In 2004, the Monsters of Folk were in need of a new name. Seems their original handle didn’t quite roll off the tongue the way they’d hoped.
“We used to have a really long name,” MOF’er (and [artist id="1162817"]Bright Eyes[/artist] main man) Conor Oberst laughed. “We were called ‘An evening with Bright Eyes, Jim James and M. Ward.’ It wasn’t very catchy.”
“So our road manager just started calling us the ‘Monsters of Folk,’ because each of our careers have been so storied on folk,” fellow Monster (and [artist id="1191443"]My Morning Jacket[/artist] frontman) Jim James added. “It really seemed to fit, especially since it didn’t.”
And thus, a supergroup was formed … and not just any supergroup, mind you, but perhaps the most indie-riffic in history. Born after Oberst, James and She & Him’s M. Ward joined forces for a brief run of dates in ’04, the Monsters added multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis to the mix and, over the next two years — in between making albums with their other bands — somehow also found time to work on a Monsters of Folk album too.
“A lot of procrastination went into this record,” Oberst laughed. “You know, whenever we had time, we’d get into it.”
“You know, people’s schedules get busy, and we had to turn it from a pipe dream into a reality,” James added. “And to do that, we had to commit to some time. Which we eventually did.”
The result of those two years is the Monsters’ self-titled debut (out September 22), 15 songs of sun-dappled, well-worn (sorta) folk tunes (plus the occasional bubble of electronics). Recorded in Malibu, California, and Oberst’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and produced by Mogis, it’s an album that tackles topics like love, loss, religion and politics … all filtered through the respective, reflective lenses of Oberst, James and Ward.
“Everyone came in with ideas and concepts that were then fleshed out by the group. We didn’t write these songs specifically for our other bands, we just wrote them because we like writing,” Oberst explained. “For me, specifically, I don’t think about what I’m going to do with the song before it’s written … I don’t really think of anything before it’s written. It has to exist before I can ponder what to do with it. So I was writing for different records, and I just chose which ones felt like they’d work for this record.”
So will there be another record? Or is this a one-time thing? No one in the Monsters seems to know, though — aside from a tour of North America and Europe in October and November, they’ve got nothing else on their schedule. That said, it’d be a shame if they let such a killer name go to waste … especially one they fought so hard to get. Or, you know, something like that.
“There actually was a Monsters of Folk before this Monsters of Folk, and we were really upset because they stole the name from us before we even knew each other. They were on tour in, like, 1997, and we didn’t start Monsters of Folk until 2003, but they shoulda known we were gonna get together,” James said, a smile stretching across his face. “So we threatened to sic our lawyers on them, and all of a sudden they decided to let us use the name. Which was really cool of them.”