Local Edmonton band, Monks on Call, began their journey with high school jam sessions and a band name generator.
For some bands, that would be the beginning and end of the story, but Monks on Call has become an up-and-coming band to watch, with several singles released and a couple of albums in the works.
“I’d say in high school, (the band) was always kind of just a joke,” says Kara Marchand, who formed the band with her two high school friends, Colten Bear and Ry Dizon. “We came across the name and always said that we’d get there one day, and then it just kind of ended up happening for real.”
“We weren’t looking for the name,” explains Bear. “It was just finding cool band names (with a band name generator) when we were like 14 or 15 (years old) that we thought one day this is what our band will be called.”
The band decided to take music more seriously just before the pandemic and released their debut single, “Run As Fast As You Can,” in August 2022.
The song was written before the band was officially in existence, and it started in a jam session. Bear came up with the chord progression and gave it a cool groove, Marchand wrote the main verses and the chorus, and Dizon wrote the second verse.
“We didn’t even think that we’d be playing it for anyone,” explains Dizon. “It was kind of just a song that we wrote for fun. But then when the whole band came into fruition, then it became one of our favourite, most fun, original songs to play. And so we thought it would be a great choice for a first single.”
“We just figured this was a good introduction to the Monks on Call sound,” adds Bear. “It’s one of the… only songs that everyone is credited on.”
While the band’s musical style is a little elusive — “there’s a little bit of blues, there’s a little bit of… chill rock music, there’s folk elements, there’s pop elements,” says Bear — that’s the way the band likes it.
“We’ve asked all kinds of people with different (musical backgrounds) and they’ve not exactly been 100 per cent (sure) of what the (Monks on Call) sound is either,” says Marchand. “We kind of like it, though. I think that we prefer to have a sound that people haven’t exactly heard replicated, rather than play something that everybody feels like they’ve heard.”
Marchand is the band’s vocalist, Bear plays guitar, and Dizon plays bass. This year, their band grew to include drummer Zane Baker, and Marchand is excited to see how Monks on Call will continue to evolve with more creative “cooks in the kitchen.”
Each band member brings something different to the group, with Marchand more focused on the lyrics and creating evocative metaphors, while Bear is more invested in the music itself. He admits to being entirely confused by the meaning of some of the songs before Marchand explains them.
But this provides the band with two essential points of view for their fans: Listeners interested in the lyrics can spend hours picking apart metaphors and reflecting on what’s being communicated, and fans purely in it for the music can sit back and enjoy the groove.
The band has been hard at work on their self-titled debut album, set to release in October. While it was a long time coming to get the album made, the actual recording only took place over three days.
“We were confident enough about the quality of the music because we had played it for so long that we just kind of wanted to throw ourselves in it, and it actually ended up working out quite well for us,” says Marchand.
They were inspired by the Beatles’ documentary, Get Back, which showed the iconic band recording their music in one room together. Monks on Call wanted to do something similar with their own album.
“We just kind of looked at (the documentary) and thought, ‘What a fun way to record, the fact that they’re all in one room playing at the same time.’ I think that the standard nowadays is kind of layering things and building on it, doing one aspect at a time. And we just really got excited about the idea of playing music all at once, keeping the energy in the recording,” says Marchand.
But of course, nothing beats performing together live.
“It’s just so much fun,” says Bear.
“Getting to interact with an audience is always great,” says Marchand. “You never know who you’re gonna get, and I think to see new faces is always what gets us excited.”
“We love when our friends and family come out because they’re super supportive and they show up for us all the time, but it’s also cool when you have people that stumble in and want to tell you that they thought that (the show) was good and they didn’t even expect to see you,” continues Marchand.
“I like to dance a lot on stage, and every show is different. So it doesn’t matter who we’re playing for. We always just find a way to have a good time,” adds Dizon.
Baker says his favourite part about performing with the band is, “You get to really bare your soul.” His fellow bandmates rib him good-naturedly for his philosophical answer.
Monks on Call is working on a second album to release shortly after their debut album. Look out for their work across streaming platforms, and with any luck, you can catch them playing live too.