#Synthfam Interview: Frisky Monkey (Juan + Douglas)
Frisky Monkey is the Atlanta synthpop duo of Juan Cezar and Douglas Pettus. They create a "heady blend of swirling synths, moody guitars and entrancing vocals with a pop sensibility." In an emailed interview, I asked them about their origin story, their approach to music and their latest album, which is titled Misadventures of a Mixed Up Monkey.
Karl Magi: How did Frisky Monkey get its start as a project?
Juan: After my last band broke up in 2011 I decided that I wanted to get away from the four person rock band idea and create music closer to my heart: synthpop. I put an ad on Craigslist and after many interviews I met the original founding member, John Miklaucic. I instantly knew that we could create something wonderful. After four years, John decided to move away from Atlanta in 2015 but encouraged me to continue building on the Frisky Monkey legacy with someone new. Many months later, I met Douglas through Reverbnation and knew I’d found the next band member with whom to continue the Frisky Monkey journey.
KM: Who are (both of) your artistic inspirations?
Juan: For me it’s always been music, Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure, Tears for Fears, Pat Benatar, Pet Shop Boys, Bright Light Bright Light, Madonna and Patsy Cline are some of the artists that I always go back to.
Douglas: Book: On The Origin of Species (Darwinism),
Music: Pet Shop Boys, The Monkees, Gorillaz, and Fishbone's Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe
Movies: Planet of the Apes, King Kong (I couldn't resist).
KM: What are the ideas and elements that drew (both of) you to creating synth-based music?
Juan: I have always loved the sound of vocal synth music (it was the soundtrack of my teens). When you pair that with the unique vocals that so many of my favorites have, it is a magical combination that makes me want to create this kind of music.
Douglas: For me it's the combination of musical elements and technology.
KM: Give me your thoughts on the Twitter #synthfam.
Juan: We love the Twitter #synthfam, they’ve made us feel very welcome and have been extremely supportive. I have discovered so many talented artists through the #synthfam and met some amazing people as well. I feel like it has been instrumental in helping people discover our music and I cannot be more appreciative.
KM: Tell me about how you create music as a group.
Juan: I work in two very different ways. Sometimes I start with lyric ideas, then work them out on guitar, do a rough electronic demo on Logic to help flesh it out then send my crazy ideas to Douglas for him to make his musical magic with it. The other way I work is that Douglas will send me an idea of a song he is working on and it sparks lyrics and vocal melody ideas for me. I’ll do a demo vocal of it and send back. Then we go back and forth collaborating until it becomes a finished song.
Douglas: When Juan sends me ideas basically, since I'm pretty much preoccupied dealing with the other creatures in my tribe/troop!
KM: Talk to me about the Misadventures of a Mixed Up Monkey remix album that you just dropped and its genesis.
Juan: The album Misadventures of A Misguided Monkey that this album is based on is my personal favorite of our albums. Last November, while watching the amazing artists perform at Echosynthetic Fest, the idea for this remix album was born, and by the end of the weekend Skeleton Beach and Ethereal Delusions had agreed to be a part of this project. As the months went by and we reached out to other artists we admired, the album began to take shape. Each artist chose the song that they remixed. As special bonus tracks, we also included a remix of Insignificant Other off Crave and a brand-new song Night Flight, a collaboration with Ethereal Delusions. Everyone’s interpretations of the songs made this so much more than a remix album as they all became unique versions of the songs. I have so much love, respect, and gratitude for all the artists involved. Little known fact, DiPettius is Douglas’ remixing moniker.
KM: Where do you want to take Frisky Monkey in the future as a project?
Juan: I want to keep making music I love, which hopefully also touches people. If you look at our albums you’ll notice we love having guest vocalists on our songs and collaborating with other artists so I want to do more of that. We currently have several collaborations in the works, one with my personal local favorite Seersha, one with Cat Temper, and one with Stereospread. Dream duets/collaborations for me would be with NINA, Bright Light Bright Light, Megan McDuffee, Bunny X, Kay Burden, and Michael Oakley. I also love doing live shows and plan on doing more in the future. There is nothing like the energy of being onstage and interacting with the audience.