Monumentally instrumental

Local band Monuments and Statues’ laid-back approach to music is gaining them notoriety in the Kingston music scene

An enthusiastic bunch, Monuments and Statues have a hard time putting a label on the genre of their grooves.
An enthusiastic bunch, Monuments and Statues have a hard time putting a label on the genre of their grooves.

After chatting with Kingston-based folk band Monuments and Statues for a whole three minutes and 27 seconds, they invited me to become a member of their band. Perhaps it was wrong of me to casually mention that I dabble with the ukulele, but after spending a few minutes with the group, they’re the type I know I—and most other people—wouldn’t mind playing with.

Monuments and Statues are comprised of six local musicians. Laura Barker on vocals, Mackenzie Bromstad on cello, Jason Rajsic on drums, Geoff Reith on banjo and vocals, Nick Riordan on cello and Cirisse Stephen on keyboards.

However, how or when they began playing together is a bit of a mystery.

“I had been playing music with my housemate, who plays violin, and I ran into [Nick Riordan] on a field trip the night before and I was like ‘Hey I’m Geoff’ and he was like ‘I’m Nick’ and we began playing music,” Reith said. “As we meet people we steal them into my house and they play music and then they normally become friends afterwards—that’s the next part.” Their musical style is equally mysterious. When asked if they could describe their music, all in perfect unison they answered with a simple no.

“It’s like folk-baroque-pop…” Reith said trailing off. “I took a music class and baroque basically means weird.”

“It’s not like baroque in the classical period,” Bromstad chimed in.

“It explains it on Wikipedia, but baroque means something about having stringed instruments,” Riordan said.

“Orchestral instruments in pop music,” Reith said.

“That’s a really loose definition,” Bromstad said with a laugh.

“But folk with a spin is how we would describe it,” Reith said.

Having all six musicians together is a rarity. As busy students, mainly studying in the geological department at Queen’s, (Rajsic is the only one not in the department), the band have found it hard to find time to practice together.

“It seems like we have a show every two weeks or so and we’re like ‘We have a show next week,’ we better get together,’ Reith said. “It tends to happen in sections.” But they all agreed that Reith is always at every practice.

“Geoff’s the dictator of the band,” Rajsic said with a laugh.

“I come up with chords and singing melodies,” Reith explained. “It’s not a real dictatorship; I bring an idea and any ideas that everyone comes up with I usually like a lot. It’s nice to have that trust that you’ll have a skeleton of something and eventually it will be a pretty cool thing.”

It’s hard to deny that the band’s experience of living and working in Kingston has informed their music.

“I’ve lived here for two months and I’ve already played three shows. I would say that part of the reason Kingston is the way it is because it’s a college town—it’s quirky and indie,” Bromstad said. “It seems to foster that kind of thing. You have some creative students with too much time on their hands.” “The Kingston music scene has been really good to us. I mean Apple Crisp has always been good to us, and The Mansion has been awesome. I think we’ve played here [The Grad Club] a few times for open mic.”

“It doesn’t seem like it’s saturatedwith bands. There are enough places that are always looking for people. Whereas with my other band, back in Halifax, we really have to fight just to play a show.” The small-town feel of Kingston has also informed their sound.

“If you take the University, downtown, the student ghetto and north of Princess—that’s the Kingston I’m trapped in. That’s a small town to me. So it makes sense to see people on their porches playing banjo and making applesauce. It’s not far from the country.” The group only seems to look as far forward as next week’s show, group painting sessions where they play music and paint the stories that go along with their songs and a possible trip in Alaska.

“I think based on how we recruit people the band’s always going to be evolving,” Stephen said.

“Fast-forward eight months from now, the band’s going to look very different,” Bromstad said.

“We want to cover a Gertrudes song,” vocalist Barker added timidly.

Something tells me fellow Kingstonians The Gertrudes would have no problems with that.

Monuments and Statues play The Mansion Nov. 30 with The Lovely Feathers and Hey Ocean! for their CD release show. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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