Crossing the boundaries of traditional rock and pop, their trip-hop, soulful, jam infused sound has emerged as something completely fresh to the ears of the world. After many months of turning rough ideas into sonic art, Vanilla Monk emerges with the ten song collection titled "Parallels". Vanilla Monk is poised to pave the way for a new kind of band, a new kind of music.
"Parallels" shadows the common path Matt Farr and Craig Stevens have taken as musicians and songwriters to land where they are today. Just as the title track explains, the music blends the duo's diverse musical backgrounds while telling stories of common life circumstances. Almost a year in the making, "Parallels" is full of deep textures, melodic vocals, and trip-hop grooves. Farr and Stevens have further crossed the sonic boundaries with forays into rock and jam that are fused with the overall down-tempo and tripped-out sound. Collaborating with dynamic vocalist Audrey Assad, world class drummer Matt Crowning, and local guitarists Rich Friedman and Victor Russo the music strives to distance itself from the norm.
The album opener "Solitude" greets you with a warm lush landscape of harmonies and vintage electronic sounds. A song of missing beauty and purity that we ourselves have driven away, and now long for. Its filmic qualities and storytelling vibe captivate even the careless listener. "Life of the Eternal Variety", co-wrote by Craig, Matt, and Audrey is the records perfect example of pop-crossover. "This is one of those songs that as soon as you give anyone a little taste, they had to hear it again and again and again", tells Farr. "It was exciting seeing what happened when we all combined our writing capabilities".
More flowing harmonies and unique instrumentation follow with tracks like "Blue Days", "Daydream", and four groove based instrumentals. "Daydream" encompasses the unknown and the mystery of life's many chances. A story of waking up and realizing how quickly life moves, and how precious it is. The middle of the song features a powerful bridge, showcasing Matt Crowning's drumming and one of the most challenging arrangements of the album.
During the recording sessions, chemistry was created in the studio with the blending voices of Audrey and Matt. Audrey's vocal ability and musicianship played a huge part in the making of numerous tracks on the Vanilla Monk album. "Audrey is a joy to record with. She can effortlessly bring vocal parts and harmonies to life. Not to mention her writing, phrasing, all of which are superb," explains Farr.
Matt Crowning sits in on the drum set for the majority of the tracks and adds his own style to the recording. His drumming encompasses a wide range of influences, which can be heard on the album. "The first time we sat down and jammed the material with Crowning, it is then that we heard the potential of this music," explained Stevens.
Guitarists Rich and Vic brought the music to another dimension with tasteful guitar elements laid over an electronic canvas. We were so excited to hear Rich record some beautiful acoustic guitar to these tunes. It was exactly what the tracks needed," said Farr and Stevens. Rich Friedman's acoustic is showcased on songs like "Blue Days" and "Daydream". "One of the biggest challenges also of this record was how to tastefully add electric guitar to these songs," said Farr. Farr continues, "We worked with our good friend Vic Russo on developing the sound into something more than just a guitar coming through an amp, but use it to create textures and ambience. Victor did an awesome job at providing those intricate parts where needed." Victor Russo also is featured on some nice soulful playing on Walk It Alone.
Vanilla Monk formed in Fort Lauderdale, the city the duo currently calls home and the launching pad for the new project. Farr grew up in the area, cutting his teeth with any garage or school band he could find. Studying voice and piano Matt looked to strengthen the performance skills behind his natural songwriting. With cases full of jazz, rock, soul, and reggae tapes that got plenty of wear and tear back and forth to the beach, Matt's influences are broad.
Ironically it was before Stevens moved to Chicago at a young age that the two met in South Florida and began playing music together. After which Craig Stevens spent many years in the Chicago area performing before his return to South Florida. Bringing in his return new jam based roots and a soulful feel to the bass guitar. A contributor on piano as well, Stevens immediately paired back up with Farr.
Both began performing and writing together, including a long period of time with local electro-funk band Vinyl Circus. During this time the two performed multiple times at SunFest, the area's largest music festival as well as numerous venues in the South Florida area. It was at the conclusion of 2006 that the two decided to focus on their original music for a complete album.
Vanilla Monk is developing the unique character the group was hoping for. Departing from the norm, and bringing a new sound, a new vibe, that reaches out to a wide variety of music fans.