The members of the band Mona reside in Nashville, but they're not exactly a local band. After a trip to New York City, where he "met with every label in existence," frontman and Ohio transplant Nick Brown is having a tough time recalling the last time his band set foot on a Nashville stage. "We haven't played there in months — and maybe only a handful of times in the past year."
Rather than slowly winning over local bookers and concertgoers, Brown decided he would "step out and shoot for the moon." Several months ago, Mona signed up with U.K.-based manager Saul Galpern, founder of the now-defunct Nude Records (The London Suede, The Au Pairs), and they haven't looked back. Their debut single, "Listen to Your Love," dropped in late September in the U.K., earning spins on BBC Radio 1 and plaudits from NME, who affectionately dubbed the foursome "The Princes of Leon."
Brown himself seems flattered by the comparison, and there's more to the connection than shared geography and sound. "Jared [Followill] and I are very good friends," Brown says, "and I met Caleb [Followill] back during the Aha Shake [Heartbreak] days. I go over for dinner sometimes, and I know their families."
If he is at all bothered by the implication that his band is living in the Followills' shadow, Brown does a good job of hiding it. "Obviously, you want to feel like you're doing your own thing," he says. "But come on, it's four guys in a band. Ever since The Beatles, it's been 'this band's the next this. That band's the next that.' You need to earn your right to be an individual, especially as an artist."
Unfortunately, the band did themselves no favors on that score with "Listen to Your Love": The intro to the song sounds, nearly note for note, like the intro to Kings of Leon's new single, "Radioactive," which is itself a thinly veiled homage to The Breeders' "Cannonball." Mention this eerie similarity, and Brown lets out a nervous laugh, like perhaps someone's mentioned it to him before. "I don't really know what to say to that," he says. "I mean, our song came out first. ['Love'] was recorded on the BBC before they were even done with their album."
Asked, then, if any likeness is purely coincidental, Brown backs off a bit. "I don't think anything's coincidence. When you look at movies or TV shows now, vampires are the in thing. There's a consciousness to the way pop culture moves. Is everyone copying everyone else, or is it a movement?" No matter the source of the songs' similarities, it's fair to say Brown wishes the timing were different. "They're an internationally known band, and here we are just coming out with our first single and, like you said, similar riff."
Following their sure-to-be-imminent signing, Mona will rededicate themselves to their conquest of the U.K. — so don't expect to see them on a bill in Nashville until after the new year. For Brown, it's all part of a broader strategy. "To have any credibility in the States, you need to have a certain ambiguous mystery to make it feel special and genuine," he says. "If someone knows you're just down the street, they're like 'Ah, they're just down the street.' But if someone hears [a band's] doing something in Paris or London ... well, Americans are funny like that."
*before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.
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