NICK Brown had a prime example of how to perform in front of a crowd when he was growing up – his preacher dad.
“I definitely learned how to be a frontman by watching my father,” says the singer/guitarist with rising US rock stars Mona.
“He used to break pulpits, very dramatic, a Pentecostal. Being raised in that scene, some of these pastors were rock stars in their own right.”
Nashville-based Mona, three members of which met in church congregations, are purveyors of stirring rock songs and have just released an album filled with music built for stadiums rather than The Leadmill, where they play tomorrow.
“You constantly just dream, so there’s never anything too big, but then you gotta try to stay humble and realistic and human so every little thing is also exciting,” says Nick, originally from industrial Dayton, Ohio.
“It’s a good combination, but we just knew we wanted to do it big. I don’t really believe in indie or doing things small so we try to write passionate, honest music and I think that resonates with people. When you start doing something that resonates with people as a group but not as a genre or specific demographic there can be quite the ripple effect as opposed to something that’s a little more trendy or whatnot. We didn’t want to just win over the cool kids, we wanted to win over all of them.”
That’s partly why Nick produced the band’s stunning self-titled début. “The struggle is trying to get things to sound the way you want them.
“We did try working with other people and the only thing I knew is it didn’t sound the way I wanted it to.
“The other guys don’t know anything about recording or technical stuff, and I’m kind of self taught, so it’s trial and error and a risk.
“It’s the old fashioned where there’s a will there’s a way; you keep trying. Out of that you find something special too as it’s a natural expedition – you’re really exploring and trying to figure it out, this journey you’re going on.
“Some of the stuff we captured... not only do I think it’s honest songwriting it was honest expressions as well.
“I’m not a world famous producer so my whole goal was just to capture things that were honest.”
Adding the magic touch was Rich Costey, who has previously mixed for stadium fillers Muse and Foo Fighters.
“I wanted it to be honest but accessible, not to just sound like a garage recording, obscure and indie and I think Rich is a living legend when it comes to what he does. He’s got some of the best ears ever and we wanted to put those final touches on it and take it to the next level. I’m definitely all about the tension and release, the beauty and the angst, dynamics.”
While Nick can be heard singing until almost hoarse, style-wise Mona have a whiff of U2 about them for size and Kings Of Leon for sentiment
“Early U2 stuff was some of the first rock ‘n’ roll I heard and Kings Of Leon are good friends of mine so it’s definitely stuff I was around,” admits Nick.
“We’re four dudes trying to do epic rock ‘n’ roll so there’s immediately bands you’re going to compare us to, especially with the kind of spiritualism behind it.
“There’s definitely some colours but like wine, once you acquire the taste you learn your own palate. There’s plenty of our fingerprints all over it.”
What there isn’t in there is The Smiths, but promoters have Mona opening for Morrissey on his summer tour.
“I probably think it’s as weird as you do,” says Nick, adding: “He is respected and hasn’t been afraid to speak his mind. Whether you agree with him or not you have to respect he’s gone for it.
“He’s not scared and we’d rather play with somebody like that than up and coming bands that are afraid of what’s going to happen to the industry and how they’re gonna do. I’m really not into fear; I’m not afraid of failure or success, what is going to happen will happen. It’s just about going in and being genuine and experiencing it.
“A lot of our songs are about shooting for the moon, about going for it, leaning in for a fall, about letting go and letting things take place. Sometimes I think we hold us back more than anybody.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. I just want to provoke, to be that band that reminds you to feel.”