In the eight years since I (Frank) uprooted my life in Sudbury, Ontario and moved to Los Angeles, a lot has changed. I started a new career, got married, and became a father for the first time. Throughout it all, I have been trying to live a mindful lifestyle and practice self-awareness, compassion and being present. I’ve also been wanting to start a new music project.
“What would it sound like if a monk started a hardcore band?”
Having been years since I’d put out any music and knowing my limitations, I endeavored to collaborate with musicians/artists who have and continue to inspire me. It just so happened that the universe was conspiring with me, as I noticed Ian Romano was doing drum tracking for bands virtually during the pandemic. Since I don’t have many friends who play music in LA, much less the time to actually jam, I figured it was worth a shot to ask him about writing some songs together.
To my excitement, Ian was down — and his brother Dan too! What a dream team. The guys are some of the most talented musicians I know, and working on this with them has been a blast.
We started by setting the tone: What do we want people to feel after listening to this? What would this be like in a live setting? What would it sound like if a monk returned from a monastery and started a hardcore band?
We worked backwards from there, setting up a moodboard and emailing riffs and drum parts back and forth.
Dan and Ian have a studio, Camera Varda, so very little preparation was needed to start writing. Legend has it that Dan writes songs in 25 minutes or less, which was a dream to work with.
Inspiration came from 2000s era Toronto hardcore, a scene all of us were involved in, and all the bands from the genre we love — 86 Mentality, Dead Stop, Regulations, etc. One of the major musical influences driving the meditative aspects of the record was Tommy Butler’s Prison Song. You can feel Tommy’s soul in just a short sample. It’s iconic, to say the least.
What’s in a name?
What do we name this thing? I’ve had a “cool names for future bands” list on my phone I’ve been working on for years and started to pull from there. Some good, some bad. Some more cliché than others.
Then it clicked – we’re making monk rock.
It’s monk, it’s punk. We laughed and agreed that was the name. Now we had a name and a handful of potential track names.
We continued to bounce ideas back and forth for a few weeks, and the record was moving along quickly.
I started exploring artwork while the guys finished the bass and the final touches. Being so far removed from the actual writing made the process so much more interesting — like I was a participant but also a listener.
It felt a bit early, but creating an identity for a project is one of my favorite aspects of making music. It was important to me that this feels like a hardcore band and not a brand identity, with symbols that could be used across the artwork, posters, social media, etc.
After about 3 hours of ideation and exploration, it finally clicked — get back to the project’s roots. It’s monk rock. Make it feel like that.
The sun is a symbol I use in many of my projects. I’m a believer in spending a minimum of 10 mins outside every day for your physical and mental health. The sun has a special meaning to me, as it’s the one thing you can count on every day, the life force that enables all things to thrive and grow.
In the studio
We started with guitar and drums, then layered on some additional guitar parts, feedback, and other small touches. Once the bass was in place, the songs came alive.
Having not stepped foot in a recording studio in years, I was hesitant, especially in LA, but I needed a space to practice. Pirate Studios in West Adams was the perfect spot for this, just a few blocks away. Being a good ten years out of practice, I gave it all I had over two days.
Additional recording, mixing and mastering were done by Scott Sorenson in Venice, CA. Scott was also instrumental (literally) in providing music for the b-side as well.
Musical collaboration is something I always enjoy, especially when it’s with friends. I’d thought about folks who could up-level the tracks and my bud Liam Cormier of Cancer Bats came to mind. You can hear him closing out Monk Stomp. Dan provided a last-minute vocal addition to Cool & Collected, and I’m so stoked with how it all turned out.
Promoting has always been a strength of mine, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I reconnected with an old friend, Scott Gubb, who was a roommate of mine in college. He’s been writing music reviews for years, is passionate about independent music, and I’ve always respected his work. He’s been the key piece to the marketing and promotion of the record, and even set up his own public relations company, Plot.
Release & Distribution
While digging around through some label catalogs I re-discovered Get Better Records. Their commitment to underrepresented artists and community care is remarkable. We put them at the top of the list for labels. They were relocating the label from Pennsylvania to LA and we got the chance to meet up in-person. We chatted and although we wanted to work together, the timing wasn’t right. I have no doubt we’ll do something together in the future and consider them to be the first true supporters of the project.
Out of the blue, an old friend Justin Ellsworth, designer at Dine Alone Records reached out and was curious to hear the songs. That’s when stars began to align… many years ago, my old band nearly worked with DA. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of breaking up. In a way, this feels like a full-circle moment. You could even say a vicious cycle.
What started as a casual conversation quickly turned into a commitment to release the record worldwide. We couldn’t be happier to be in good company with artists like Alexisonfire, FIDLAR and Jimmy Eat World to name a few.
While recording a music video for Nothing Matters, we bumped into Minister Dr. Jean Perez in the streets of South Central and chatted for a while. She talked about her connection to spirit and working with Smokey Robinson. Her wisdom and kind words about couldn’t have come at a better time. She gave us $100, and although I politely declined, she was very adamant that we put the money towards the project.
We hope you enjoy this record as much as we did making it.
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