Monkeys, Women & Children

It may not be the sort of band you’d expect to have sprung from former rock scene sensations Glassjaw but Men, Women & Children (formed by Glassjaw guitarist Todd Weinstock) have arrived at the Astoria to whip up a dance party. You thought Panic! At The Disco were as dancetastic as punk could get but M,W&C are about to get seriously discotastic on us. Hell, even their sound check is bringing the funk. It seems that, with a sense of sheer determination, they won’t rest until their unique reincarnation of disco is heard by all. And what a place to begin this disco mission of fun – playing to Panic!’s hugely sold out audiences across the UK. Todd Weinstock (guitar) and Nick Conceller (laptops and keyboards and stuff) spare some time in between soundchecking, meet and greets with Warner people and the show itself to have a chat with me. Our first topic of conversation is the monkey symbol on some t-shirts their manager has just unveiled…

Todd: You know they’re making 5000 masks of these?! The whole joke is that at first I hated the monkey and now I love him. I said to everyone that it would become the logo and they were like – ‘it won’t, it’s tiny in the album sleeve, it’ll never be anything.’ And now it’s everywhere!

So, how did the monkey creep in? Was it through the song ‘Monkey Monkee Man’ on the album?
I guess, when we did the art the artist came up with a bunch of concepts. We initially rejected the monkey about 80 times but he still made it pass, somehow.
Todd: Yeah he changed his eyes and a couple of things and we were like ‘alright, it’s pretty good’.
Nick: I think it was fate that he kept sticking with it…
Todd: Yeah, he was like ‘fuck you, I’m the artist’

What’s the song about? Is it an homage to monkeyness?
It’s actually a tribute to Devo, the band.
Todd: The song’s about what Devo means – being short for de-evolution. That we’re all getting stupider. I’m a monkey man.
Nick: But monkeys are smart animals.
Todd: But just stupider than humans.
Nick: I think they’re more innocent than humans.
Todd: Humans are probably past that now…

Todd, how is it starting over as a new band after the hugeness of Glassjaw? My friend saw you play in the States to 10 people… Is that a bit weird?
It’s definitely weird. I mean, I took 2 years off cos I did that band since I was a little kid and worked and worked and toured and toured until we got to a certain level. And now it’s like starting over. It’s weird but I love this music and I’m having a great time. It’s sometimes like ‘holy shit, what the fuck am I doing? I’m fucking 30! Almost…’ but, it becomes worth it. I just love doing it.

It’s very different music from that of Glassjaw. How did it happen that Glassjaw members started to go in this sort of dancey direction? A bit of a weird phenomenon…
Yeah, like it happened at birth.
Todd: Yeah, I never knew when we started this band what Head Automatica (Glassjaw vocalist Daryl Palumbo’s latest band) sounded like yet. I mean I don’t think we really sound like each other but it’s because we come from the same band and we’re both doing something that is more fun than that…

Was it because you just wanted a bit of fun after Glassjaw?
Yeah, I think it was like a direct backlash.
Nick: I think they were both so trapped in this scene where everyone is so serious and everything’s so…
Todd: Let me tell you about my problems and cry all day.
Nick: And they just wondered ‘what’s the furthest away you could go from that?’ That’s where we started from at least. Just thinking ‘How can we escape that altogether?’ and it was just to make party music and have fun.

This dance rock thing is really starting a revolution. How do you feel being a part of that?
Well, I think as kids start getting older they start doing more drugs… (Todd laughs)
Todd: Yeah, they wanna dance. They don’t want to mosh anymore. I don’t know… I don’t think we’re necessarily a part of that whole thing. I guess we’re definitely dance and we’re definitely rock. But I think a lot of that whole thing going on right now is more dark and we’re more fun…
Nick: Yeah, we’re trying to include everyone in the party and not be pretentious about it. Whoever wants to come, we want them to be there.
Todd: We’re not trying to be above everyone because we’re dance AND rock.
Nick: We just wanna have like bar mitzvah parties when you were 13 and nothing mattered except for going out and having fun.

What sort of a reaction do you get from Glassjaw fans?
A little of both sides. I mean, some people are obviously very shocked. If everyone that loved Glassjaw loved this band then these shows would’ve been to thousands of people from the start. I think we haven’t really pushed the Glassjaw aspect. We wanted this to be known as a band on its own.

Well, I didn’t know at first that you had been in Glassjaw…
Yeah, see?
Nick: We just wanted to build our own identity. I mean, we met this kid in Washington DC and I was like ‘Who’s your favourite band?’ and he was like ‘Glassjaw’ and I was like ‘Well, do you know this guy was in that band?’ and he thought I was lying…
Todd: And then he looked at my licence. We’re trying to do it on our own. If people find out, it’s cool. Some people react like ‘What the fuck, you asshole! You fucking killed my mother.’ and some people have gotten older, changed music tastes or are just excited about it. Definitely a little bit of both.

Do you think you’re reaching out to a new audience as well?
Definitely. We’re trying to go on tour with different kinds of bands also. Trying to not always play to the same crowd.
Nick: Yeah, every tour has been a vastly different demographic.

Who have you played with so far?
Nightmare of You, Gang of Four, Metric, Action Action, Motion City Soundtrack… Now this tour. It’s been cool.

What’ve you got lined up when you get back?
We go on tour with 30 Seconds To Mars when we get back.
Nick: Another totally different band.
Todd: RX Bandits and The Exit, which is different also.

There are clearly many different influences on the album…
Definitely. We all had a common ground in what we grew up with but everybody came from different places with different ideas. That’s why the music’s kinda all over the place also.

And it took you a long time to write the record?
It took a very long time.
Todd: Forever.
Nick: It was kind of like us going through high school, junior high, grade school, college…
Todd: We didn’t know anything about anything.
Nick: And we didn’t know how to play together either. It was just like ‘how do we write music?’ At first it wasn’t supposed to be a real band. It was just like we were going to mess around and have fun…

How did it translate when you started playing live?
It wasn’t as hard as we thought it was going to be.
Nick: Yeah, we were actually a little terrified. Cos we knew we had to live up to what was on the record in some way. It actually came together quick.
Todd: The philosophy was that we didn’t want to sacrifice the record we wanted to make thinking whether or not we could pull it off live. In the end we had just done what we wanted to do on the record. We worried about the live show afterwards.
Nick: Then the main focus was to put on a show that was a show. A lot of shows you pay 10 dollars and you’re like ‘was that a show or could I’ve just sat at home and listened to the record?’ I wanna make sure when people see us they get their money’s worth.

Here follow musings on Nick’s gingerness, Axl Rose’s gingerness and their resulting bond of gingerness. Todd and Nick are enthusing about the possibility of meeting and/or working with him…
Can you put that in the interview? That we want to get in with Axl Rose?’
Nick: Yeah, a remix with Guns ‘N Roses…

Their debut album 'Men, Women & Children' is out now on Warner Bros.

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