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Major and the monbacks


Three years ago, Major and The Monbacks bought a used van, booked over 150 shows in nine months, and embarked on their first-ever national tour. There were no labels or booking agents or tour managers at the time, just a bunch of twenty-somethings with an independent streak and a shared love of making music. It wasn't glamorous—it still isn't—but they all agreed it beat the hell out of working a day job. The Monbacks pushed that van to its limits and beyond with their relentless tour schedule, developing a rapport with the tow truck drivers of the greater Norfolk area as they burned through three different engines and blossomed from local favorites into one of the most promising young rock bands working today. They've got a new van now, and, more importantly, they've got a new album to go with it, one that fully delivers on their promise and then some.

Produced by fellow Virginia wunderkind Matthew E. White, 'Moonlight Anthems' is a raucous blend of soul, roots, and rock that tips its cap equally to Levon and Lennon. The album is Major and the Monbacks' first for Yep Roc Records, and it finds them building off the wave of critical success garnered by their eponymous 2015 debut, which they recorded and released themselves. Pop Matters hailed that album's "propulsive soul energy," while The Huffington Post described its sound as "Chicago meets the Grateful Dead meets The Band," and RVA Magazine raved that it had "not only revived, but given a psychedelic face-lift to the soundtrack of the dancehalls of the '50s and '60s." The record offered but a taste of Major and the Monbacks' ecstatic live show, which began to draw sell-out crowds across the region and earned the band a slew of high profile festival slots everywhere from Firefly to Floyd Fest in addition to support dates with Charles Bradley, Os Mutantes, Antibalas, and more.

It would have been hard to predict all of this back in the group's early days, though. The band—whose name is a portmanteau of the common southern farewell "C'mon back"—initially grew out of informal, after-school bedroom jams led by bassist Cole Friedman and his twin brother Neal, a gifted keyboard player and singer. The sessions were what you'd expect from a bunch of teenagers: loose, fun, and all over the map. Players came and went as the band's sound morphed and matured, but when the dust finally settled, a core six-piece remained: the Friedman twins, plus brothers Michael and Bryan Adkins (guitar/vocals and drums), percussionist Tyler West, and guitarist/vocalist Harry Slater.

Music ran deep in each of their veins. The Friedmans' grandfather owned a record store on the African American side of town called Frankie's Birdland, which had served as the epicenter of The Norfolk Sound, an early mix of horn-fueled rock and soul that put artists like Gary "US" Bonds on the map. The Adkins' father toured up and down the East Coast in the 70's with a few different bands. West showed such a proclivity for percussion as a youngster (he'd create makeshift drum kits out of pots and pans) that his grandparents nicknamed him "Bammer," and Slater was an instrument obsessive who made the unlikely transition from roadie to one of the group's primary songwriters.

"I was really into collecting and tweaking electric guitars, and when the band first started playing, they always needed help with their instruments," remembers Slater. "I would show up to the gigs with some extra guitars and strings and hang out, and it got to the point where one night they told me to just grab an acoustic and jump onstage."

Though democracy has been the downfall of many a band, for Major and the Monbacks, it's the defining feature of their sound. There is no single frontman, no one songwriter. While the kernels of most tracks begin with ideas from Neal, Michael, or Harry, the eclectic finished products are almost always the results of melodies and riffs run through the spin cycle of six wildly creative minds.

"Everybody's got their own influences that they're individually bringing to the table," says Michael. "Creating a song for us is all about condensing that into a cohesive whole. Our only guiding principle, really, is that if it sounds cool, we like it."

When it came time to record their second album, as far as the Monbacks were concerned, nobody sounded cooler than Matthew E. White, a fellow Virginia native who first caught their ear with his production work for Richmond's Natalie Prass. White took on the role of mediator and mentor for the band, which he was surprised to find had such a fully realized sound already. The clarity of their vision enabled him to take a more holistic, big picture approach to capturing their songs.

"Matthew was used to writing a lot of the arrangements for other artists himself," says Neal, "so he was excited that we had such fleshed out music already. He was able to step back and really be a coach for us and provide us with a valuable outside perspective."

In their eleven days in the studio, the Monbacks recorded live as a band as much as possible in order to convey the excitement of their shows, but they made sure to leave time to get a little weird, too.

"Some of these songs we'd been playing on the road for a year and we really wanted to capture that live energy," explains Cole, "but we also wanted to experiment and overdub. We'd manipulate the tape and mess around with the analog outboard gear, and a lot of those subtleties are really important to the sound."

Album opener "There, There" sets the record's tone perfectly, with bouncing piano, swirling organ, and psychedelic guitar all coming together in a chipper, harmony-rich earworm that seamlessly blends the sounds of the British invasion with sunny southern California. "Moonlight Anthem" and "You Only See Me (At Night)" channel the funky Americana of Big Pink, while "We Are Doing Fine" and "Here Comes The King" recall The Fab Four at their most playful, and "You Should Know" and "Happiness" take cues from the rich vocal layering of bands like CSNY and the Beach Boys. On "The Clap," high-tempo R&B meets southern rock, and prog influences creep into the breezy soul of "Condition." Far from feeling scattered, though, the ornately detailed arrangements and lush orchestrations enable the songs to play out as a remarkably cohesive collection. Pressing play on each track is like opening the door to another room in an eccentrically curated mansion; it's impossible to predict what you'll find, but every discovery is more fantastic than the last.

