Circling Twenty Mondays on the Calendar Once More

Twenty Mondays
Twenty Mondays Photo courtesy of Twenty Mondays

At its pinnacle, the Houston alt-pop band Twenty Mondays found itself rubbing elbows with the likes of Julian Lennon, Fleetwood Mac and Wendy and Lisa from Prince’s legendary band, The Revolution. In 1990, the band was signed to Spindletop Records and spent some time in studios inhabited by these artists as they worked on their own magnum opus, 1991’s The Twist Inside, an album which features Toto’s Steve Porcaro and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith on drums.

That was roughly 1,420 Mondays ago. The band experienced its musical zenith and its disbandment by 1993. But the thing that brought them together in the first place never died. Their love for the music remains. They’ll share that love with longtime and brand new fans tomorrow night at a reunion show at Continental Club.

Not only that, in a few days it’ll be the first Monday in a while where the band is buzzing about audience response to newly written songs. Ken Sheppard, the band’s vocalist, said new Twenty Mondays tunes are part of Saturday’s agenda and larger plans ahead.

“We are looking forward to performing four new songs. This will be the first time in approximately 22 years we've played new material,” Sheppard shared. “We will be playing the majority of our album, The Twist Inside, and also included will be songs that were to be on our second record. We broke up while in pre-production for that record.”

The reunion will feature original members of the band, with Sheppard joined by Joe Patino on guitars and vocals, drummer Jay Patino, bassist Jeff Williamson and Steve Williamson on keys and guitar. It’s not the first time since Twenty Mondays’ heyday that they’ve rejoined forces.

“There have been a few private shows, but out in public we have played about every two years since 2012. We played at Continental again in 2015 and after that show we decided to plan for a long weekend and see if we could still write music together,” Sheppard explained. “In 2017 that finally happened at a ranch in central Texas. The four-day session was very successful and everyone seemed to enjoy the process and the camaraderie. We came out of that time with six solid ideas and four of those became songs that we will perform for the first time this Saturday.”

click to enlarge The band circa early 1990s - PHOTO COURTESY OF TWENTY MONDAYS
The band circa early 1990s
Photo courtesy of Twenty Mondays

Before the band’s next chapter is written, it might be good to flip through the pages of its past. The story goes like this: the nucleus of the band was a group of Dulles High School students who formed the original version of the group in 1985. They played cover gigs at places like Maggie Mae’s in Austin and Sam’s Boat here in town. They performed sets of their original tunes at Fitzgerald’s, Pig & Whistle and other venues. The strength of those shows helped the band sign to Spindletop Records in 1990. The Los Angeles-based company swept them away from home and into West Coast studios like Amigo Studios and The Complex, places where they hobnobbed with music royalty.

The Twist Inside features some notable names in its liner notes. In addition to Porcaro and Smith, Garth Richardson produced the album. Richardson’s provided production, engineering or mixing to efforts by artists like Kansas, Alice Cooper, Motley Crue and Taylor Swift. Sheppard said some lineup changes then allowed these artists to lend their talents to the project.

“With our original drummer and guitar player no longer in the band, we searched for new members but we had to continue recording,” Sheppard recalled. “Porcaro was friends with the president of the record company, Barry Wilson, and Garth had recently worked with Chad when he was the lead engineer on the album Mother's Milk. So Garth gave Chad a call and he was hired on for a two-day session. He rehearsed with us and he also dominated us in basketball. He really cared about the composition and arrangement of the tunes and wanted to make sure we were happy with everything he did. Porcaro was more of a ‘hired gun’ situation who just came in and put down tracks. Some of those tracks were amazing, but it was a completely different experience than recording with Chad.

“As for Garth, I don't really remember how he came into the picture — through our record company is all I know,” Sheppard continued. “But, I stayed at his apartment for a week while we were recording and he gave me this demo tape of a band he was going to produce after our record was done. It was Rage Against the Machine. I still have that cassette tape, with the original art, which included an actual match taped to the paper of the cover. Garth was exceptional at guiding such a young group of guys with hardly any studio experience. He was great to work with and taught us more than we could imagine.”

Twenty Monday’s sound was similar in style to Duran Duran or INXS. They were perfect fits for support roles for acts like The La’s and The Fixx. They had spots on the MTV Sports and Music Festival, a precursor to the X Games and played SXSW multiple times.

click to enlarge Twenty Mondays' 2015 reunion show - PHOTO BY TOM CALLINS, COURTESY OF TWENTY MONDAYS
Twenty Mondays' 2015 reunion show
Photo by Tom Callins, courtesy of Twenty Mondays

“We knew when we were opening for The Fixx in front of 8,000 people we had gone to another level. Unfortunately, we did not stay together long enough to see where we could have gone from that point,” Sheppard said. “With the next record, we were going to go on a long tour and play all the college towns from coast to coast. But, that opportunity never came to fruition.”

Sheppard said by 1993 the band had broken up. He said the reasons aren’t worth recalling after all this time.

“We were incredibly young. I was the oldest member of the band when we were signed to Spindletop, and I was only 21 years old,” he said. “We did re-form a few years later with Dwight Baker on drums, but that version of the band never made it into the studio and fizzled out after one year."

Fast-forward to now and Sheppard said there’s still some chance the band will work with singer/songwriter and producer Baker. They’re hoping to work together to release a five-song Twenty Mondays EP in 2019. It’ll be a vastly different experience now that the recording industry has changed, Sheppard notes.

“It's impressive how artists can record and release their own music and have a worldwide audience if they are persistent and at least somewhat talented. This wasn't possible in the '90s. It was all about playing as often as possible, hitting the streets and sending demo tapes to every record company we could find.”

He says the band is going to take a measured approach to what comes next.

“We all have hectic careers and loving families that take up the vast majority of our time, but music is something we all share and now understand is precious and not to be taken for granted,” Sheppard said. “We can still craft good alt-pop songs, or whatever label our sound evokes.

“If you're a fan of any of the bands that influenced us, like Tears For Fears, Talk Talk, Duran Duran, REM, The Call, then I think you'll find something familiar in our sound, yet still original and current,” Sheppard said. “Our new songs are unique pop compositions that don't take themselves too seriously, while still being heartfelt and sincere to the core. We are proud of what we've done and want to showcase all the songs we've written over the last 20-plus years and show we are not at all done creating music together.”

Twenty Mondays performs Saturday October 13 at Continental Club, 3700 Main. Lee Alexander opens the show. Music “starts at 8:20 sharp” according to Twenty Mondays’ Facebook page. $12.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.