“I did not die, I did not die,” says Gabriel Berezin, singer/guitarist of Brooklyn’s Monuments, in reference to his inspiration for the band’s name. “The first song we wrote had the word Monuments in it. It was about a day I was late for work on September 11th,” says Gabriel, halfway somber and halfway jesting.
As Gabriel explains to me, he was running late for work, late enough to witness a plane fly into his building – which just happened to be the World Trade Center. As harrowing of an experience as that might have been, Gabriel used it to start something great – Monuments.
Although Monuments have been a band for almost ten years, the current line-up, consisting of Grant Zubritsky on bass/keyboards, Kevin Plessner on lead guitar, Mike Cook on drums, and Gabriel Berezin on guitar/vocals, has only been in place for two years.
Once this line-up came together, the sound of Monuments started to take shape. “We sort of had to figure out how we sound,” says Kevin about the genesis of the band.
Monuments is a lot more than just Gabriel’s experiences on 9/11 though. The band is about an ongoing conversation between musicians who sound more like four philosophers when they interact.
“The philosophical exchange, what we’re doing right now, is a part of the songwriting process and a part of what we do in everyday life,” says Kevin, “We probably butt heads a fair amount, but I like that because it makes what we do more interesting,” adds Gabriel.
Monuments gets the seriousness of their talk though, so it makes sense when Gabe jokingly describes part of their song writing process as, “Here’s some ideas, let’s fuck around with it.”
Chipping away at ideas and taking time to figure out exactly what sounds right is part of the process for Monuments, and their songs reflect that. “You’re working on an idea that someone brought in, and you take it out a little bit and jam on it and that’s where the cool parts start to come out,” says Grant about the process of working on new material.
Listening to Monuments begins to speak to Grant’s idea. Multi-layered and full of texture, songs like, ‘The Believer’, sound journeys that beg to be taken. And, the rewards are many if you let Monuments music wash over you. The payoffs in each song reflect the high amount of thought put into them.
Hearing the band reflect on their motivations behind different songs, you can sense their cerebral nature. Songs like ‘Silver Star’ sound like a rocket taking off in the midst of a fireworks celebration, but Monuments wanted the listener to get that. “You’re trying to paint an image of your sub-conscious,” says Kevin in reference to their song, “There is this feeling of Fourth of July, and that was something we [wanted to push].”
As much thought as Monuments puts into their work, they aren’t content to simply noodle their instruments and stare at the wall during live shows. “We structure our music so much, but when we’re on stage we kind of just say, ‘Just go,’” says Gabe, “[We didn’t want] things to start to feel like we just playing songs, we’re putting on a live performance,” says Grant.
Even with all the thought Monuments puts into their work, the members know they haven’t come close to their peak. “Right now it’s all about songs,” says Kevin “[We] want to make a piece of art that people want to talk about.”
When asked about their future work, Monuments offer a few pieces of insight about what listeners can expect. “I’m not sure we even know what to expect anymore, everything is very chaotic, but that’s a good thing,” says Gabriel.
Even if the members of Monuments can’t say exactly where they’ll be going, they can all agree that they are approaching a point where their music will truly, for lack a better term, blast off. “We’re getting to a place where we’re going to nail this album,” says Gabriel, “And then just crush tours.”
Do yourself a favor and check out Monuments, they are a ride very much worth taking.
Check out Monuments here. Monuments is playing at McGann’s in Boston on 3/12, at The Fire in Philadelphia on 3/18, and at Cake Shop in New York City on 3/19.