Some musical combinations just make sense. Jazz and rock. Classical and metal. Korn and dubstep. Others fare not so well (*cough*Loutallica). Melbourne nine-piece band Madre Monte have hit upon a particularly effective one: an amalgam of Afro-Colombian rhythms, Cumbia and deep, funky-arse reggae grooves, tied together via lyrics which dwell on mythological themes and recurring characters. The band is settling in for a month-long Friday night residency at Bar Open, and Beat has bass player and co-founder Henry Peña on the line the morning after the first show.
"It went pretty well," Peña ponders. "I was a bit nervous about it but it worked out pretty well at the end. I don't usually get nervous lately - It was just this because it was the first night. I don't know, I shouldn't be nervous about it, but it all went well. We played at the Hi-Fi Bar maybe a month ago opening for another band and I was not nervous at all about it. But this one, even though we'd played there before, I was really nervous."
Peña says of the band's early days, "The idea was to mix traditional Colombian music with reggae. It was not planned. It just really liked reggae and I noticed that the accents and tempos in some styles fit musically with reggae. And also it's a lot about feeling. Maybe it's not the most complicated style musically but you have to put a lot of passion into it. Then after a few songs we decided to make it - well, not really like a concept band, but to have an underlying theme in the lyrics of myths from South America. So we use that as the basis then create characters that play parts in the myths. It's not just telling the stories again but modernising them and including these characters we created to play a part in the stories." When pressed for an example, Peña sites the song "Vincente," named after the first character created for the theme. "In that song he is going through the jungle, he is lost, he hears this spirit and he keeps running, running away across the bridge over the river to get away from the spirit. And then he gets lost, and he keeps crying, screaming at night, and the people can hear him."
Peña doesn't have any particular bass heroes or influences. He reserves that brainspace for his early guitar heroes. "With bass it's more about the music rather than the actual players. I love reggae bass and I love salsa bass. It's really good, salsa bass. The whole groove is there and it's in the off beat, but not exactly. It's like this [sings] 'Boom BOOM.' It took me a while to get. When I first got into music I was really into metal, which is more straight. So when I started listening to other music like Latin music and reggae I found that it's not just straight, and you have to go with it."
Madre Monte plans to launch a new EP in January. Before then is the minor matter of actually recording it. "We're trying out some of those new songs at Bar Open," Peña says. "That's another thing that's good about the residency: we can see how people react to the new songs. It's just good to try it out and change little bits."
BY PETER HODGSON
Madre Monte perform at Bar Open each Friday in November,