From Monument to Masses
Fri May 31
Meow Meow

"Whether it was U2, Public Enemy, Fugazi or Downcast, I was drawn to music--and art and pop culture in general--that challenged me to face reality," explains From Monument to Masses bassist Sergio Robledo, about the origins of his band's politics. "Just by continuing that tradition with From Monument to Masses, I hope to inspire some folks to seek out movements for change We're not trying to shock anyone... just asserting that these things shouldn't be confined to the periphery."

Interestingly, unlike many other bands which seat politics at the helm of their music, Oakland's FMTM replaces the typical punk vocal treatises with powerful samples of actual people in history, delivering speeches, news reports, reading poetry. They are tasteful, interesting snippets that serve more as a reminder than admonishments. When placed over their music--textural, pretty, technically proficient guitar melodies balanced by complicated, almost hiphoppy drumming and drum machines--the effect is subtly powerful, musically excellent, and it seems like using their own voices sparingly was a good decision. But it was also a practical one. Says Sergio, "As far as we're concerned, there have been much more intense and real things said by the masses, then and now, than anything that the three of us could really say as individuals or as a 'rock band.' Oh yeah and our voices suck."

Further explains guitarist Matthew Solberg (who, along with drummer Francis Choung, rounds out the group): "We figured, what does a microphone do besides come between musician and listener? To break it down further, it just comes between two equal participants--empowering one, and disempowering the other. So we said fuck it. We've got loud voices, and we can modulate the music so they don't get totally lost."

Honestly, it's so interesting that a politically motivated band breaks from the formula of hardcore screaming, FMTM could stand there with dirty bags over their heads and it would still be a relief. But thank goodness they make neat music, too--sort of dubby, post-punky, dynamic rock with a lot of quiet idiosyncrasies. As their latest self-titled album on Dim Mak proves, strong emotion felt in music can be more powerful than explicit messages. Says Sergio, "The way the music's put together and the general approach of using things like samples or abrupt mood changes and time signatures is often driven by whatever I'm thinking about politically at the time. Just the idea of using samples, for example, is a politically charged technique. It's not as radical as it was when early hiphop was doing it, but the idea's still the same."