100 Monkeys is a funk rock band featuring its members Ben Graupner, Ben Johnson, Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”), Jerad Anderson and Lawrence Abrams. What is unique about this band is that they each do not have a set role in the band and each member switches instruments and roles titled the “Monkey Switcheroo”. This band is not like any other band I have ever seen live. They explode with inspiration and experimentation when they perform live. They recently just released their second studio album titled “Liquid Zoo”. Media Mikes got to hang out with the band during their House of Blues Orlando, FL tour stop and chatted with them about their music and their unique concert experience.
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Mike Gencarelli: Your first album, Monster De Lux was all improvised, how do you feel that you have evolved in “Liquid Zoo”?
Ben Graupner: Well “Liquid Zoo” is our second studio album like “Grape,” where we went in with a bunch of pre-written songs and really worked them out with a studio style of recording. It has a lot of influence from the Louisiana area because we traveled that album from Van Nuys, California to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So that’s probably responsible for the brass, the gospel choir, and sort of just the general tone of the album. We are always looking to do something new and something crazy.
Patty Gencarell: You’ve been compared to bands such as The Beatles and Iggy Pop, who have you been inspired by musically?
Lawrence Abrams: Each other. I would say, each other.
Jackson Rathbone: Yea, there’s so many different inspirations. We all come from different walks of life, from different areas of the country, from different planets in the solar system [laughs].
PG: Yea, I read Mars, right?
Jerad Anderson: [laughs] Good looking out. Good looking out.
Ben Johnson: Yea, we’ve got Mars over here [motions to Uncle Larry].
JR: I think we carry that with us. Ben Johnson, Ben Graupner and myself all went to high school with an amazing artist named Spencer Bell. Johnson played in a band called, The Stevedores, with Spence. They released one album before Spencer passed away. He’s still, honestly, a really big inspiration for us, especially as song writers. What we do after we write a song is we’ll bring it to the group. We write in really different varied forms. Sometimes one of us will have a song pre-written and bring it to the group and it will change drastically. Or sometimes we’ll just be jamming and then we’ll write a song during a jam and then we’ll perform it that night. It’s very eclectic the way we write our music and how we perform it. At the end of the day, a lot of our song writing is influenced by the song writing of Spencer Bell. If you check out his albums, I think you’ll see it. If you look at his,[asks the group] is it “Live and Wasted” that has “The Monkey Song” on it?
BJ: Yea well “Live and Wasted” and “Live Art Fleetwood” have “The Monkey Song” on them.
JR: And if you look at Spencer’s version of “The Monkey Song” and our version of “The Monkey Song,” it’s very different but it’s kind of like the way we write. We might write a song one way but then, because we all mix up instruments, we might just rearrange the orchestration and just kind of make it 100 Monkeys.
PG: For the track “Ugly Girl”, what or who was your inspiration? Was it a type of person or a specific person?
JR: “Ugly Girl” was definitely inspired by a type of person not one in particular. It was interesting because it was one of those songs that we were kind of like separately writing, while we were in different parts of the world, literally. “LDF,” the song off of “Grape” and “Ugly Girl” were both kind of partially written in London and in Los Angeles. The part of the lyrics that I wrote in London, were really inspired by the different attitudes that I felt whenever I would travel over there and then when I went back to Los Angeles. It was like, ‘Oh, okay, yea that’s definitely one of the vainest cities that I’ve ever been to in my life.’
MG: In your videos for “Wandering Minds” and “Ugly Girl”, you certainly aren’t afraid of getting dirty, do you enjoy the video making process?
BG: Oh yea, definitely, it’s a lot of fun. William Schmidt directed both of those videos so it’s always fun to work with Will. We like to have a goodtime in our videos and we’ve got a new video coming soon that we’re really excited about. I think people are really going to like it.
MG: What song is it for?
BG: It’s for “Modern Times.”
PG: The pink nail polish in the video was a really nice touch.
UL: Well you never want to give monkeys makeup!
BG: You see what happens, it doesn’t work out well. [laughs]
JR:My favorite is still in the “Wandering Minds” video when something hits you for the first time, [motions to Ben Johnson] you just go right thru it and something bangs this object right like ‘bonk’ [laughs] and you just keep going, you just keep playing.
PG: From video making to movie making, Jerad, you produced the film “Girlfriend” co-starring yourself and Jackson and also scored by the band, what is next up for your production company?
JA: We’ve got something in the works that’s a high school wrestling comedy. It’s supposed to shoot October 17, and the band will be scoring that as well. So that’s what’s next on our closest horizon.
MG: Do you guys find a major difference between making music and creating a score?
BG: Yea it’s a totally different process. When you are making a score, I think that the major aspect is trying to make the music disappear rather than have the music stand out on its own. You’re looking for something that you almost don’t notice is there. You can tell when it starts working because the movie and the images pop off the screen. And when you take the music away, they don’t. It’s a night and day difference; two different worlds.
PG: Any possibility about appearing on the “Breaking Dawn Part 1 or 2” soundtrack?
JR: Honestly, we are not allowed to talk about it.
PG: Jackson, when you are on stage, how does it compare for you to working on films like “The Twilight Saga”? Do you have a preference?
JR: Do you have parents?
