Canadian blues stalwarts MonkeyJunk kick off a run of four Maritime dates tonight in Charlottetown. Vocalist-guitarist Steve Marriner recently checked in with us to chat about the group’s latest Juno Award win, the history of the blues, the group’s 10th anniversary and more:
First off, massive congrats on your most recent Juno win. Winning aside though, is there a much bigger compliment than even just being nominated, knowing that your music is held in such high esteem among peers and folks in the industry?
You know, while we graciously accept the nomination and the award, the biggest compliment is our longevity in the industry. The fact that people want to hear us play, and book us for concerts and festivals all over the place. Having a busy schedule is the ultimate compliment. There are so many incredibly talented musicians and bands in this country, to get to count so many of them among our friends is a great privilege also.
You’re certainly not the first band (and hopefully not the last) to have been influenced by the Chicago blues scene / Chess Records movement. What is it, in your opinion, that has made music from that era such a timeless staple and influence on bands more than 50 years later?
So many things. The passion, the creativity, the exploration. These men and women were pioneers of a sound that would change the landscape of recorded music. They were inventing sounds and styles that continue to inform music and recording 60 years later. Also, the content is the recordings. Most of the circumstances under which these artists grew up are unimaginable to us now. They grew up fast and had lots of life to sing about. So much raw emotion and honesty. I think that’s the key. Their songs are a window into a life that I could never understand and it’s fascinating, heartbreaking and beautiful all at once.
If you could be a fly on the wall at any Chess recording session – just one – which recording would you opt to witness and why?
Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy.” Game changer. So much electricity and pulsing rhythm. It sounds like a party. It basically became the universally recognized blues riff – nah nah nah nah nah. Bump bump, bump bump. Ya know? The guitar is scorching, the harp too. Muddy singing hard and proud. It still gives me shivers.
What’s really cool about MonkeyJunk is the fact you’ve got members from different generations involved in playing together, where most acts tend to have members that are all around the same approximate age. Does the range of experience each of you bring to the band contribute to the overall sound of the group?
I would say it does. Each of us grew up and developed our musical palate in different decades and as a result, we each draw on different influences when it comes to creating songs. That said, there is a ton of music we all love in common. Stuff like Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Meters, Led Zeppelin, Ray Charles and tons of others.
You’re celebrating the band’s 10th anniversary this year, which is no small feat. What’s kept you going all these years?
The fact that it’s fun, and we’re really good friends. We’re just trying to play in as much of the world as we can and make as many people as possible dance and feel good.
What’s up next for the group?
After our visit to the Maritimes we will go right across the country in May. It’s our #MJ10 Tour. All the way out to Vancouver Island. We love travelling across the country and haven’t done a long tour like that in a couple years. We’re very excited. After that, a busy summer season full of lots of festivals all over Canada and the U.S. Then who knows? Maybe MonkeyJunk VI?
MonkeyJunk Tour Dates:
April 5 — Charlottetown, PEI — The Pourhouse
April 6 — Halifax, NS — The Seahorse Tavern
April 7 — Elgin, NB — Parkindale Hall
April 8 — Dorchester, NB — Shepody House