By Keith Sharp
So your band is figuratively on a roll. Your 2019 debut EP release `Control Freak’ is spawning hit singles that earned you the Jim Beam Indie Award as a top alternative artist/group during Canada Music Week festivities.
You are rating as #1 most played unsung artists on Alternative Radio has earned you support concert slots with the likes of Sloan and Mariana’s Trench. But then a global pandemic rears its ugly head and throws a spanner in the works.
But if you are a member of Toronto-based alt-pop band, MONOWHALES, you just re-arrange your schedule, concentrate on releasing a new seven-track EP titled “Daytona Bleach” and utilize social media to pump out a string of five singles which have all received favourable airplay on national alternative radio.
“The pandemic did slow us down as far as touring to support our debut EP but it at the end of the day, I don’t think it slowed us down too much,” observed drummer Jordan Circosta, who along with lead vocalist Sally Shaar and multi-instrumentalist Zach Zanardo constitute MONOWHALES’ lineup.
“We just pushed ahead with completing the new EP (with Juno Award-winning producer) Ryan Worsley and compensated for the lack of touring by releasing new music,” Circosta explained. “And when our new EP comes out (it dropped on March 5th) we’ll just go back in the studio and record more new music.”
Circosta notes that his band hasn’t performed live since opening for Marianas Trench in Kitchener in late January but has compensated for this by performing several live-stream concert events, most noticeably at the Hamilton Winterfest and a high-profile gig late in November at the El Mocambo.
“We just played to our crew at the El Mocambo but it was great just to be on stage again, play our new music and hear the sounds coming out of the monitor again,” he noted. “When you’ve been around as long as we have, we’ve probably played to far less people than we did at the El Mo that night.”
Circosta informed that the enforced time off from touring allowed Shaar, Zanardo and himself to devote their full time and energy to recording the new EP which has allowed them to develop as more proficient songwriters.
“If you compared our first EP to our new release, I can say that we are more comfortable now as songwriters,” Circosta allowed. “We are now able to put a lot of ourselves into our songs. We sound like a band that’s not struggling to get their point across.”
All seven songs on the new release are radio-friendly, high-energy dance tracks but as vocalist Shaar noted in the band’s press release, there is a lyrical dark side to the Daytona Bleach title.
Shaar explains that some of her inspiration for Daytona Bleach stemmed from trips to Florida when she was younger, now realizing that “the beach isn’t what it used to be. It’s best you wear sandals so that the broken beer bottles don’t slice you up. We love to write upbeat songs you can sing and dance to, but the truth is that it’s not always sunshine and soda-pop in the lyrical content. We are doing what we can with the shambles our generation has been given. We all post these happy photos online, myself included. Look a bit closer and you’ll see the cuts and burns that we endure in our everyday life. Growing up, I was always told to be natural. I never liked it, in fact, I became obsessed with everything that represented the opposite. With this album, I came to realize there never was a ‘natural’. We are all digital circuits mushed together in a fleshy vehicle.”
Circosta acknowledges that although the band has been tagged as indie alt-pop, it is a challenge to pigeonhole MONOWHALES into any specific category. “I don’t see ourselves as a part of a scene. When I look around, I don’t really know who else is doing what we are doing, I guess we are like outliers. If you were to put us under some kind of umbrella, we would be under some burgeoning `female-fronted rock band’ who does danceable, radio-friendly stuff. But we struggle with that because we are too close to what we are doing to properly define ourselves.”