Analog never went away. Some musicians may tout their straight-to-tape recording as old-school and music retailers and vinyl collectors may speak highly of the “vinyl resurgence” but for a band like San Francisco’s Monophonics, analog recording and LPs haven’t taken a backseat to anything.
Monophonics will perform Saturday, Feb. 24, as part of the Southwest Music Festival, a two-day event featuring numerous bands at the Animas City Theatre.
Their newest release “Mirrors,” is an EP of classic covers, giving a dose of guitar fuzz and a laid back R&B vibe to AM Gold treasures. It’s equally old-school and fresh as next week, recorded analog, which is the only way they know.
“I don’t even like to refer to it as an old way – it’s a good way,” said keyboard player and vocalist Kelly Finnigan. “There isn’t a right way or a wrong way, there’s the best way for you. For us, we like being in a room together, playing together, and recording to tape live.”
The San Francisco band falls somewhere into the world of the tripped-out funk music that was being made in the early to mid-’70s. It was music that was too much rock for funk and R&B purists, and too funky for rock fans. Monophonics is drawing on the psychedelic, fuzzed-out guitars reminiscent of San Francisco and the Summer of Love and merging that with the raw-groove of a Blaxploitation film. It may fit into the funk package, but peel back the layers and what’s revealed are sounds that owe as much to the Jimi Hendrix as they do George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic. It’s like Owsley Stanley showed up at The Apollo Theatre with a gift for everyone backstage.
“We refer to ourselves as a psychedelic-soul band. Our sound is rooted in soul music, and of course soul and funk go hand in hand,” said Finnigan. “But we really also like to have a raw, psychedelic rock edge to our sound. It leans toward that late ’60s or early ’70s sound like Sly and the Family Stone.
“So a lot of people hear that and say, ‘That’s funk’ and yeah, but it’s not quite that simple,” he added. “People want to call us a funk band; I’m not going to fight it. As long as people like us and enjoy the music they can call us whatever they want.”
Now in its third year, The Southwest Music Festival serves as a major fundraiser for local music school Stillwater Foundation. Saturday’s show, in addition to Monophonics, will feature Niceness, DJ Codestar, and Jade Robbins. Friday night will feature Oblee, DJ Mateo, Durango Funk Allstars, and The Main Squeeze. The event is organized by local drummer Aaron Lombardo of Sky Pilot and the Durango Funk Allstars. Lombardo is not a concert promoter, nor does he see himself as a major event organizer. He’s dabbled in some fundraising here and there, but would rather be behind a drum set than a desk when it comes to participating in a music festival.
“I think it’s such a cool program,” Lombardo said of Stillwater. “I just think they give so much to the community (that) I feel like I should take it upon myself to give to them.”
Supporting a music school and the encouragement of art also fits into the mindset and mission of a band like Monophonics.
“We’re all about that – art for young people,” said Finnigan. “Music, painting, drawing poetry, dance, whatever it is, self-expression is a very important thing.”