The regular four piece band consisting of guitar, bass, drums and singer have never quite been enough for me. The Loneliest Monk consist of only a duo and what they can do is beyond what most four pieces ever really achieve. Real-life couple Michelle Morales (master cellist, keyboardist, vocalist) and Miles Benjamin (percussion, vocals, tiny piano) create an ethereal mix of classical, art-rock and chamber pop that is at once beautiful, sexy, mysterious and cool. The duo utilizes a lot of modern technology to capture their sounds, but they are not above crinkling paper into a microphone for a certain effect in “Secrets From the Couch”. Perhaps it is this technology that is the cause for the surge in two person bands recently.
The Loneliest Monk are from Chicago and have been playing together since 2008. They are out promoting their debut self-titled album, available now. Miles is stoic but enjoying himself with a voice like that of another duo band: The White Stripes’ Jack White, and Michelle with her classical training of more than 20 years of cello playing, you can physically see the music coursing through her veins when she closes her eyes and just gives way to the cello in front of her. When I asked the duo what particular influences they might have that encouraged them to start playing, they both seemed a bit lost. While they listen to many different artists, there was not one that they could put their finger on that might have been an influence to their unique sound. Michelle said, “we just sit down and see what comes out of us.” I would have to agree, I have never heard music quite like this before, but it’s exactly what I have grown to love. If I had to group them into something, I would have to say you will love The Loneliest Monk first and foremost if you love all things Bjork. Michelle’s voice does give a hint of that angelic singing that Bjork is so famous for, but with the heavy cello involvement, I also had a lot of strong memories of my days with Portishead. There can even be a connection to Radiohead for their use of so many instrumental pieces and unrivaled audacity, but now a days, it seems that anyone I enjoy also has a hint of Radiohead running through their veins.
They not only tell a fairy tale story with their songs, their stage set up is made for a feast of the eyes. They paint a beautiful picture with their instruments and words mixed with an allure of mystery and sexual appeal on stage. It’s not because they are a couple, because I didn’t know that about them before I saw the show. Miles sits behind the drums in a suit vest with a mysterious Mardi Gras-type eye mask that sparkles under the lights and Michelle can be seen in many different forms, depending on the set up time for the show. This night, she was dressed up proper for performing on stage on the Titanic, classic and beautiful, without the tragic ending the Titanic had.
They have a gorgeously produced music video, which I have included below for the song, “The Ghost & the Silhouette” which will give you a little insight into their minds and the show you could expect while on this tour. They will be stopping by Colorado, California and Arizona before stopping into SXSW on March 16th for a show that is sure to have people talking. I know that after their set at The Record Bar in Kansas City, I didn’t want them to stop.
As they say in the song, “You Don’t Have to Try”, “We are not many, but we are two. Two is not much but it’s more than you.” You owe it to yourself to take in a set that is enlightening, and different in all the right ways. Below, you can download the song, “You Don’t Have to Try” for free and watch their music video for “The Ghost & the Silhouette” To hear more songs and get more information, go to their site http://wearetheloneliestmonk.com/
by Angela Davis
Photos by Angela Davis