman of “Vegas-based dirty rock ’n’ roll band” Mother Mercury
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman for Swedish progressive-metal kings Opeth
• Ben Bloom, frontman/guitarist for funk-soul octet Polyrhythmics
• Ethan Lee McCarthy, frontman for blackened-doom trio Primitive Man
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Experimental rock, alternative hip-hop and dance music guru Tobacco
• Derrick Vella, guitarist of death-metal arsonists Tomb Mold
• Niklas Källgren, guitarist for Swedish fuzz fanatics Truckfighters
• Los Angeles Satanic doo-wop duo Twin Temple
• Kevin Starrs, frontman of British fuzz royalty Uncle Acid and the deadbeats
• Sean Killian, vocalist for cult-favorite Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence
• Bruce Lamont, frontman for experimental heavy-jazz project Yakuza and Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppelin 2
• Aaron Rieseberg, bassist for Oregon doom-metal dealers Yob

Also, don’t miss our special feature in which Deafheaven’s Clarke and Mogwai’s Braithwaite discuss their mutual affection for each other’s bands, whether Deafheaven should play their Mogwai cover at Psycho Las Vegas — and the possibility of a collaboration between the two projects.