New: We've just partnered with LMG to offer you a national gig guide. Check it out!

The Lectric Monks: Genre-bridging space-cadets

Francois vd Merwe and Gary Peacock talk 4D performance and galactic identification in light of their debut EP release.

11 Apr 2018 / Opinion / written by Skye Mallac / Pics by Adriaan Cruywagen

A twenty-second warping, bulbous synth conglomerate serves as the introductory track to “The Six” – The Lectric Monks’ debut EP, whose space-centric theme shines through with galactic verve. The EP art is anointed with six eclectic symbols which line up, chakra-esque along a primordial, somewhat alien monk figure.

My phone buzzes a few minutes before my scheduled phone interview with Francois vd Merwe and Gary Peacock. A message slides onto my screen. “*beep* Monks ready for transmission *beep*.” Classic.

The Pretoria-hailing 6-piece were conceived in 2014 after vd Merwe and Peacock won a karaoke competition and the chance to perform in front of Bok van Blerk – and from there the band formed fairly organically, with their first show as a full outfit being an opening slot for Die Heuwels Fantasties. “We didn’t even have a drummer,” laughs Peacock as we catch up over the phone. “Francois was up there with a kick drum.”

They’re warm and chatty, eager to delve into conversation about the six-track EP which has taken two years to bring to the world. The project title was drawn from a number of sources, including the simple aspects of the six members of the band, six tracks on the EP, with 6 being apparently the most harmonious of all numbers. “Can I ask you something? Did you choose the 6th of April as the interview date on purpose?” asks vd Merwe. I glance quickly at the calendar for confirmation, having been out of sync with dates for days, and laugh, assuring them it was a convenient coincidence.

While the band was built on a foundation of bluesy-folk sound, “The Six” finds its feet within a far more non genre-specific field, as their funk-centric sound rubs shoulders with rootsy rock ’n roll injections and jazzy infusions. “[The album] is very eclectic. It gets you into the groove,” explains Peacock. “The one rule we made when starting the band was that we must always be groovy – people must want to dance to it.”

And when it comes to the EP, they’ve more than hit their mark. ‘New Man’, released as their lead single earlier this year, is a high-tone playful offering, paired with almost country-style vocals and a synth-infused groove which plants its roots right at the get go. ‘Gotta Go’ finds its feet within the rock spectrum, while maintaining the strongest galactic undercurrent of the entire EP – think tin-foil suits, reflective sunglasses and uncontained, star-splattered trajectory in sonic manifestation – while ‘Groove Song’ incorporates a funk-infused, hollow-percussive sound which harks back with modern vivaciousness to 1960’s smoky jazz bars.

However, hidden beneath the collection of foot-tapping tunes, lies a depth easily overlooked. “The lyrics of the songs are quite introspective and sad but the tracks don’t reflect that,” explains vd Merwe. “Our music is a commentary on life and where we are at the moment on this planet.”

This being an attitude which reflects their Douglas Adams-inspired satirical streak, which lead to the band name. Featured in “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency” the Electic Monk was a labour-saving device designed to believe things for you – a simple, cheeky easter egg which indicates their ever-present proclivity for all things left-field and space-inspired.

“We are also trying to take our performance to the next level,” adds Peacock. “We have this 4D show stage production idea. We can’t reveal too much – but we’re trying to break the barriers between band and audience. It’s going to be an interactive, inter-lapping performance.”

And even with a freshly released EP and a launch party due in early May, the Monks aren’t stopping any time soon. “We’re working on new material and we want to record a concept album later this year. We like the idea of having a consistent thread in the art, music and live production,” explains Peacock.

“This [EP release] feels like a break in the dam and we just want to keep it going,” adds vd Merwe, and you can sense the band’s collective enthusiasm through the phone line. “This, right now, is the apex of the culture of what we want to be as a band.”

Follow Skye on Twitter.

Listen to the album below on Apple Music.