Boston's boy-fronted girrl band takes no prisoners.
Loud, noisy and seemingly lacking actual Frenchmen, The Monsieurs blew me away when I finally caught up with them a few months back. Two beautiful ladies – guitarist Hilken Mancini of Fuzzy / Shepherdess / 1001 other rocking projects, and drummer Erin King of Where My Beat Be At – blast a demanding aural assault while frontman Andy Macbain (aka Andy California – Tunnel of Love) punishes the audience with vocalizations that crest atop an in your face stage presence that just won’t take no for an answer.
My mind spinning and heart beating I knew I had to throw a few questions their way to make sure the Rocker audience were hearing all about this heavier than heavy Boston-based trio with miles of rock and roll pedigree and a feminist bent to boot.
Rocker: One of the things I loved about seeing The Monsieurs live is that it felt like a feminist play on the usual – where you see a girl fronting an all-male band, but in your band, Andy Macbain / California fronts an all-girl band. I can’t remember seeing another band like that. Was there any thought to that setup when you were putting the band together, or is that just a happy accident?
Hilken: Macbain really wanted to ask Erin to play drums – she took drums at our Ladies Rock Camp (Erin and I both are a huge part of Girls Rock Camp Boston- I co-founded it with her wife, and she was my roommate at the time I started creating it), so I was excited at the prospect of rocking out with her. I am not sure if Macbain had an agenda – probably? Who knows? The man is an enigma. I was just happy to rock out with “my sister” and not with all dudes. I hadn’t been in a band with a woman since Chris Toppin and I started the band Fuzzy in ’92.
Erin: I love playing with Hilken and we feel really powerful together. I think it sends a strong message to have a band with two women who are totally shredding. Lots of women come up to us at shows and are so psyched to see what we do. It’s loud and wild and totally unladylike, and that rules.
Rocker: How did Hilken and Erin’s stage uniforms come about?
Hilken: Macbain wanted us to wear black and white like his previous band Tunnel of Love, but then Erin went and found the perfect dress for us. We have a few others for when we go on tour and need to switch out ‘cause we are playing every night for a month and it starts to smell.
Erin: We’ve always wanted Macbain to dress like Little Lord Fauntleroy, but haven’t been able to find the perfect costume… YET!
Rocker: Did you ever consider adding bass to the band, or was it a point to not have bass?
Hilken: We play in the exact set up as Macbain’s band Tunnel Of Love, with the drummer playing standing with a huge tom, snare and crash and just a guitar. It’s all intentional.
Erin: Adding a bassist at this point would be totally weird.
Rocker: I’m always impressed when I see bands like yours who have few members, but can create a powerful wall of sound on stage. But it’s more than just playing loud isn’t it? Is it some special musicianship thing you do to make your two-person band sound so strong?
Hilken: It’s important to have a strong relationship more than musicianship I think….I remember when we got to Spain and there was a big festival we had to play and we had not a lot of sleep. This was Erin’s first time ever touring and I was looking over at her, like worried for her (and myself – ha ha) and making sure she was OK, and then I realized she totally had it and was not even hesitating and I was like WOW she totally rocks. She and I really connect on this other level while we let Macbain just go do his thing with the crowd. We are musically and psychically connected on stage – even though this makes me sound like a hippie – it’s true. Also it does help that I do play an SG that is more lower-end and with heavier pick-ups then the Fenders I used to play. I am also playing through a twin and a bass amp at the same time. Erin hits really hard- and we mic the larger tom with what you would normally mic a bass drum with.
Erin: I think we are really aware of the fact that we are only 2 instruments so we have to be loud. HIlken’s guitar has one volume and it’s LOUD. Just try asking her to turn it down. Ha ha!
Rocker: All of you have other bands you are involved in or have worked with, I’m wondering for each of you what makes The Monsieurs special? What do you get out of this band that is unique?
Hilken: Every band is unique. Every band is special, right?
Erin: Bands are a little family. There is almost nobody that you see on such a regular basis as your bandmates. The bond that forms is special and it shows when you play together.
Rocker: Hilken, I know you are the woman behind Girls Rock Camp here in Boston. I’m wondering if you could speak about how your involvement in that all came about, why you were drawn to it, what made it important for you to do?
Hilken: Because who made up the rules in our society that we live in? White Corporate men. And what woman wouldn’t want to rebel against that? GRCB is a social justice and feminist right of action that we need to make happen, especially in the country right now. Women and girls are experiencing sexism firsthand and we need to coach them about how to recognize and respond to discrimination.
Rocker: I also know you just did a Punk Rock Aerobics fundraiser for Rock Camp, do you think Bostonians might have more chances to go to Punk Rock Aerobics again in the future?
Hilken: I hope so. we Will do at least 2 more classes this year and are working on a video that Downtown Boyz and Mission of Burma both have given us tracks to use.
Rocker: What’s coming up in 2017?
Hilken: Our second album out on Black Gladiator/Slovenly will be out sometime in 2017.
Catch up with The Monsieurs’ current releases on their Bandcamp site https://themonsieurs.bandcamp.com/ , and get out to see them live in Boston and beyond (Andy in Puerto Rico and Mexico at Slovenly’s “We’re Loud Fest” http://slovenly.com/news/were-loud-fest-in-puerto-rico-mexico/)