It was supposed to be a night off; one of those free neighborhood shows attended just for fun as normal observers – but it only took about thirty seconds of Paris Monster for me to start jotting down notes by mistake, out of sheer groove appreciation and awe. We quickly decided this experience demanded an article and got to work trying to capture their impressive energy. The much-loved Brooklyn band were set up on a platform in the middle of Jersey City’s historic Holland Street in the Heights, a once-ordinary road that has recently started transforming into an outdoor music venue known as Vault Allure. The recessed cobblestone street – which is adjacent to the park, and partially covered by an old archway below a pedestrian path – was packed with excited onlookers surrounding the highly-percussive duo. You could even see some people peeking over the jagged stone wall, taking in their funky fast beats from up above. The projections on that façade made the odd-shaped bricks look like trippy interlocking screens all broadcasting pieces of one bigger picture, and as vibrant as the visuals were, they could hardly hold your focus in the wake of Paris Monster’s experimental badassery.
Always playing more than one instrument at a time – and sounding like a band twice their size in the very least – Josh Dion (vocals, drums, keyboards) and Geoff Kraly (bass guitar, modular synthesiser) cooked up a staggeringly multilayered sound. They were musically in sync in a way that seemed telepathic, laying down catchy songs from their first full-length record, Lamplight (which was released just a few months ago). They also zoomed back to their 2013 EP, It Once Had Been Kind, building an adrenalizing atmosphere with both “Grandma” and “A Vision Complete.” Their presence not only pumped up the mood on Holland Street, but seemed to perceptibly lift the spirits of the whole surrounding neighborhood. Headlining the second of three “experience festivals” scheduled as part of Vault Allure’s summer series, this one for Bastille Day Eve, Paris Monster’s three sets were a treat for a free event and a great fit for the occasion. During the break between the second and third, we got to watch French folk singer Tiphanie Doucet play songs from her recent album, last year’s Under My Sun, her vocals and acoustic guitar blending warmly with violin and cello accompaniment.
When Paris Monster returned to the small elevated stage for their expressive encore, they were encircled by fans who would soon launch into action trying to record videos and snap photos of their performance. They’d seemed intent upon hearing the guys’ final set, which started at about 10:12pm, and it looked like the crowd had even grown by the time they got going; it made no difference that it was getting late in a typically-quiet suburban area. Everyone present had clearly made the right call, because the duo was generously jammy and really on fire, dishing out memorable highlights like “Deathbed Song” (check out the video below). Kraly dug into his bass strings with deft rhythm and added layers on modular synth simultaneously. Dion’s right hand was ripping up otherworldly keyboard riffs, and his left hand and feet were viciously hitting the set, but somehow, he was also singing with a soulful tone that gave their sound beautiful depth.
“I like it because I know the community that’s here, because we’ve done some gigs like this where they put together these cool events,” Dion told P&W when we caught up with him between sets. “It’s a little bit of a different thing where I feel like everybody, for the most part, is involved in some form of art. A lot of the people here. You can kind of feel that vibe with everyone. And if not, they’re just avid music lovers or whatever it might be, but you feel that in this neighborhood, when people do stuff here, you know? It’s a thing. So we come from Brooklyn, which is really not that far, but this is its own thing. This is a special setting here today. But even in general, when we play here, I feel like there’s an audience that comes out that we don’t get in the city as much. It’s like people who are local who support stuff come out, and they really get it. And it’s like all ages; it’s all kinds of different people; older folks, younger folks – they seemed to like it. So for us, it’s just super cool to be involved. What a rad [location],” he commented, nodding at the stone archway. “I feel like I’m in Italy or something.” Immediately afterward, he revealed an exciting update: Paris Monster are already working on a second full-length record that they hope to release in 2019.
“We put out this album, Lamplight, earlier this year. Technically, that was supposed to be [released] last year. And we’re working on a new record right now that we hope to get out before the end of the year. We’re working on new material and new videos – I guess that’s about all we can do right now,” Dion interjected, as if it wasn’t all killer news. “And lots of tour dates,” he added with a smile. As cool as that new-album scoop was, one of the best parts of the evening was getting to hear him describe how the music feels from his point of view when they’re really locked in and vibing together: “It felt like funk… like the funk… like the groove.” As Dion described this abstract feeling in his brilliant-minded way, his hands pinched the air emotively; it was like their innovative synergy was a palpable substance still drifting around our heads in the balmy night air. “I could really feel the groove. We’re working with some sound stuff here that’s a little different,” he said of their Vault Allure show. “We’re not exactly able to be as loud as we want to be, so it was a little subdued, I’d have to say. Sometimes, it feels super psychedelic with us, but we’re kind of somewhere between that and an esoteric thing. There’s mostly that kind of funk feeling – like that inner ‘Oh man!’ We start to hit the groove, and it starts to get that subdivision, and people want to dance.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley