Israel’s Monotonix are in the latter category, but that’s no knock against their recordings. As their new Tim Green-produced CD Body Language (Drag City) proves, they’re pretty good at capturing their bluesy, minimalist fuzz-rock sound for listeners at home. It’s just that the live show still comes first; if it didn’t, the trio wouldn’t spend seemingly every waking moment trekking across the globe and hauling their equipment from one city to the next.
“I was thinking about that,” writes guitarist Yonatan (via e-mail) on their grueling tour schedule. “Probably one of the things that keep us going is that our show is very exciting for us, and every show is different. Plus, we set up among the audience so we can really see them from close. We kinda get to see a show, too.”
Indeed, Monotonix are becoming increasingly known for putting on a wild show where pretty much anything can happen. They’ve developed a reputation for setting various things on fire, including “[vocalist] Ami’s shirt, pants, the floor,” as Yonatan recounts. “Once in D.C.,” he adds, “the bartender was spitting fire; he was really getting into it and started spitting whiskey and lighting it.”
The touring grind is helped by the fact that they travel light, with one guitarist, one drummer (Ran) and one vocalist. “I do some stuff to make the guitar sound like a combination of a guitar and a bass,” Yonatan explains, “so I guess we can get a relatively full sound with just two people playing instruments. A lot of bands are doing that nowadays. I heard there’s a brother-sister duo from Detroit or something ... or are they married?”
Funny. Monotonix certainly aren’t beholden to the White Stripes, though one could draw some indirect parallels given their filtering of classic rock influences (Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, etc.) through a post-punk, post-noise sensibility. Monotonix are a good bit wilder than the recent spate of boy-girl blues-rock duos, though, and a good bit wilder than most of their Israeli peers, too, for that matter.
“It’s kinda old fashioned,” says Yonatan of the music scene there, which is what forced them to take their act overseas in the first place. “They haven’t seen bands like Lightning Bolt or Beat Happening or Fugazi. So they saw us setting up on the floor or being loud and they freaked I guess.”