Boogie Monster

Cacophony and Cartoons

Boogie Monster - Illustration by TJ Reynolds
Boogie Monster – Illustration by TJ Reynolds

The name Boogie Monster may suggest beefy funked out dance parties ripe with horn sections and DJ’s scratchin’, but you ought not to judge a book by its cover.

“I got Boogie Monster from a Gnarls Barkley song of the same name,” guitarist Ben Fussell revealed. “The title and song itself captured what I wanted the band to sound like: something crazy, but also fun and cartoony like Looney Toons—full of intensity and childlike enthusiasm.”

These words certainly can describe the band, both in the musical department and how they play. Though the music can be crazed and massive in sound as Fussell pulls complex chunky riffs from his guitar and Tony Dallas’ ridiculous, energetic drumming style constantly threatens to blow the house down, there is a light-hearted and humorous quality to the music. It really is like watching a couple of wild cartoon children letting loose with musical instruments.

With influences steeped in the post-rock and ambient noise genre, bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and avant-garde guitarist and composer Glenn Branca play a role in Boogie Monster’s ambient guitar and drum-heavy sound. Along with Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello who inspired Fussell to pick up a guitar, it was At the Drive-In that helped to shape what Fussell wanted in a band.

“They raised my expectations more than anyone else about what I could demand from a band in terms of live presence, musical creativity and work ethic,” said Fussell, “I’d never heard a band sound so passionate and intense on CD, and they moved around on stage with a frenzied grace that I’ve never seen matched since.”

Also influential was Providence, Rhode Island noise duo Lightning Bolt, who upon first hearing, gave Fussell the confidence that a two-piece band could cut it. “Lightning Bolt holds a special place in my heart,” Fussell shared. “They take simple ideas and blast them into the stratosphere with unbridled enthusiasm. They’re the only band I’ve listened to where I feel like their virtuosity fully services the music. There’s something visceral about it that I don’t feel when I listen to other technical bands.”

Formed in 2007, Boogie Monster didn’t actually play their first live gig until January of 2008. Soon after that gig, then drummer Owen Lewis had to leave Vancouver in April for university, which sent Fussell on the hunt for a replacement. Enter Tony Dallas, who came highly recommended from the SSRIs, a band he had previously played with and who Fussell had seen at various shows around town. After checking out a Boogie Monster show in March at the Astoria, Dallas was down for trying out. And during that first audition it was clear that he was a sure fit.

“The first time we rehearsed I think I laughed in disbelief. I couldn’t believe the spectacle before me,” said Fussell. “He’s such a charismatic and natural performer. Sometimes at shows, especially the early ones, I’d start to laugh during our set because his drumming overwhelmed me. It’s such a privilege to play with him and he adds so much to our performances and sound. I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

Indeed, the man is something else to watch. Constantly throwing every fibre of his being into playing, rolling and filling all over his drums, he does not stop his hyper-kinetic energy until the end of the set. “The Sled Island Festival was a testament to Tony’s power as a performer,” Fussell shared. “He ran outside the venue and danced in the street during our set, distracting a couple of drivers [and] causing them to crash. He was ushered back in by staff before anyone could figure out what had happened.”

With a CD in the works over November and due out in December followed by a West Coast tour, as well as a good string of appearances in town and at festivals such as Music Waste and Pop Montreal, it seems that Boogie Monster is hitting its stride with audiences. Even if they don’t know what to make of the music they still find themselves appreciating it.

“My ultimate goal is to tap into a free-spirited immediacy, taking simple riffs and adding as much density as possible so that it sounds like a freight train that’s about to derail but never fully loses control.” Fussell said. “It’s an aesthetic I like and strive for. I never intend for the band’s music to be confrontational or aggressive. Like hearing Lightning Bolt or Melt Banana’s Cell Scape records for the first time and thinking they were kick-ass, amped up rock records. They’re fun for me to listen to. That’s all I’ve wanted Boogie Monster to be: a fun, amped up rock band.”