Jonathan Monument performs in The Sound Room at WEEU, 830 AM in Reading, PA. Set includes “Adaline” at 0:00, “Flip the Tables” at 4:14, and “Jasper” at 7:08.
From their Facebook page:
Berks County, Pennsylvania songwriters and guitarists David Fick and Steven Balthaser have been composing songs for years – but these carefully crafted songs would not be heard until a full band lineup was achieved. Steven suggested spot-on drummer Josh Noel, who worked with Steven in previous musical endeavors. The trio needed a bassist deeply rooted in music theory, but also flexible and daring when composing. The answer: Matt Thren. To finish off the lineup, Jon Smith was added as a multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist. Smith’s on-stage antics and vast knowledge of 70’s rock was sure to complete the band. With such a diverse lineup, Jonathan Monument was ready to compose, rehearse, record, and gig!
In January, 2015, the quintet decided to record the sophomore album themselves. Search for Traps is a 14 track roller coaster ride heavy with experimentation and showcases alt/rock hooks. Sweat. Energy. JonMon.
Jonathan Monument drops its Nirvana-inspired CD Friday night at Mike’s Tavern
Thursday January 21, 2016 12:01 AM
By Don Botch
The five quirky friends who make up the local band Jonathan Monument have a bit of an identity crisis on their hands, but to a man, they embrace it wholeheartedly.
First of all, the band member named Jonathan (Jonathan Smith) isn’t the band’s namesake or leader, which sometimes leaves club owners scratching their heads when they show up for a gig. If Jonathan Monument were an actual person, it would be frontman David Fick. But it’s not. It’s a band.
Then there’s the fact that what started out as an acoustic, British Invasion-style project a few years ago has evolved into a grungy, up-tempo, in-your-face rock band that is equal parts distortion and precision.TODAY’S SPONSOR:
Think next-century Nirvana.
This is where the real “crisis” comes in, because being an edgy rock band in a small town with a dearth of original-music venues to begin with, let alone ones that embrace LOUD, poses more than its share of challenges.
“We’re in a niche that doesn’t really exist so much in Berks County,” Fick asserts when the group gathers to chat at a local dining establishment.
But they remain undeterred, this band of brothers who riff off of one another continuously throughout the conversation but keep their punchy songs tightly orchestrated onstage, where they share a confidence that the music they are making is right and good.
There’s no denying that Jonathan Monument has talent to spare.
Joining Fick up front is fellow guitarist and songwriter Steven Balthaser, who Fick contends penned four of the 14 songs on “Search for Traps,” the frenetic new album they will celebrate when they cram into the corner of Mike’s Tavern in Reading for a gig Friday night at 8.
When Balthaser corrects him that it was five, Fick, ever quick on his feet, replies: “OK, he wrote three songs on the album.”
But it’s not all faux squabbling between the brothers-in-law. They form an alliance to have fun at the expense of multi-instrumentalist Smith, the only band member unable to attend the interview, even though it’s clear that they admire the hell out of him.
Smith, a 22-year-old “wunderkind,” as Fick calls him, who also plays in And You, Brutus?, sits in with various other bands and has his own solo project called Jon Smith’s Voyages, recorded all the tracks but the bass in his basement and contributed everything from keyboards to upside-down lefty guitar to cello to french horn to wine glasses – yes wine glasses; you know, filled with varying amounts of liquid and struck percussively – on the new album, then worked his technical magic on his home computer.
“He’s like Phil Spector, not nuts, though,” Fick says in his deadpan style.
“He didn’t pull a gun on us,” Balthaser adds.
“Not yet,” Fick replies. “We’re waiting for it, though.”
And so it goes, the rapid-fire ribbing doing a bad job of masking the affection the Monument men share for one another as they prepare to send a CD they’re really proud of out into the world.
“We’re like a family: like brothers and sisters,” Fick jokes.
“Yeah, we all hate each other like brothers,” adds Balthaser.
Rhythm and glues
Getting to this point has been a long time coming for Fick, who recorded the first Jonathan Monument CD, “Ghola,” essentially as a solo project with the help of session players back in 2013 and has worked hard ever since to piece together this quintet.
The rhythm section comprises Matt Thren on bass and Joshua Noel on drums.
Thren is well-known and respected locally for his guitar chops as frontman of Hillbilly Shakespeare and lead guitarist alongside Todd Bartolo in the Youngers. This is his first foray into bass, and he’s loving every minute of it.
“I love how different it is,” Thren says. “It’s a really different mindset, and I feel like I grow so much as a musician playing in this band.”
When Balthaser credits the rhythm section with being the band’s glue, Thren deflects the attention to Noel, saying he’s the engine that drives Jonathan Monument’s sound.
“The overall punch of our sound comes from his drums,” Thren says. “I get distracted when we play, just watching him. He’s a whirling dervish back there. He’s a blur sometimes.”
“I’m usually flailing around in the back,” Noel agrees. “If you’re going to come to one of our shows, you have to take everybody into consideration. Everyone is doing something so amazing, but I think a lot of times people are staring at me and I get kind of weirded out.”
This comment elicits laughter from the others, but they agree that each is indispensable.
“You guys are awesome songwriters,” Thren tells Fick and Balthaser, “and Jonathan adds a lot of really cool colors to the sound. And Josh is an absolutely ferocious drummer.”
Day of rediscovery
The evolution of their new sound began on a night in September 2014 when they performed a tribute to Nirvana at Mike’s Tavern that went remarkably well and gave them flashbacks to their youth.
“We grew up listening to them,” Noel says, “so to be influenced by them a second time around was really cool.”
Besides the 14 songs on the new CD, which was produced by local impresario Frank Phobia and mixed at Mike Radka’s Akdar Studios in Bernville, the band already has more than another album’s worth of new songs written.
“There’s no shortage of material,” says Fick, whose lyrical style veers toward the euphonic if nonsensical, while Balthaser is more of a storyteller.
The video for their first single, “Adaline,” directed by Joe Grasso, is posted on YouTube and Vimeo and got a plug recently on The Key, WXPN’s Philadelphia music-scene blog. Additional videos are planned for the songs “Jasper” and “Flip the Tables.”
Fields, for one, is impressed, and is using his 30 years’ worth of industry connections to help them market “Search for Traps” to labels.
“They’re a phenomenal band,” Fields said. “Their record is one of my favorite things I’ve ever worked on.”
Of course, with the band’s ongoing search for its true identity, things could take a sharp turn at any point, from Nirvana, say, into the realm of Barbra Streisand.
“I want to rediscover her,” Balthaser offers. “It’s going to be really good. Ballads. All ballads.”
Of course, he’s only joking. Or is he?
Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.