Bay Area hard rock outfit Modern Monsters recently dropped their new EP, Malice, representing the band’s smoldering disdain toward societal issues, unchecked power, divided justice systems, distractions from introspection, and perilous love.
Established in 2019, Modern Monsters is made up of Rich Wells (guitar), Brody Bass (bass), Keenan Tuohy (drums), Josh Weaver (vocals), and Wyatt Lennon (guitar). Their sound exudes greasy, heavy, down-and-dirty rock, brimming with visceral energy.
Straying away from being buried in day-to-day mainstream music, Modern Monsters thrive in the rock culture and maintain the power of being face-melters.
Tatoo.com spoke with Modern Monsters to find out more about the inspiration for Malice, how they got started in music and their gear.
What inspired your last release, ‘Malice?’
Everyone’s got problems. As musicians, we feel blessed to have an outlet for the negativity that affects us. This album is our interpretation of the many forms of unnecessary malevolence that exist in life and society. Maybe it’s ill-will from one person to another. An egotistical agenda from a hierarchy sworn to protect. Maybe it’s even malice towards one’s own self-worth. One thing for sure is life is a trip and it should be enjoyed with others, not combated.
How did you get started in music?
All of our individual stories are a little different, but it comes down to just pure love of music. Simply put, when each of us were young we were turned on to music by chance, influence, force, or fate… and it never turned off.
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
It came pretty naturally and then we pushed. We realized pretty quickly we loved playing and writing together. The style of music wasn’t really determined immediately but quickly evolved into our current style. Through dedicating a lot of time in the studio we really got to know each other and naturally evolved into a heavier higher energy sound. Then watching our audience’s response, we knew we had to lean in and push.
Let’s talk gear for a moment. Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you using?
When it comes to tone, we generally go with gear that is heavy, loud, makes people move, and leaves your face in a puddle between your feet. Our drummer Keenan has an Orange County 4-piece kit with Hardware and Zildjian cymbals that he loves beating the hell out of and giving him the signature monster sound. Rich uses the hi-gain channel from his Mesa Triple Crown head with his American Strat fitted with Iron Gear’s Hammerhead pickups to get his thick grungy tone and still cut through the mix. His pedalboard is loaded with a Boss-DD4, Neunabet Wet Reverb, Ibanez flange/chorus, Earthquaker Afterneath, Line 6, Digitech Whammy, crybaby wah, and a Boss Autowah to achieve the psychedelic, ethereal, and sometimes insane soundscapes he creates. Meanwhile, Wyatt uses a Marshall JVM usually paired with his Epiphone Emily Wolfe Sheraton Stealth. To get the heavy beefy tone he has, he has angry Charlie. Our singer, Josh, primarily uses the Osé 2 (Lora DiCarlo model) when in the studio and trying to lock in timbre and self-discovery for the writing process. Before transitioning to higher vocal ranges his go-to was the KIIROO Onyx+. For shows he uses the Lioness 2.0 vocal effects box, which gives him the control and monitor response that he needs while performing live. Brody recently started playing through a Fender Rumble head. Going into that, he uses a Fender Jazz Duff McKagan Signature with an Aguilar Agro Bass Distortion and a Sans Amp Clean Booster to get the low booming roar.
Are there any special recording techniques you use in the studio?
Generally, we start with a live recording and may wrap, or we may progress from there. Also, it’s the perfect amount of push and pull from our engineer and producer Michael Rosen that gives us our edge. He asks the right questions and never lets us settle. Dude is a Grammy-winning legend in the Bay Area. He’s worked with bands like Rancid, AFI, Testament, and tons of others. We’ve recorded the last two EPs with him at East Bay Recorders in Oakland.
What is your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time?
Our tone has and will definitely evolve over time. That being said, our heaviness will always remain. Each individual in the band is constantly perfecting their space in the sonic spectrum of Modern Monsters.
How do you keep your sound consistent on stage?
Short answer, we don’t. We play in a lot of different venues. The small punk rock venues won’t sound like the larger sound-treated rooms. So we do our best to pick a set list that will match the crowd, venue, and other bands we play with. Then just let all hell rip loose and have a good time. A live performance should trap you in that moment and leave you with a memory. So while we usually don’t stray too far from our sound, each show ends up with its own sound and performance unique to that experience.
What inspires your writing? Does your inspiration come from poems, music, or other media?
We are definitely inspired by poetry, music, and art. But that isn’t the entirety of our inspiration. Life’s diseases and beauty. Our feelings toward generally accepted hypocrisies. Love, experiences, and an unwavering passion to get our message out.
What can you share about our writing process?
We’re a collective. Quite often a song’s general sound and structure will be worked out almost immediately. When you’re in a groove and the instruments almost seemingly play themselves, you get some instant, great ideas. Other times we’ll have pieces of what we know is a song and throw it in the backlog to revisit later before we implode. We’d love to say there’s a secret sauce, but when we’re in a room together collaborative writing between the five of us comes naturally.
Which artists are killing it right now in your opinion?
Metallica just released their newest tracks and it’s good to see some old-school favorites still kickin ass. Bands like Idles and Turnstile touring heavily and getting audiences excited. Knocked Loose bringing hardcore sounds to places like Coachella and expanding the hardcore scene to a new audience. Maneskin bringing glam rock back into the picture. Punk Rap groups like Ho99o9 bring heavy riffs. Groups like Coast Contra or Logic coming out with great hip-hop. Hardcore groups like Jinjer pushing metal core into something other-dimensional. St Vincent, Wet Leg, Gojira….there’s tons of great music out, and bands on tour doing great.
What can we look forward to over the next six months? Music video? Live gigs?”
Playing live is our favorite thing to do, so we plan on gigging as much as possible. We just opened for Faster Pussycat and will be heading to L.A. towards the end of the year to support Quiet Riot. We’re beginning to catch more attention up and down the West Coast, so we’re continuing to book shows. We just released our video for ‘Greed Machine’ and will be releasing another video shortly.