"It'd be difficult for anyone to pinpoint a specific musical identity or pigeonhole what we do into a set genre," reflects Michael.  "With us, the diversity is the point."

Meet the Monbacks

Neal Friedman - Keys, Guitar, Vocals

Michael Adkins - Guitar, Keys, Vocals

Harry Slater - Guitar, Keys, Vocals

Cole Friedman - Bass Guitar

Tyler West - Percussion

Bryan Adkins - Drums



What is ultimately clear is that Major and the Monbacks have not only revived, but given a psychedelic face-lift to the soundtrack of the dancehalls of the ‘50s and ‘60s.
— RVA Magazine
Think Chicago meets the Grateful Dead meets The Band.
— The Huffington Post
Huffington Post Musical Discovery
”You come for the big names on the poster, but it’s the smaller names that keep you coming back.”
— Huffington Post
— Pop Matters
Named Live Music Daily’s “Artist to Watch in 2015”
— Live Music Daily
“Major and The Monbacks have it. Their sound is refreshing, inspiring and timeless... [They] are proof that good, roots music still exists in the present day.”
— Live Music Daily
Their passionate, throwback rock ‘n’ soul has clearly been honed for the stage and dance floor, and their combination of pop melodies, organ and horns brings to mind the Southern sounds of early Stax, but also the Northern rock ‘n’ soul of the Buckinghams, Rascals, Grass Roots, Southside Johnny, Tower of Power and Chicago
— Hyperbolium
The entire album sounds like a perfect song that comes on at a perfect time on a perfect day in a year without troubles. It’s the kind of album you can’t get enough of.
— Alt Daily
The whole album is captivating; irresistibly toe tapping, the party record of the summer
The Monbacks’ music is a celebration of all things past, present, and future”
— Appalachian Jamwich
“With sailing harmonies, layered percussion, horns, and a whole ton of soul [...] Major and the Monbacks had the look and feel of an old school dance hall band, but the modern sensibilities to allow them to perform to virtually any audience”
— No Country for New Nashville
“Major and the Monbacks plays uptempo pop with a twist of Southern soul. They play with harmony in their voices and smiles on their faces, and their enthusiasm is contagious.”
— The Daily Press
“As I write this, Major and the Monbacks’ single, “Come on Home” is playing — and boy, is it good. With its Sam and Dave call-and-responses, horn punctuations and “Music from the Big Pink”-era Band Americana, the nine-piece Norfolk group nails what it used to mean to be an American band.”
— Chris Bopst, Style Weekly
Defying genres, these energetic artists combine Motown, Ska, and Southern rock with the self-proclaimed “Eastern Seaboard’s Horniest Horn Section.” Their songs are pure celebration, a tribute to the days when a soulful tune and a willing voice were all that was needed for a good time.”
— Cville Weekly
“Bands like this are crucial to the preservation of music. With a powerful mix of soulful vocals, powerful melodies, and calculated instrumentation it is safe to say Major and the Monbacks are definitely following in the footsteps of St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and I mean that in the best way possible. Support acts like these they are the future of preserving real music.”
— Live Music Daily

Major and the Monbacks

Debut Self-Titled Album [Released May 2015]

Available on:
iTunes | Bandcamp | Spotify



The entire album sounds like a perfect song that comes on at a perfect time on a perfect day in a year without troubles. It’s the kind of album you can’t get enough of.
[Major and the Monbacks] is a lungful of fresh air in a world where passionless indie rock is increasingly the norm.
— PopMatters
These talented players resurrect the festive spark of horn-lined rock ‘n’ soul with irresistible grooves that cut just as deep as those from which they draw inspiration
— No Depression Blog
The Monbacks’ self-titled debut disc [...] is a rollicking mélange of vintage pop, rock and white boy soul, an organic extension of their sing-along live show
— Coastal Virginia Magazine
The whole package is captivating; irresistibly toe tapping, the party record of the summer.
— VEER Magazine
The Monbacks’ music is a celebration of all things past, present, and future
— Appalachian Jamwich
‘Major and the Monbacks’ seems to give off a vibe, thanks in large part to the horn section, of big band meets classic rock ‘n’ roll
— The Collegiate Times
‘Major and the Monbacks’ is a ride through a refreshingly modern spin on 1960’s psychedelic garage rock, soul and ska all fused together.
— Cavalier Daily
[...]This album is a fantastic debut for a band with a bright future. With a broad range of styles, ensnaring lyrics, a full 8-piece lineup, and nonstop soul, Major and the Monbacks will be sure to keep the groove rollin’.
— Live Music Daily

Don't Say A Word (Single, 2014)

Come on Home (Single, 2013)





New Frontier Touring - John Everhart

Shore Fire Media - Matt Hanks

Sweet Brother Touring - Cole Friedman