By Carly Sitzer
To some people, Mon Khmer is just a family of Southeast Asian languages. To others, it is an alternative band based out of Brooklyn, N.Y., that performed at Ithaca College this month. Bass player Mathew Scheiner sat down with Buzzsaw to talk about the band’s new EP, Birthplace, the band’s future plans and more. To hear their music or find out more about Mon Khmer, visit www.myspace.com/MonKhmer.
Buzzsaw Magazine: How did the band get started?
Mathew Scheiner: Everyone in the band sort of knew someone else in the band when we are at school in Boston, so that’s sort of where we all met. But we didn’t start playing all together until we all lived in Brooklyn and we’ve been in this current formation just for about two years.
B: How did you guys come up with the name of the band?
MS: It was kind of an arbitrary decision, our loving, dutiful front man is from this town in Northeast India where they speak this language called Kahsi, which is part of a family of languages called the Mon Khmer languages of southeast Asian languages. We have a sort of eastern element to the sound of the band. And it’s a weird name and it stands out—it’s difficult to understand, but once you get it you don’t forget it.
B: What are your influences musically?
MS: A lot. There are a lot of influences. For me, anyways, out of any other band I’ve been in, the unique thing about this one is that everybody’s background of music that they listened to and played is so vastly different. For Elias, it’s come from a strictly classical and jazz background. Hammarsing, who grew up in India on folk music and underground British new wave. The drummer and I are into all sorts of things, Motown and Steely Dan… On the Myspace page there are like 80 different bands listed as influences.
B: How would you describe your new EP?
MS: I would describe it as representative of us. It’s like six songs, and each one is pretty different, but sort of as a whole collectively sums up where we are right now.
B: Do you have a favorite song on it?
MS: I really like to listen to and to play “Birthplace” because it’s sort of like this one vibe all the way through.It’s a trance sort of meditation that I like playing, too.
B: How do you think your music has changed or matured over the past two years?
MS: We’re about to go record some new stuff in a couple of weeks, and that newer stuff is definitely marketed different. I think the main part is that we’re sort of come to realize what our sound is. We’re conscious of it, as to make subtle changes here or there. We started out as not a terribly-accessible band, and we’re trying to be more accessible and write new melodies.
B: What advice would you give to young musicians?
MS: Listen to a lot of music and record yourself, even if it’s on of these [voice recorders], because getting to know what you’re doing is not as easy as just sitting in your room and playing songs. It takes a while to get to know yourself.
B: Do you have any plans for the future?
MS: Besides the whole world famous thing… We want to try to put out either another full-length or a couple more EPs in 2011 as well as get on the road more. We went on our first real tour back in March with this band and it was a blast. So we want to hit the states again and maybe go further West this time, maybe make it to the UK sometime.
B: Anything else you want to share?
MS: Check out new music—there’s a lot of great stuff out there that goes unsung.