Hailing from Clemson, South Carolina, Mona Lisa Jr. are the coming together of singer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Rathe, known for his work with the Bantams, and guitarist Reid Stapleton. The pair met while working at their college radio station together and quickly decided to form a band. At the end of last year, Mona Lisa Jr. released their debut EP, Modern Art, with the band promising to release many EPs, but never an album.
Modern Art opens with the somewhat self-deprecating offering, I Think You Should Break up with Me, where a spoken-word sample gives way to a propulsive keyboard and distorted guitars, before the raw vocal enters, the whole thing reminiscent of a less-polished, more urgent Avi Buffalo. Elsewhere Stan Getz It, is a delightfully noisy affair, with the repeated refrain, “thanks for saving my life, thanks for ruining mine”, coated in a wave of distortion and clattering drums. Perhaps the best thing about Modern Art is its playful quality, it is a record that without sliding into novelty, also doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, never more evident than on the closing track, It’s Over By Mona Lisa Jr. The track bounds in on a We Are Scientists-like guitar line and rolling drum-beat, before suddenly grinding to a halt and returning with newfound energy, before it ends with a literal crash, followed by a news report of the band’s world-altering demise. Mona Lisa Jr. might never make the evening news, but they sound like they’re having an awful lot of fun trying.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Mona Lisa Jr.?
We are Reid Stapleton and Chris Rathke of Mona Lisa Jr., the best band in Clemson, South Carolina. We are Clemson students who met through college radio. Chris was already in his mildly successful band Bantams, so we decided it was time for a side project with a goal of being the band. We write songs as fast as possible. We are simply trying to put out songs and not think about it. This is why we don’t use anyone’s help because that would just slow things down. We loathe going slow. We just sit in Chris’ room and sometimes finish songs, and sometimes don’t, and then release it (guess which ones we finished!)
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
We only invited around 20 of our closest friends to play an intimate show at Reid’s apartment. Everything went swimmingly, it was sick.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
To be honest, we are better at music than other art forms. Chris absolutely cannot draw and Reid has never picked up a camera. Also, music matters a lot to both of us and is a big part of both of our lives.
FTR: What can people expect from the Mona Lisa Jr live show?
People can definitely expect good music at the bare minimum. We typically do just the two of us playing an acoustic set of our greatest hits (all our songs!), but maybe our full band debut is coming soon!
FTR: What’s next for Mona Lisa Jr?
As previously mentioned, we plan on releasing a steaming heap of music. We will be releasing a Whodunnit EP, determining who killed us in the end of the track of our first EP, Modern Art. We will have another EP releasing in January, and many more in the future. We will never release an album, only EPs, sorry. In 2023, Mona Lisa Jr. hopefully won’t exist, so catch us while you can!
They Listen To…
Bleeding Knees Club – Have Fun
We both liked this band, and that’s weird. We never found anyone that knew or liked Bleeding Knees Club.
Korn – Freak On A Leash
Modern Baseball – The Thrash Particle
MGMT – James
Bantams – Terrible Times
Modern Art is out now via Batsman Records. For more information on Mona Lisa Jr. visit https://www.instagram.com/mona.lisajr/.