Categorized on their MySpace page as a combination of “Japanese classic music, 2-step, psychobilly” which may be good enough or equally perplexing descriptors as any, the 100 Monkeys are currently touring throughout the summer with their debut CD Monster De Lux.
Just listen for the shouted deluge of audience improv suggestions or follow the trail of over-excited, collapsed Twi-hards, and you’ll be sure to find them.
Meanwhile, StarShine caged the jovial, bantering Monkeys (sans Ben J.) for an exclusive interview in which they discuss stage life, Twilight mania, obscure global theorems, and humpback whales.
What’s the origin of the 100 Monkeys?
Jackson: The 100 Monkeys started with Ben G. and I–like 3 years ago–whenever he moved to L.A. We were roommates back in high school. We knew Ben J. back then, and we started the band as a two-man group just doing improv music and trying to get Ben J. out to Los Angeles to make some music with us. Along the way, we happened to meet up with Jared Anderson who we would jam with all the time. Now we all are together in harmony. It’s fantastic.
Ben G: It’s like an MTV reality show.
Would you ever do one of those?
Jackson: No, that would make even more drama out of what little drama there is.
Jared: If it was a Discovery Channel reality show, yes.
Speaking of the Discovery Channel, why did you choose to name the band after “The Hundredth Monkey Effect,” which per your MySpace page, “generally describes the instant, paranormal spreading of an idea or ability to the remainder of a population once a certain portion of that population has heard of the new idea or learned the new ability”?
Jackson: That was one part of it, and [that idea] if you get 100 monkeys in the room with 100 typewriters, eventually they’ll create the works of Shakespeare. (See: Infinite Monkey Theorem) It’s the certain style of music we make and the music we write.
If you came up with your own Monkey Effect, what idea would you like to impart on society?
Ben G: Wow!
Jackson: We’re really trying to get people into the Spencer Bell Memorial. (www.spencerbellmemorial.com) It’s a benefit for adrenal cancer research and our friend Spencer Bell, who was our greatest influence in all of our music. He passed away about three years ago, so we’re just working, trying to keep his memory alive and keep his music out to the masses. We were able to raise money to put out one of his albums, and we have 3 more because of the fan support that we’ve been getting. It’s just incredible.
Why have you chosen to use improv in your music?
Jared: I think because we started as actors, most of us, minus Ben J. Improv is part of acting, so we all love doing it. We play well off each other, and we do take straight-up audience suggestions and make up a song on the spot, even all the instrumental parts.
Just then, the sound of piano keys interrupts his thought as the boys chime in, singing and playing notes, “It’s a song that we’re singing for the very first time…” Over just as soon as it started, they jump back on the interview train -
Jackson: See, genius! Where inspiration takes you, it takes you hard. If you take the drummer and the drummer starts playing bass and the singer starts singing backup vocals, you find a whole new bunch of stuff in the music that you might not find if you didn’t allow yourself the freedom to change the lyrics once in a while or completely make up a song.
Jared: It’s called the 100 Monkeys Switcheroo.
Ben G: We increase each other’s talents.
Jackson: We all come from different backgrounds and ways of learning music. It’s really interesting, and it’s really cool to have that diversity ‘cause when it comes together, it creates this union of –
Jared: – magic. A union of magic.
Jackson: Sometimes it sounds awful…but still magic. Sometimes it sounds good. (laughs)
Can everyone play all of the instruments?
Ben G: Not yet, but almost. People have their strengths. Everybody specializes I think in probably two things.
Jackson: We wanna give the audience a show. We love our fans. We love performing, and we feel that when you come to our show, you’re gonna get to hear a song that’s never going to be played live again. People always come up to us at the end of shows requesting other improv songs.
Jared: I actually feel like we owe it to ‘em after a while because they’re like demanding, and I’m like, “I don’t know how!” I’m like, “Let’s just suck it up and learn it!”
Given that three out of the four of you are also actors, do you have a preference between music and acting?
Jackson: I wanna have my cake and eat it too. I wanna do both. I think the way we figure it, it feeds both sides of the creative process.
To feed the elephant in the room, Jackson, can you tease anything about “New Moon” for the yearning “Twilight” fans out there?
Jackson: It’s gonna be raging…action-packed, more steamy romance. You get to see a lot more crazy stuff happening. We went deeper into the world now, and it’s gonna be a fun thrill ride for everyone.
Also, filming recently wrapped in Pennsylvania for M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender.” What was that experience like, Jackson?
Jackson: It’s been incredible, a great set. I really believe we’re making a film that’s going to be epic. It’s gonna move people. I think the movie’s gonna turn out beautiful.
The 100 Monkeys have performed with Rob Pattinson in the past. Any chance that’ll be a recurring collaboration?
Jackson: Well, I mean, Rob’s a busy guy…(laughs) We’ve had a few chances to play with him. He’s an awesome musician.
How has “Twilight” mania affected the band’s popularity?
Jackson: It’s definitely gotten us some attention, but I think the main thing is our lives shows. People get to –
Jared: – escape into a fun land. Enjoy good music.
Jackson: Yeah, we like to have a good time. That’s what we’re always trying to do – play music for as many people as possible.
Jared: Hopefully, they come in ready to rock out and have some fun. That’s all you can expect.
Ben G: If you scream loud enough, we’ll make up a song that you decide what it’s called. Things like guitar picks and sweat.
Jackson: We like to give things away a lot on stage.
Jared: Sometimes we bring monkeys and throw them into the crowd.
Jackson: By the way, Ben J. is an adamant whale enthusiast. I know that if he were here, he would want to mention something about preserving the humpback whale in particular. Just figured I’d throw that in there.