Bay Area psychedelic soul outfit Monophonics plays Sebastopol

SAN FRANCISCO — A Bay Area soul institution for over 17 years, North Bay outfit Monophonics has gradually evolved to become one of San Francisco’s most creative purveyors of psychedelic soul. Founded by drummer Austin Bolman in 2005, the quintet initially mined a vein of instrumental jazz-funk similar to boogaloo revivalists The Sugarman 3, Soulive, and the Greyboy Allstars — whose saxophonist, Karl Denson, guested on the crew’s 2010 album Into the Infrasounds.

Monophonics – Sure is funky by
Andrew MusicOdyssey on

The group’s third album, 2012’s In Your Brain, showed the results of what sounded like the members of Monophonics doing some serious woodshedding in the Temptations’ “Psychedelic Shack.” Introducing a fuzzed-out guitar sound soaked in Echoplex delay, tunes like “Sure Is Funky,” “All Together,” and the title track were reminiscent of the acid-laced grooves of early Funkadelic and noted Motown producer Norman Whitfield’s most tripped-out creations with the Temps and Edwin Starr.

Monophonics – Bang Bang by
AnnaR21 on

The album also featured a stellar cover of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” that holds its own against the timeless Nancy Sinatra and Terry Reid versions of the Sonny Bono-penned classic and pointed towards the next turn the band’s sound would take. While still steeped in the ’60s sound, the band’s latest recording, Sound of Sinning, embraces a different side of the psychedelic era.

Without abandoning distorted guitars and funk breaks altogether, the new Monophonics album offers up intricate orchestrations and slow-burn balladry spotlighting keyboardist Kelly Finnigan’s remarkable pipes while nodding equally to the lush chamber pop of the Beach Boys and the Zombies. In 2015, the band delivered a fiery set on the main Banjo Stage for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival that was a highlight of the Friday performances.

California Dreaming by
Monophonics on

The following year, the group was a featured act at BottleRock in Napa and in 2018 played Outside Lands, completing a trifecta of major Bay Area music festivals. The group also issued their EP Mirrors, a collection of well-known and obscure covers, that tided fans over until the release of their 2020  effort It’s Only Us, the band’s first full-length for noted retro soul imprint Colemine Records.

Monophonics – It’s Only Us [OFFICIAL AUDIO] by
Colemine Records on

Following the path taken by Finnigan on his solo debut Tales People Tell that embraced the languid sounds of lowrider soul balladry, the album found the group coming into its own with its lush tunes and intricate string and horn arrangements that at points recall the majesty of classic Curtis Mayfield and Rotary Connection records.

Monophonics – Sage Motel [OFFICIAL VIDEO] by
Colemine Records on

While it was initially unable to promote the album with touring due to the COVID shutdown, the band would also release a digital-only instrumental version of the album before finally being able to play some live dates last year. The group remained busy, writing and recording another round of new material for their latest release Sage Motel. A loose concept album built around the happenings and characters inhabiting a fictional bohemian inn, the collection of songs further pushes the envelop of orchestrated, dreamlike atmospheres the band has become so skilled at crafting. For this early evening show at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol Sunday, Monophonics will be joined by fellow North Bay rock and soul band the Highway Poets.  

Sunday, Aug. 28, 5 p.m. $25
Hopmonk Tavern Sebastopol

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