Monsterbator members Christian Gagnon (left) and Andrew Waterman will be joined by the rest of the group at CBTGs to release their debut recording Friday. — Submitted photo
If it offends you or incites discomfort, welcome to Monsterbator’s social experiment by way of a musical experience designed to optimize cathartic potential.
The five-piece rock band has been rampaging through dirty downtown music clubs for the past year and a half and leaving a trail of emancipated chaos in its wake. In the process the band has turned some heads, filled some ears and become not only one of St. John’s loudest new bands, but its most loved and hated too.
Friday, before Andrew Waterman (vocals), Brad Morgan (bass), Christian Gagnon (guitar), Devon Milley (drums) and Stefan Warbanski (keys) hit the road for their first off-island tour, they’ll be unleashing their first full-length album, “Precious Rhino.”
Warbanski tells The Telegram how five friends from local bands came together in a tiny apartment bedroom and gave birth to a monster.
“I’d be playing in the corner and Andrew would have to be on the bed to sing,” he recalls. “It was super loud and there was crazy energy. We couldn’t be in a room together and not write a song.”
Both the product and progression of a local fringe music movement that oscillates in and out of the spotlight, Monsterbator’s mounting popularity is attributable not only to the music, but also to the evolving consciousness of a generation of music listeners.
“It’s emotional. It’s visceral, but it’s not put on,” Warbanski explains. “We’re about dynamic, so we can bring it really soft but we can bring it heavy, and people seem to find it really emotive that way. I’ve never played with any group of people that’s made my on-stage experience as intense.”
Often found thrashing about on stage shirtless, spilling his beer as he yells lewd lyrics into the mike, Waterman’s stage antics command attention.
“But as a writer, the depth of his poetry is beautiful, and the delivery is so dramatic,” says Warbanski. “Nobody can be in the room when he’s on a mike and not pay attention to what he’s doing or saying.”
Poetic depth and beauty in lewdness do not exist in most people’s world.
But Monsterbator’s aesthetic is decidedly provocative, “and the shock value to what we do and of the things (Waterman) says can turn people off, but it’s very tongue in cheek,” says Warbanski. “It’s designed to challenge the conservative tendencies (of) music consumption and music making in St. John’s. There’s talented people in this town, but there’s not a lot who are trying to push what music is and can be. So we’re all about that concept in the way we write, the way we represent ourselves, the imagery of the band.
“We’re anti-ego, anti-rock star, anti-conservative establishment in that way,” he continues. “It’s about freedom of expression.”
When the band posters around downtown to promote its shows, cartoons depicting nudity and sexual imagery often prompt people to tear them down or cover them up, says Warbanski.
“But fortunately we live in a place where we can represent ourselves however we want, and the fact that somebody would do that is only more (reason) for us to continue doing that,” he says. “It’s almost a political point to not be compromised because it might offend people, and it does (offend) by design.”
Beyond the initial responses to and judgements of Monsterbator’s music resides the band’s primal quality and intentionality.
“We convey a sense of energy and purpose about what we’re doing because it’s important to us. We take it very seriously,” Warbanski explains. “It’s not about us being like ‘f--k that’. It’s much more thoughtful than that.”
See and hear for yourself when Monsterbator celebrates the release of “Precious Rhino” (on vinyl and digital download format only) Friday at CBTGs on George Street. But don’t stop there — otherwise you may miss the point.
“People forget themselves and dance and behave unhindered by the usual constraints of society, (and) we think this is healthy and necessary,” says Warbanski. “In the way that communication, sex and other expression liberates the human soul, when people lose their personal ego and succumb to identifying with a crowd, money, ex-girlfriends and jobs all become irrelevant.”