The Monday Mourners are Des Moines' favorite four-piece country-fied rock outfit. Consisting of vocalist Matt Handley, guitarist/lap steel man Clint Meyer, bassist Aaron Tinder and drummer Pat Curtis, the act brought their own country-infused sensibilities to our cover song project. We sat down with the act at Kung Fu Tap & Taco to chat about the challenges of covering Kanye, and whether they'd do it again.
What did you guys think of the project?
Handley: Well, I thought the project was a really cool idea...
And then you got the song?
Handley: ...predictably, I'm sure, everyone was kind of like "what?"
Handley: Everyone, I'm sure, has heard that song. But I don't think I'd ever listened to it on purpose before. So I was like "Shit, I better listen to this." There was a lot in there, and I kept wondering "what can I do with this song?" So. Yeah.
Meyer: Which was the cool part about the project. Because it made us think outside of the box, and that was fun being challenged.
You guys and the Other Brothers kind of went in similar directions with your covers, where you kind of stripped out most of the verses and stuck with the good stuff.
Handley: which wasn't much, apparently.
Did you guys come to that decision pretty quickly?
Handley: I kind of tinkered with it a little bit--I think Aaron did too...
Handley: ...we all worked on it a little bit and tried to get, lyrically, some stuff we could work with. But I kept thinking: I have a four and a half year old daughter at home. Not only does she love to sing every song that this band does, but she asks questions about it all. So, "daddy, what's 'fuckin' with Buster' mean?" I could imagine so many scenarios, and none of them were good.
Aside from reconciling themselves with the lyrics, one thing that most of the other bands mentioned was that, musically speaking, there isn't a ton of structure to the song, especially when you're trying to write a more traditional song. There's just not much of a melody to work with. So how did you guys decide on a melody for the song?
Curtis: Aaron tossed out this first demo that he did at home.
Meyer: I was completely lost, and just trying to make stuff up.
Curtis: We do a lot of emailing back and forth, and he sent it to us all that way, and kind of had it all worked out.
Meyer: Then, we had a practice set up where we were going to work on it, and (Curtis) was sick and couldn't make it, and then by the next time we could all get together, nobody could remember it.
Handley: which is not atypical.
Tinder: And that was the night that we had to record it. It was the only night we had to make the deadline. On top of that, we had kind of a deadline to record the last bit of our album, so we were kind of under a stressful deadline. So we could have worked harder on this, had we not been...
..."had we cared more..."
Handley: Had we planned better. Let's put it that way.
Curtis: We worked on it for a while, and we developed that beat. But we thought that it didn't really sound like us, you know?
Curtis: So I just started messing around and came up with that train beat at the end.
Meyer: Which is now my favorite part.
Handley: Yeah, now that Pat did that, I feel like the song represents us fairly well. A little bit edgier beginning, then a country-fied end.
Meyer: Blues, rock, country. It's all in there.
Are you guys happy with the finished product?
Meyer: I think so. I think we did the best we could with what we had. That sounds terrible.
Handley: Musically, I think it's got a good groove to it. Lyrically, maybe we could have worked a little harder and kept some elements that we did not. There's very little Kanye in it at all, we basically just went back to the original Ray Charles.
So are we going to hear a retooled version of this live someday?
Meyer: We might have to do that.
Handley: Give us the go-ahead.
Meyer: It's a fun groove.
Handley: I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.
Curtis: and I'd say that(Nova Labs' Bryon Dudley) did with it too...we recorded it and sent it up for him to mix, and what he did to (Handley's) vocals. At first it was such a shock, and then when everyone else said that they liked it, it was like "huh, maybe I like it too..."
I think the biggest and most pleasant surprise out of this whole project has been the opportunity to open some people's eyes up to the work that Bryon is doing up there.
Meyer: That was kind of the fun thing about the project. We'd been working on our album for so long, with all this structure and "this is how we're going to do this." When we walked into the room to record this, we didn't know what it was going to be. And that was fun, because we were still recording, but there wasn't that structure. It was a more artistic approach.