My interview with Kenny Bridges, vocalist and guitar player for the rock band Moneen, starts off as expected -- with him being sarcastic and charming at the same time and me falling for it. After I unsuccessfully tried calling his cell phone several times, his publicity rep has finally had to connect us via a three-way conference call.
"Sorry it's been so hard to get this call through," I apologize earnestly.
"Hey, as long as it didn't make you sad on the inside, then everything is fine," he coos in his best Mister Rogers "I'm really concerned" voice.
"Oh, no, it didn't make me...oh, right." Damn, I fell for it. "He's a kidder," his PR rep has warned me. "He has that Canadian sense of dry humor."
That sense of humor reportedly got Bridges and Moneen bandmate Chris "Hippy" Hughes kicked out of their own concert once.
"Is that true?" I ask.
"You heard about that?"
"The funny thing is that it's happened twice. Once we got thrown out of our own show because, yeah, Hippy and I started a two-man mosh pit and security thought that we were just a bunch of crazy drunks -- and we weren't at all," he says, sounding exasperated.
"Then recently, we got kicked out of our own after-party...actually, it was just me; I got thrown out of our after-party because I started making fun of the DJ for playing Limp Bizkit and he got real mad. And all I did was say, over and over (changes to a high, whiny voice), 'Man, I love Limp Bizkit! Can you play more Limp Bizkit?'
"I was just trying to see how many times I could say Limp Bizkit to him and it got really funny, I thought. But he started to try to fight me. He was so angry he was just shaking. The next thing I knew, I was being thrown out of our own after-party. But really, it was actually one of the most proud moments of my life. That DJ was mean to Hippy, and I really do stick up for my friends. I'm not a fighter, believe me, but I am pretty good at annoying people to the point where they get so angry they start shaking," he says proudly.
"That, ah, is a pretty good skill, I guess."
"It got me through high school."
Despite Bridges's antics, Moneen's stage show, like their sound, is a controlled chaos, a happy mix of pop rock songs played with heavy metal musicianship. Yes, there's a lot of frantic guitar work and screamed vocals, but there are also strong melodies and radio-friendly tunes.
"Well, I have a couple of questions about your new CD, The Red Tree," I say, trying to steer the conversation back on topic.
"Hello? Are you still there?" he says.
"Yes, yes, I'm here."
"Oh, my phone made a weird noise and I thought I had hung up on you. It scared me for a second," he whispers.
"No, I'm here..." Duh. He got me again. "About the CD..."
The Red Tree is the first CD the four-man group has been able to write and record over the full course of a year. For their other releases, four CDs in five years, including one they split with Alexisonfire, the group crammed recording into a three- or four-week break from touring, rushing to finish the project in time to get back out on the road. Bridges says the extra time was both good and bad for the group.
"We gave ourselves a little too much freedom. When we listened to our demos it was just like, 'What the hell is this crap that we're writing?' Some of the early demos just didn't make any sense. We realized, 'Okay, we need to get focused. We need to pick a certain direction that we really feel in our hearts is what we think this band should be doing, and kind of go with it from there.' When it comes down to it, we just wanted this record to be everything that we've always been kind of too scared to try in the past.
"In the end, it became like a really, really positive, creative experience in trying something new and then also taking what we love about our music and trying to perfect it as much as we could. It will never really be perfect. But if, at the time, you can get it as honest and as exhilarating, that's great. That's what it was like in the end. When we went into the studio we were like, 'Wow, we wrote these songs!' There was not one song that we just thought, 'Yeah, it's okay.' We actually love every song."
"So what's that songwriting process like for you?" I ask.
"Well, usually I come in with an idea. Some people like it, then other people won't like it and there'll be fights and we'll punch each other in the face and get really angry. Then we'll go get some pumpkin pie with whipped cream and then we'll make up and then we'll write a song." Again, straight deadpan.
"Ah, I don't believe you."
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"Yep, you're right in doing so," he laughs as if he's happy that I'm finally catching on.
"You've said that this time the songwriting process was very different from previous records. Was that in how you wrote or what you wrote about?"
"This time," Bridges says, "there were like a lot of issues going on, issues that involved more than just me in my own little bubble. It was really upsetting to see there was almost never a calm for the whole year that we were writing that record. There was always something going on. You'd turn on the TV and there was always something. We'd be like, 'Oh, great! How much more can this world fall to pieces?' Writing was about taking all of that and trying to find ways to feel right about it, to come to terms with everything going on around us. I don't think that we're changing the world with our music, by any means. I don't think anyone is going to pick up our record and start making some environmental revolution or anything. But, if nothing else, we opened our own eyes a little bit with this record."
Moneen performs Thursday, March 8, at Walter's on Washington, 4215 Washington Avenue, 713-862-2513.