Know for some insanely explosive shows, Israeli rock monsters Mononotix often move their shows into the crowd, creating sweaty pits of madness. On Where Were You When It Happened?, the band's first full-length, released this week on Drag City, guitarist Yonatan Gat says the band captured some of the energy on record and thinks its much better than last year's Body Language EP. In anticipation of the trio's set on the Southern Comfort Stage Sunday at 3 p.m., we spoke with Gat about getting hit in the eye with a cymbal, how the act's frenetic shows go down and making the new album.
Westword (Jon Solomon): Do you think you captured some of your explosive live energy on Where Were You When It Happened?
Yonatan Gat: Yeah I think people will be surprised. It's much better than the EP. We recorded it live and I think it really captures the energy of the band. It's really simple, almost no overdubs. Vocals are almost never doubled or touched. I think most people who like our shows will really like the record.
WW: Can you tell me a bit about making the new album? Anything in particular that helped get you inspired in the studio?
YG: We were all into different stuff when we wrote and recorded the songs. We were actually listening to less music together and talk about music less, we kinda found the basic things about our music that appeals to us. I think the one thing we did discover more on this record is what we like or don't like about our music. I think the songs are more simple, less "proggy". It's also kinda less generic and it has more styles and moods. Two songs are actually slow, one has only organ and vocals. I think it's really us at the time it was made. It kinda smells like the band, or the show. Which might not be good...haha.
WW: It seems like crowds fuel your live energy. Was it harder to get inspired in the studio without an audience?
YG: We've been playing shows for so long that the way we play the songs is energetic kinda like we play them at the shows by default. It's more about subleties on record. It's the atmosphere we create, not the atmosphere of a room and an audience. We felt really natural playing these songs in the studio, more than ever.
WW: Do you feel like you have to keep pushing the boundaries of playing live and keep striving for something more extreme?
YG: We don't think about these things. I think in some aspects the show is more extreme now, and I think in others it was more extreme in the past. The size of the rooms and audience changed, so that changed the show too. There are some things you can only do infront of five people, and some things that you can only do infront of hundreds. It's different and we always look for ways to make it new and fresh to us and the people watching, part of these ways might be extreme I guess...
WW: What's taking it too far for you guys?
YG: Violence. I hate it when people in the audience act with no regard of the person around them's health. Luckily it's been rare so far, but when it happens I try to make it stop any way I can.
WW: Do you guys have any pre-show rituals?
YG: Stretching, Red Bull. No booze, drugs or sex before and during the show.
WW: What's the most painful show-related injury you've sustained?
YG: I got a cymbal in my eye in Portland. I couldn't stitch it because I had to fly to New York the same night, there's still a scar. Cymbal hit felt like a punch to the face, it was awful.
WW: Were your live shows always so explosive and frenetic, or was there a show or event that sparked it all? Or maybe it was a gradual progression?
YG: I think it was gradual. At the begining people didn't react the way they do today. At the begining it was more us and the audience were more of spectators. But they slowly started joining in, standing closer, knowing what to expect, and that changed the show a little. Added more atmosphere, became more of a mutual thing.
WW: Do the live antics ever get in the way of the music or do they enhance it?
YG: We try to focus on playing and singing, although sometimes it's hard to do with people falling on the guitar and dismembering the drums.
WW: Are you still banned from playing a lot of places in Israel? What about in the States?
YG: We barely play Israel so I don't really know. We play [Israel] once a year. In the US we're banned from three or five venues. Most of them in Austin, because we played shows at these weird venues in SXSW. One of them banned us because Ami was throwing napkins and straws from the bar on the audience.
WW: Has the music scene in Tel Aviv improved at all in the last few years? Have you inspired any bands there?
YG: Some bands here started playing on the floor and making more rocky music, but they don't really do something similar to what we do. I don't get to watch a lot of music here, but the bands are sounding better, and they started taking themselves more seriously and tour more often.
WW: What do you guys do when you're not on the road?
YG: Rest. I travelled some more and lived in different places. But when we don't tour or write a record we try to be with our families and friends and take it easy.
WW: Where you guys coming from musically, and are there a few bands you each equally dig? Mudhoney...Thin Lizzy?
YG: Hmmm... Many bands. We all have different tastes but there are many bands we all agree on. Probably a lot of them are bands most of the world agrees about... We've been listening to music together for years so it's hard to just name a few.