Mondo Gecko

Mondo Gecko

July 10th, 2010
By Jeremy Lach

Mondo Gecko Logo
This past Saturday I had the pleasure of attending BreakFEST, a single day, four band chillfest. Our gps led us to a barely marked dirt road somewhere in the middle of New Hampshire. We arrived at the gate to the festival which was marked with only a single balloon, a Mondo Gecko sticker and a “Private Drive” sign. We had to laugh. In front of us was a seriously steep dirt road, full of rocks and uneven terrain. Our sedan would not be climbing this hill. So we grabbed what little gear we brought and began trekking up the mountain. I was delighted to find wild raspberries growing all along this little road.

As we walked, we started to faintly hear some music. It grew louder as we walked and our anticipation grew. Finally I could make out what the band was playing. It was an awesome rendition of the classic Grateful Dead song Bertha!  Later I found out that Tim Palmieri and Jordan Giangreco from The Breakfast were sitting in with Mondo Gecko for this tune).  At this point I was jumping up and down with excitement and knew that Mondo Gecko was in full swing, jamming away. We continued up the road and arrived at the festival grounds. A small clearing on a fairly steep hill, complete with a small stage, merch tent, an outhouse, and about 40 tents. This place was cool. Really small and relaxed, no hassles at all (well except for getting there). The band kept going and played a stellar version of The Lizards, by Phish and rounded it off with a hefty handful of original tunes as well. My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the music created by this four piece Boston band out of Berklee School of Music, known as Mondo Gecko. Their seamless blend of funk, jazz, and psychedelic rock is upbeat, infectious and more than enough to satisfy a craving for some fun jam music. After their show, I was able to sit down with the band and talk with them about how they got their start, their musical influences, and their plans for the future.

Can each of you introduce yourselves and tell us what instruments you play?
Eric: My name is Eric McEwen and I play keyboards.

Aaron: My name’s Aaron Morey, I play drums and cymbols.

Luke: Luke Stratton, I play guitar and I sing.

Matt: Matt Drummey, I play bass.

How did you guys meet?
Eric: We met at Berklee actually. Aaron and I were the first ones to meet. A long time ago at Berklee… 2008 maybe?

Aaron: Before that even.

Eric: Oh yea 2007, the band was formed in 2008. Aaron and myself met at Berklee. We played a lot of jam band music together at Berklee and shortly after that, Luke came along.

Luke: Well we met in a class called Jam Band Ensemble. We were all kind of black sheep at Berklee because we all thought, well at least I thought that there would be a lot of “jam kids” there but there weren’t really. And this guy named John Funkhouser taught this class first semester and we were all signed up for it but I had actually moved home for a year. So they met in that class. Then a year later, Aaron took it again and I took it. From there he was like “Oh I know this keyboard player…” and it sort of took off from there.

Eric: We played with another bass player for a really long time named Wally.

Luke: Yea we’ve played with a couple bass players.

Eric: Matt, who’s on the bass currently, joined in April which was only three months ago. And let me tell ya…

Luke: Yes, we kinda feel like now the band is really starting to take off.

Eric: Yea we feel like we really have a band now.

Luke: Welcome buddy [to Matt].

Where did you guys come up with your name, Mondo Gecko?
Aaron: No comment.

Eric: No comment!

Aaron: It was Luke.

SCR: Off the record?

Matt: I was not involved.

Eric: Let’s just say one of us has a huge penis. [laughing]

SCR: Oh I see…

Eric: Just kidding.

Aaron: I say, you might want to Google that.

Eric: Yea Google it.

Aaron: I think what it came down to is we just really liked it.

Luke: And it’s memorable. Mondo also means big and world and geckos are cool animals so…

Eric: This is the most beating around the bush answer [laughs]

SCR: It’s a cool mascot.

During you show I heard some Dead covers and some Phish covers. Who are your greatest musical influences?
Aaron: You nailed it.

Eric: As a group that’s definitely true.

Aaron: For me, you know, the Dead and Phish are equally at the top of my list.

SCR: Of course.

Aaron: Some Zappa, Steely Dan, jazz and classical music. Those come right after.

Luke: The coolest thing about being a part of Mondo Gecko is it’s pretty much a dream job. You get to play whatever you want and it’s like “Oh this song really affected our lives, whether it’s a Led Zepplin tune or a Phish tune.” Or “This song’s really important to me…let’s play it”.

Did you guys catch any of the recent Furthur shows?
Aaron: Yes I was at Lowell.

SCR: I was too.

Luke: I didn’t but I did see a bunch of the Phish shows. Phish was definitely the reason I started playing guitar. But you know anything from Pink Floyd and Bob Marley to drum n bass and techno are big influences on me.

Who writes your original songs? Is it a group or individual effort?
Luke: It’s both really.

Aaron: A lot of it is a group effort. Luke writes a lot of material.

