Featured Music: Wednesday, October 6, 2004
Willing to shake that thang while gazing at the stars: John LaMonica.
It Takes Two

John LaMonica aspires to blue-eyed soul via legendary singer-songwriter rock.


If you’re a musician and a good part of your musical life has been spent in the context of a band, venturing off with only yourself to be accountable to can be kind of daunting. But if the voice you’re hearing in your group isn’t the one you want, well, then, pack your bags. This is exactly what wunderkind John LaMonica did when he first left local rockers My Spacecoaster, then split from marquee international sensation The Polyphonic Spree to go out on his own.

To rediscover his muse and begin writing music that sounded the way he wanted, he took a year off. Such long breaks occasionally spell atrophy for creative minds, but sometimes drastic measures are in order, especially to capture whatever it was/is that guides us to a bigger faith in art, music, whatever. What guided LaMonica was his record collection: Nick Cave, Prince, Sam Cooke, Jeff Buckley, Donny Hathaway. LaMonica not only wanted to craft meaningful lyrics, he wanted to shake his ass and make sure that people followed. Plus, as he puts it: “I really wanted to learn how to play, but do it in a simple manner.”

So here you have a fairly well-known local musician who leaves behind bands with label opportunities to find his true musical self — and what does he do? He breaks himself in two. Sort of.

First is Tiebreaker, a mostly solo project that hinges primarily on somber lullabies and sorrowful melodies and is, according to LaMonica, “where Low meets Jeff Buckley and Will Oldham.” It’s completely lo-fi and acoustic, with a subtle tip of the hat to the mournful Iron and Wine. John LaMonica, on the other hand, is more of a full band, one that incorporates a little bit of everything. This LaMonica incarnation is readying A Minor Miracle, a full-length built on rock, blues, funk, pop, and soulful R&B that glides from the gravesite to the dance floor.

“I love the elements of music that has no sense of style to itself,” he said. “It belongs everywhere and not just in a certain category, as long as it has substance.” Hence, Prince — the king of multi-genre genius and one of the only popular musicians who can simultaneously “floor” you with a verse while getting your butt on the “floor.”

“I wanted to create music that could get people to interact and move,” LaMonica said, citing his own desire to boogie, as he often does on the nightclub scene.

A Minor Miracle meanders through genres, yes, but does so with grace. Part of the reason that everything fits together so seamlessly is LaMonica’s backing musicians. Guitarist Boo Maxey, a Mississippi phenom, has traveled far and wide with a host of country and blues musicians, while keyboardist Jennifer Perryman is a California native who’s played with a zillion Left Coasters and recently settled into North Texas. Holding everything together at the base is Cooper Hefley, drummer for Green River Ordinance and John Price.

Asked whether “John LaMonica” is going to be a revolving door or a tight-knit unit, the titular frontman said, “ I hope it’s something permanent, because this band, as it is, is really solid. So yeah, I’d like for it to be set in place.”

It may also be a little difficult for folks to wrap their arms around an idea as amorphous as a rump-shaking emo band. LaMonica, however, believes that people will take to it. “People are ready to move and get excited,” he said. “And this band is built to feed off that energy.”

And that is precisely what LaMonica hopes to achieve with A Minor Miracle: to create a record that is made for the stage, from which he can alternately howl like Nick Cave and get down and dirty à la Prince. Connecting with an audience in person, LaMonica said, “is the true reason for making music.” With the support of his talented backing musicians, LaMonica might be able to bond with at least a few Metroplexers, if not inspire a bunch to get up and groove.

“What I wanted to do when I first left the whole band thing behind was to just be able to get in front of an audience with just a guitar and that was Tiebreaker,” he said. “But now I’m ready to be that other person and really bring a different energy to the crowd.”

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