Band You Should Know: An Interview with Atlanta’s Frisky Monkey

Frisky Monkey are a duo out of Atlanta that have to be one of my favorite bands on the scene right now. Vocalist Juan Cezar would have been a prized commodity back in the 1980’s. As it stands now, his new wave crooning is second to none and really sets Frisky Monkey apart from any other band steeped in the best of decades. After a lineup change saw his former multi-instrumental band mate John Miklaucic moving away, Juan found Douglas Pettus and the band has marched forward with well reviewed live shows and possibly some new music on that way? We’ll find out more in the interview below!

Before we get to the interview I wanted to showcase what makes Frisky Monkey such a unique band. Right out of the gate with their 2011 self-titled debut, it was evident that Frisky Monkey wasn’t content copying what other people were doing. It was filled with rich, dance worthy tracks overlaid with Juan’s Peter Murphy meets David Bowie vocals. In short, it was an impressive way to introduce yourself to the music world. Where most bands trip up is with their sophomore release, but Frisky Monkey dodged the jinx with 2013’s  Involved But Not Committed. It hit harder, had swagger, and saw the band really growing into their music. Track Submission Day was a highlight, to be sure, and even got a full remix EP in 2014. What I really enjoyed was the modern synth sound mixed with the early 80’s feel…like they tapped into a Depeche Mode writing sessions from 1983 or 1984 and ran off with the best ideas.

In 2016 the band released Crave, and it is getting its own paragraph. Crave is a new wave synthpop masterwork and had it been released in 1984 I’d be writing up a classic review, shouting out its clever hooks and brilliantly layered harmonies. However, had it been released in 1984 it would have been awash in a sea of a hundred other bands trying to write the same tunes. We get the rare pleasure of hearing the album as it was released in 2016 because it stands head and shoulders above what any other new wave acts are putting out. Whether you’re looking for an edgy dance floor track or a guitar driven pop anthem, Crave has both and everything in between.

Now that I’ve properly introduced them, let’s officially meet the guys and hear what they have to say about music, the future, and their answer to the never ending message board question…Depeche Mode or New Order?

Echosynthetic: For those that may not know you, who is Frisky Monkey?

Frisky Monkey (all questions following will be answered by Juan and Douglas separately) Frisky Monkey is a synthpop duo from Atlanta. We formed in 2011 with original members, vocalist Juan Cezar and multi-instrumentalist John Miklaucic. In the summer of 2015 John made the decision to move back to Pennsylvania and Juan decided to find a new partner in crime to continue on as Frisky Monkey. Finally after endless searching, in the fall of 2015 Douglas Pettus joined as the new band member. Together we continue the legacy of Frisky Monkey bringing a heady blend of swirling synths, moody guitars and entrancing vocals with a pop sensibility to the electronic music landscape.

Echosynthetic: Your sound is a balance of classic new wave with a modern twist. What inspires your music?

Juan:  I love new wave and synthpop music. I still listen to a lot of the bands from the 80’s like Depeche Mode, Erasure, Yaz, and Pet Shop Boys, so I think that comes out in my writing. The lyrics are usually taken from what is going on in my life at the time.

Douglas: For me the essence of Frisky Monkey is 80s New Wave/Electronic music, but of course bringing in the modern elements, techniques and technology.  Anything can inspire me, Juan can steer me into a particular direction I haven’t thought of before, learning new or different way of doing something, anything goes basically.

Echosynthetic: Your latest album Crave has been out for almost a year. How do you feel about it?

Juan: Crave is my favorite album that we’ve done so far. It is a bit bittersweet for me because it was the last album made with John as a band member and I could see the direction we were heading in. I’m definitely glad that we got to finish it before he left and that we got to share it with everyone.

Douglas: Crave was basically finished before I joined the band, but I do enjoy playing the material live. Juan and John wrote a great album.

Echosynthetic: What is your writing process? What do you use in the studio?

Juan: My writing process varies, sometimes I just write lyrics with no melody, sometimes John would send me a track and I would write to it. Lately I’ve been sketching out the idea on acoustic guitar then demoing it a bit more upbeat in Logic or GarageBand before passing the idea on to Douglas; he then comes up with an amazing track for it. For demos I use GarageBand, Logic or Acid. When the song is finished we take all the pieces to the recording studio and do the vocals there. Damon Moon mixed and mastered Crave at The Cottage Recording Co. and it was such a great experience working with him that he is my number one choice for the new music when it is time to record it. He has an awesome new space too, Standard Electric Recorders Co., so I’m looking forward to working there.

Douglas: Juan usually send the material he demos using Garage Band. I will take the material and basically do my thing. We will email each other the ideas back and forth until completion. Juan also records his own vocals and then sends the tracks to me via email as well. So the process is purely electronic in every way. As far as what I use, my DAW of choice is Reaper, and I basically use Kontakt, Massive and Battery.

Echosynthetic: What current bands are you a fan of?

Juan: Bright Light Bright Light, Chvrches, Years & Years, Hurts and MUNA to name a few, also local bands CLAVVS, Chelsea Shag, Seersha and Brooklynn are putting out some really amazing music.

Douglas: I like Ruelle, Kimbra, Tosin Abasi, Steven Seagulls (Bluegrass covers of metal songs, gotta love it).

Echosynthetic:  Growing up, what album did you love the most?

Juan:  I can’t pick just one, how about three? The Hurting by Tears for Fears, it is such a complete listening experience from beginning to end. In The Heat Of The Night by Pat Benatar, her voice gives me chills, she is my favorite singer. The Wild Heart by Stevie Nicks, such a distinctive voice and songwriter, love this album. I still listen to all three a lot.

Douglas: Album meaning singular? No fair, in which I will answer unfairly, in no order; Prince: 1999, Arcadia: So Red The Rose, Steve Vai: Passion and Warfare, Kate Bush: Hounds of Love, Depeche Mode: Violator, Iron Maiden: Seventh Son…, and so on and so on.

Echosynthetic: What do you think about the current state of radio? Good or bad for musicians?

Juan:  I think like everything, there is good and bad with radio. Top 40 radio stations won’t play local artists which is unfortunate because Atlanta has some amazing talent in all genres of music. However I have to give local station 99x props because they really support local musicians by playing and promoting them.

Douglas:  A very good question in which I don’t have a solid answer. Some artists from the old school can argue bad while some current artists will say it’s good. 

Echosynthetic: Biggest guilty pleasure song?

Juan: Better The Devil You Know by Kylie Minogue

Douglas: New Edition: If It Isn’t Love (believe me, there’s more)

Echosynthetic: Depeche Mode or New Order?

Juan:  Definitely Depeche Mode for me, Music for the Masses is one of my favorite albums. And I’m really looking forward to their new album!

Douglas: I like them both, but my heart is always with Depeche Mode. 

Echosynthetic: Any big plans for 2017?

Juan: We are working on some new music and there will definitely be a new single this year and hopefully an EP too.

Douglas: Focus on new material, more live shows, grow bigger and on from there.

I would like to give Frisky Monkey a tremendous “thank you” for giving me so much of their time. Please check out what they have on offer at Bandcamp and follow them on social media (Facebook) (Twitter) (Instagram)! They’ve also got a pretty cool official site worth looking at too!

Cover Photo Credit: MLHobby Photo

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