JR: Which do you like better? Do you have a favorite?
PG: Um, no. [laughs]
PG: Not in written word. [band laughs] I’m a teacher so you know, ‘we have no favorites.’
UL: That’s exactly what he’s saying.
JR: I think it was the first time I ever got up on stage and I was singing, acting and I was dancing. And it’s just all about entertainment. I think all of us are entertainers, and that’s the greatest feeling in the world to allow someone to escapes for an hour and a half whether it be at a rock show or at a film, and get outside of their own lives. Hopefully, maybe it makes you think about something different. “Girlfriend,” the movie that Jerad produced and we scored, and I also co-produced with my company, PatchMo Entertainment, that’s a really important film for us. That was a really passionate project for us because it stars a young man with Downs Syndrome, an incredible actor by the name of Evan Sneider. And it’s just touched the lives of so many people. A lot of people have this preconceived notion about Downs Syndrome and people with Downs Syndrome. Then you watch that film and you’re like, well this actor is one of the best actors that I’ve ever worked with. Amanda Plummer, a seasoned veteran, said that he’s the best actor she’s ever worked with.His performance has inspired people all around the world and it’s just incredible to be able to have that effect. That’s what entertainment does, it either makes you laugh or makes you cry; makes you think about your life and that’s amazing. The power of any piece of art, it’s what it does.
PG: Jerad, just touching on Downs Syndrome. I’ve worked in special education for the past five years, with Deaf children and children who are hard of hearing.
JA: I understand Sign Language. [Using American Sign Language]
PG: Yes, exactly, I do too.
JR: [They’re speaking in sign language right now.]
PG: Where did you learn ASL?
JA: Actually it was something that I got into and took as a foreign language for school. Then I worked retail and met a bunch of Deaf people while working there and I made friends with them. I sort of struggled and tried to use what I was learning and then it just started becoming a part of me. I ended up having and making good friends with one Deaf person and lived with as a roommate for one year. Then I was a TA (teacher’s assistant), for the Sign Language Department just because I liked it.
PG: I was sort of thrown into it myself, having been excessed to a Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. I loved working in it.
JA: Yea, it’s a different culture. They have their own culture. We actually have Deaf people who come to our shows and have a good time, because they can feel the vibration of the music. They enjoy what we do on stage, the spectacle.
MG: Tell us about performing, what do you like most about touring, getting to improvise every concert and performing the “Monkey Switcheroo”?
JR: There are so many different aspects of touring that really makes us happy. One is the stage show, the switching, that’s just what we do. That’s what makes 100 Monkeys special. However, I think one of the favorite aspects of touring for all of us has been being able to meet new bands. For instance, are y’all local here? (Orlando)
PG & MG: Yea.
JR: If you were able to check out Beebs and Her Money Makers, they were fantastic. And you know, it’s being able to meet new bands like them, that being inspired by them to either up the ante or try something different. When we were in Nashville, Tennessee, we met the bassist for Darius Rucker, this guy named John Mason. He was great, we took him out for a beer afterwards and really just pried into his brain about what about our stage show that maybe even we can perfect. I think that’s what we really love about touring. It’s getting to meet the fans, face to face, and getting to meet new bands that are doing new cool things. We get toys all the time [motioning to the 100 Monkeys’ monkey given to Ben Graupner] which keeps us entertained because we all have ADHD, which really showcases in our music and our instrumentation. [laughs]
PG: Tell us about the Spencer Bell Memorial Project?
JR: It’s one of those things that’s really near and dear to our hearts. We’ve been doing it for a long time.
BG: It’s evolved recently and we now do The Spencer Bell Legacy concerts. The most recent one was put on at Mohawks in Austin, Texas. It wasn’t even put on by one of us or Spencer’s family. It was just a couple of fans of his music who took it upon themselves to contact all the bands and put on the show. We think that’s really cool, that people are inspired by his music. They love his music and his writing. They are just taking it upon themselves to bring people together to celebrate it. Also there has been, what was the name of that drug that they did the research for?
JR: I’m not sure of the exact name of the drug. But due to the money that has been raised by the fans over the course of a couple of years doing the SBLs, they actually changed the adrenal cancer drug for the first time since 1965. Dr. Gary Hammer was finally able to persuade the pharmaceutical companies. Literally the 100 Monkey Effect is about the collective consciousness and about raising an awareness for something. Because we were able to raise such an awareness for it, he finally was able to convince the pharmaceutical companies to create a new drug since 1965, which is extremely, extremely hard to do because there’s no money in it. Pharmaceutical companies only focus on what will make them money. If its orphan cancers like that, there’s not enough people out there with that specific cancer. The interesting thing about adrenal cancer, and other orphan cancers like it that kill a lot of people all over the world, is that it is one mutation of a chromosome. Which hopefully if you can find a cure for that, then you can really get deeper into being able to find a cure for breast cancer which has 30 different mutations and prostate cancer which also has about 30 different mutations. So hopefully if we focus on orphan cancer awareness, we can get doctors to discover what one mutation takes. Because one mutation is what starts it all; and that’s the hardest thing to find and that’s really exactly what we are trying to figure out with orphan cancer.
All photos taken by and are Copyright © Patty Gencarelli