When Jackson Rathbone and his band 100 Monkeys took the stage at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas last spring, the sound of squeals were the only sound that could be heard. The crowd packed as close to the stage as they could, hoping to get a glimpse of the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” star.
“You all look mighty tasty tonight”, Rathbone said to a crowd of teenagers and young twenty-somethings. At this, the high pitched, faceless gaggle of screamers went nuts again, and the band started into their set.
The band 100 Monkeys consists of five guys, all of whom are pretty easy on the eyes. They are Jackson Rathbone and his childhood friend, Ben Graupner, a budding actor Jerad Anderson, Ben Johnson of Mt. Carroll, IL and then there is the head-scratcher and self-proclaimed “Uncle of the world”, M. Lawrence, 'Uncle Larry' Abrams.
Although all members of the band take turns playing instruments, something of a gimmick they are known for, it's the fifty-something that helps bring a little credibility to the group of twenty-somethings with just a jazzy tip to his high-hat. He is a bad ass percussionist who grew up on south Spaulding in Chicago. I asked Uncle Larry if his friends come out for the shows with this group of young bucks and he says quite seriously, “I don't really have friends, I only have loved ones.”
From the back of their tour bus as they drove through Minnesota, I spoke by phone, or rather 'simultaneously had ideas and connected' with 100 Monkeys, who will be playing the House of Blues tonight.
Where does the name 100 Monkeys come from?
Jerad Andersen: It has to do with the idea of collective consciousness in the 100 Monkey Theory where one idea happens in one location and also simultaneously happens in a completely unrelated, separate location, and at the end we're all connected. So what we try to do as a band is connect people through music and spread a good vibe and a good time with100 Monkeys band. In. E-ffect.
And what would you do if the band was attacked by 100 Monkeys?
Jerad Andersen: We would fight them off with music notes. And chords. And drums. And bass. I actually had a funny idea once about a movie where we fight an army of zombies in a similar fashion with music. Like Michael Jackson's Captain Eo if you ever saw that, he fights the bad guys with music.
How would you describe your music to fans who are coming out to your show at the House of Blues?
Jerad Andersen: Funky, super-exciting, rock n' roll.
How did this 100 Monkeys form?
Ben Graupner: We all came together in Hollywood when Ben Johnson came out form Philadelphia to do some recording for Jackson and myself. At the same time, Jerad Anderson was a close neighbor of ours and he would come over and jam with us in the afternoons. We were making these rough recordings in the style of our first CD “Monster de Lux”. We started playing shows at the 24K Lounge (RIP) where our live show formed into you know... where our band spent its baby years, its awkward teen years of live shows, and that was it. We recorded 'Ugly Girls' and 'Smoke' in Uncle Larry's studio and that's the story.
With a song title like 'Ugly Girls', some might immediately think you're fickle. Do you have something against those who aren’t' members of the Good Looking Club?
Jackson Rathbone: NO. “Ugly Girls” is more of a term about the people who keep their aesthetics on one level, and their personal and everything else on another. Ugly Girls does not describe the outside appearance, it describes the “inside”, the way the people kind of treat the world and take in the world. So its more so about the vain, those that don't focus on their spirit, on their soul.
It would seemingly be difficult to have a good majority of your fan base wearing “Team Jasper” t-shirts. With "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1" hitting theaters soon, vampire fever must be at its highest. What I find interesting is that instead of shunning it, the band seems to play into it a little? What's it like being on that side that has the underlying theme of a band member being part of one of the most successful movie franchises?
Jackson Rathbone: Well, it's just one of those things. "Twilight" was a huge phenomenon. You know, I think everyone's been a part of it and has been wrapped up in it in a certain way. But at the end of the day, we're all just a bunch of artists in the entertainment industry. Our goal is to make people happy. Whether its for an hour and a half at a film or for an hour and a half at a rock show. At the end of the day, its about putting a smile on someones face, and a bounce in their step.
I've seen that 100 Monkeys sometimes brings guests on stage, has Rob Pattinson ever jammed out with you guys?
Jackson Rathbone: Oh, ah, you know, ah yeah. He has before. One of the reason he played with our band 100 Monkeys was because when we were first getting started, we had the idea that anyone could come up and start playing with us. For a long time we had a section on our band page that was “Other Monkeys”. People who have come up with us and jammed at long shows or people who jammed with us on recordings. And that is just part of us and what we do. We are always open to other musical acts. That's one of the reasons we love touring is b/c we get to see other bands. We get to see different styles of music from across the world and our doors are always open to anyone who wants to play music.
Who has been the coolest person you've jammed with on the road?
Jackson Rathbone: On this tour we have The Kissing Club joining us for all of our shows. And The Bleeding Horse Express. Those bands are both represented on the record label we formed this past year. One of the 100 Monkeys projects that we've got in the works is putting out records we think are good.
So on the road, you are on the lookout for musicians?
Jackson Rathbone: Every city, always and in between we are looking for musicians we want to collaborate with. Being able to travel this much, we get to see a lot of good music. I mean we have seen over 100 bands this past year and all have been just fantastic.
When you are in between movies, doing a non-stop tour that will lead into press junkets for new movies, what do you with your downtime?
Jackson Rathbone or Ben Graupner (I don't know): We built a recording studio so we've been working in the back of the bus. We have been working on a score to a movie. In our spare time, we love to jam and to be honest, we really just want to get some sleep, you know?
100 Monkeys play an all-ages show tonight at the House of Blues. Tickets start at $20 and are still on sale at the House of Blues Box Office and Ticketmaster.