Los Angeles – Late on a chilly Thursday evening, Angelenos packed into the warm confines of The Satellite to take advantage of the venue’s free “Satellite Nights” concert series, which kicked off the first week of 2015. Those that made the trip out to Silver Lake were treated to a powerfully propulsive set by Monogem, a new, local electronic-pop outfit. The four-piece group just put the wraps on what was for them a monumental 2014. Their first two singles “Wait and See” and “Stay With Me” quickly gave the band a buzz, garnering positive recognition from a host of music publications. Their debut single, “Wait and See,” was exclusively released by Billboard.com, instantly raising the band’s profile within the blogosphere.
Though the band performs live as a four-piece, the core of the group has always been singer/songwriter Jen Hirsch and producer/songwriter Scott Smith. While these two original members helmed the spotlight throughout the night, the drum-and-bass rhythm section provided a strong foundation for the nostalgic mix of electro-pop and vintage soul heard throughout their set. With so many electronic-influenced bands choose to perform with drum machines and piped-in overdubs these days, it is refreshing to see some bands within the genre able to comfortably utilize live instrumentation while providing a fully realized live sound. There’s just something about hearing a real-life snare drum pound out the beat that gives an electronic-pop song so much more emotion.
The stand-out track from the band’s late-night set was easily their latest single, “Stay With Me.” While the song has the misfortune of sharing a title with one of last year’s biggest singles, make no mistake, this is very much a different song than Sam Smith’s smash. Hirsch’s haunting vocals effortlessly intertwined with the start-stop synth lines and clockwork-like rhythm work.
As a new band that is still finding their direction, some moments in Monogem’s set were a bit unfocused compared with their strongest performances. While the band consistently stayed true to their electro-pop/soul blueprint, at times the formula came up just a little lacking. Monogem are mining an intriguing vein with their old-school influences, but at times the songs got bogged down with superfluous flourishes (like a minute-long keyboard solo) which gave a “wink and a nod” to their influences but added little to the overall performance.
That being said, it is really just a minor nitpick with the overall set, which was solid to say the least. When all of the band’s elements aligned and they hit their stride, the results were captivating. There is no question Jen Hirsch has the vocal chops to fit in with the top of the indie-pop world, and at no point did the backing band ever come across as anything but a well-oiled beat-making machine.
Other highlights from Monogem’s set included a brand new cover of singer Miguel’s track “Simple Things,” a birthday shout-out to their friends in the audience with “Wild Inside,” and their Chromatics-by-way-of-Chvrches third single “Follow You.”