Sound Check: Hey Monea! at Musica in Akron

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Members of the band Hey Monea! from left, Nate Monea, Dan Monea and Adam Orin.
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On Friday night, Akron’s Musica plays host to the triumphant return of Canton band Hey Monea!, which will be performing along with local rock/soul/pop band Winslow.

Hey Monea!, featuring brothers Dan Monea (guitar/keys/vocals), Nate Monea (drums/vocals), bassist Adam Orin and “part-time member” Ryan Doyle, has been on the road for more than a month, barnstorming clubs and radio stations throughout the South and Northeast, spreading peppy, harmony-heavy, piano pop to new listeners and, ideally, fans. All told, the band has logged nearly 8,000 miles in 36 days in the band’s Winnebago dubbed “The Brave.”

“There’s several connotations,” Dan Monea said of the RV’s name from a tour stop in Nashville, Tenn.

“Braving the elements, you have to be brave to get inside of it with all of us [and] you have to be brave to ride around with me driving for 7,000 miles,” he said chuckling. “It’s pretty damn comfortable, actually. We’ve had some crap vehicles but this has been a nice change.”

The band wanted to reach out to new audiences and potential fans, playing around 20 shows and performing live on any radio station that would have it.

“All new spots, all new areas, and we got to go down to South By Southwest last weekend,” Monea said, noting that the band left downtown Austin, Texas, shortly before a drunk driver trying to escape police plowed through the festival’s main strip, killing three pedestrians.

While in Austin, the band played four shows and hopefully made some important connections.

“We met so many good industry people, from label execs to agents. … You never know who is walking in while you’re playing because there’s just people wandering in off the street all the time. We met lots of people down there and I think it was a really effective trip for us,” he said.

Hey Monea! is touring behind its 2013 album Cheap Souvenirs released on Hard Rock Records to which the band signed after winning the rock club conglomerate’s 2012 Global Battle of the Bands.

The band beat out about 12,000 bands and played the Hard Rock Calling festival in London, allowing Hey Monea! members to say they opened for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Cheap Souvenirs was produced by Dennis Herring, who has slid mixing faders for famous indie/alt-rock bands including Camper Van Beethoven, The Hives, Elvis Costello and Modest Mouse.

The band’s second full-length album, Cheap Souvenirs contains 10 short, catchy, primarily piano and acoustic-guitar-driven indie-pop tunes, punctuated by the trio’s tight vocal harmonies. Tunes such as the lead single Adeline, with its layered hand-claps and strumming mandolin, and Never Gonna Take You Back, which features an earworm-worthy “whoa-oh” filled chorus, dovetail with the popular unison choruses of indie-folk bands that are populating hip commercials.

Truthfully, pretty much every song on the album has AAA single potential, and the band’s members, unabashed fans of melodic pop music, like it that way.

“We’re all big pop music fans. That’s what we love. We love all different kinds of music but when it comes to writing, we focus in on hooks,” Monea said. “The hook is the first thing we write.

“Something pops into your head and it’s sticky and doesn’t go away. If it’s something that sticks in my head, it’s probably worth building a song around because if it gets stuck in my head, it’ll get stuck in someone else’s,” he said.

The Monea brothers’ vocal harmony was inspired after being “indoctrinated” by their classic-rock-loving parents who listened to melody-focused artists such as The Beatles, Elton John and Billy Joel, as well as their grandparents’ love of Motown.

While on tour, the band gave away around 200 copies of the album because “you never know who is coming to see you.”

Using connections, Hey Monea! also performed on two cruises, a Live Loud “rock boat” featuring other young bands such as Sister Hazel, which led to it being a replacement band on the Kid Rock “Chillin’ the Most” Cruise, culminating with the band hosting a last-night jam session on a private island in the Caribbean on a stage set up on the beach.

“It was awesome,” Monea said.

Now the band is back home, just in time for spring with more than a month of woodshedding on the road and several new songs they plan to perform at Musica. A few of the new songs were written during an unexpected tour stop in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot outside Syracuse, N.Y., where 9 inches of snow fell in a half-hour, forcing the band to close the windows, pour a few drinks and write a bunch of songs.

Next up, following the Akron show and another show in Columbus, Hey Monea! plans to relax for a few weeks, write some more songs and then head out in May for a Midwest tour in the hopes of gaining more fans the old-fashioned way by playing for them.

“We basically want to hit the road, and if we’re playing somewhere, we want to get on the radio in that city, see fans and we want to put on a great show for them and when we come back to that city we want to see double the fans,” Monea said.

“We’re at that stage now where we have a record we really believe in and a really awesome team of people working with us, and we just want to go out … show people what we can do, build our fan base up and keep writing music,” he said.

Also on the bill is Winslow, which is working its 2013 album Left of the Right Direction. Coincidentally, the quintet has been competing in the 2014 Hard Rock Rising: Global Battle of the Bands and will be competing in the local final round at the Hard Rock Cleveland on March 28. Good luck, guys.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.


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