Luke: Yea, I think right now Eric and I both write a lot of different stuff. But we’ll often bring an idea in and then kind of massage it and mature it as a band. Sometimes it’ll just be one part like some vocals or a chord or something. Sometimes it’ll be fully written out. We try to do as much like “Oh you know, this is the idea, but lets tweak it and try a different feel and add new parts on top so that it becomes something better than the sum of its parts.”

Which comes first, the jam or the song?
Luke: You mean in the writing process?

SCR: Yea

Eric: We’ve never started on a jam.

Aaron: I think sometimes we’ll have a groove in mind. I know Luke starts a lot with lyrics, right?

Luke: Yea I go back and forth but lately I’ve been writing a lot of the songs we have now by starting with a lyric or a chorus or something. Then we add other parts to it.

Aaron: We wrote a new song over the last week, for tonight.

Luke: That song, we don’t have a name for it yet but it started with a bunch of lyrics then we just kinda shaped it in band practice.

Do you guys ever start working on a song and then scrap it if it’s not going well?
Eric: Yes.

Luke: We have a lot of songs that maybe we’ve played before but we decide to rest it for a while or come back to it later.

Matt: We definitely have some songs now that are out of the rotation.

Luke: But that’s cool though because it makes them kind of rare and then maybe later we’ll love them again.

Matt: They’re bust outs.

Aaron: At this point we’ve scrapped quite a few songs.

Do you guys have an album?
Luke: We’re working on it.

Aaron: We’ve attempted to record one several times but then the bass player flaked out.

Luke: Yea, we’ve had a lot of member changes.

Aaron: But now we have a solid lineup.

Luke: And somewhere to record.

Aaron: The plans are in the works.

Luke: So, the answer is it’ll be out in the fall. We actually have a live EP called Above The Notch that we just put out online. It’s a free release. We did that show up in Franconia, New Hampshire and it’s got a bunch of covers strung together with a few originals. It was a real magical night. We also have a demo.

SCR: Yea I’ve listened to that. It’s really great.

Where are you guys playing this summer?
Luke: Next weekend we’re in Maine at the Somerset County Jam. It’s one of the Maine Vocals events. In October we’re back at Harvest Fest. We’re also doing The Big Up with The Breakfast and RAQ. That’s gonna be our biggest festival yet. We’re doing Nectar’s up in Burlington, Vermont in August, Brattleboro, Empire in Portland, Maine. We got a bunch of them all in New England really. Go to the website and check them out.
Who put this whole festival together?
Luke: This guy named Andrew.

SCR: How do you know him or how did you get the gig?

Luke: I think that he just wanted to throw a Breakfast festival and called them and said “Hey, I wanna throw a festival” and Adrian the drummer was like “Oh cool, that’d be great. Do you have a name yet? No? Why don’t we call it BreakFEST” and Andrew was like “Oh…sick”. And Adrian asked if he had any other bands lined up and Andrew said no not really. This is our fourth show we’ve played with The Breakfast so Adrian was like “Well, how about Mondo Gecko?” and Andrew said “Okay, ya cool”. For us it’s great. We love these guys. This is one of the few bands we’d go see anyway. So to not only play right before them but actually share the stage with them at the beginning of our set, Tim and Jordan were up playing with us, it was really cool.

Aaron: We think these guys are one of the top bands on the scene.

Luke: They should be up there with Umphrey’s and String Cheese.

Aaron: And they’re super cool guys.

Luke: Have you seen them before?

SCR: No I haven’t.

Luke: Oh they’re gonna blow your mind.

How did you get the Big Up gig?
Aaron: I emailed them and a friend of mine is doing all the visuals for the people who put it on like projections and stuff. So I think he might have passed our name along.

Luke: Honestly, it’s sort of slowly beginning to seep into the jamband collective’s mind. You know we do a lot of stickering at Phish shows, and Nateva and Dead shows. And we know these guys (The Breakfast) and these guys know RAQ and I kind of know Chris from RAQ. So all that slowly starts to help us make our way.

SCR: Nice.

Luke: Matt, anything you’d like to say? Usually Matt talks a ton when it’s just us.

Matt: I mean it’s just really fun to be able to go up on stage and anything goes and if you feel something you can play it. The three of them are just along for the ride at that point.

Luke: It’s really anything goes at any moment.

SCR: That’s awesome.

Matt: I mean anything can happen. It’s really nice to have that feeling while you’re up on stage that anything you do will be absorbed by the three other guys. They’re actually listening to everything you’re playing and they’re not just playing their part.

Do you guys have any advice for any new bands trying to get recognized?
Luke: I would say, the biggest piece of advise I can give is to not give up and to give it 110%. That’s a little cliché but we’ve played with some bands along the way who we thought were better than us but who already have no fans or have broken up and had problems because they weren’t “in it”. That’s the problem, everyone in the band has to be into it. If somebody’s not into it, you need to find somebody else.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Eric: Enjoy future shows everybody. Look us up.

Luke: Yea hang out on where we have all our news. And look out for our new album. Check us out on facebook too.

SCR: Alright well thanks a lot guys.

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