Typically, nothing good comes out of an ice storm, besides possibly the guilty amusement one can derive from watching smug suburbanites with a false sense of security and an SUV spin off into the grass. But for local five-piece Montclaire, an ice storm was providential.
Guitarist/keyboardist David Jackson starts the story: "We were going down to Lexington (last February) to play with the Fairmount Girls and a big ice storm hit," he says. Vocalist Erica Cefalo picks it up: "They ended up stranded on the side of the road with my boyfriend. They were looking for a girl singer, and asked him if he knew any, and he said, 'Yeah, my girlfriend.' "
Cefalo had just moved to Cincinnati from Lexington, where she had been a member of The Dangels. She went to a Montclaire practice, and things fell into place.
Montclaire formed in August 2001. Bassist Doriden Equanil tells the genesis of the band: "Montclaire was originally known as Mylar Slax, and we practiced in original drummer Bill Ring's Norwood attic. We wanted to start a band based on 'energy music,' with Can, MC5, The Who, Roxy Music, the Velvet Underground as the basic reference points, augmented by great vocal groups like The Fifth Dimension and The Association.
I had just moved to Cincinnati, and Dave had just moved back from San Francisco. We were introduced by my brother, and we immediately got the band together."
Rob Deslongchamps took over drumming duties, and guitarist/keyboardist Robert Paquette joined, and The Mylar Slax became Montclaire. When asked where the name originated, Equanil quips, "The cheapest brand of cigarette was the only choice. Actually, we threw 100 names into a hat, and this was the best of the short list."
Finally Montclaire had its idea, its lineup and its name. Now it needed its songs.
"Erica might come up with lyrics, and someone will put music to it — it is generally an ensemble approach," Equanil says of the process. "Many songs contained in the present set were already written by the time that the band lineup stabilized. We are now writing a new set of songs, with all members represented."
When asked to use five words to describe their sound, the members of Montclaire give the unique answers you'd expect from a band as eclectic and hard to categorize as they are.
Erica says, "Doriden, when he was trying to get me to join the band, called it 'Disco for the Twin Peaks generation.' "
Paquette calls it, "music for the quiet girls." Jackson, two words short, describes it as "Lemmy meets Lulu."
When listening to the combination of Jackson and Paquette's Farfisa organ and guitar, Deslongchamps' rhythm, Equanil's 12-string bass and Cefalo's sweet, airy vocals, labeling Montclaire's sound becomes unimportant — you're too busy having fun and being swept up in the energy the group generates. Montclaire is a gem in the local music scene and beyond.
And Montclaire is as enamored of the Cincinnati music scene as it is of them. "In Lexington there are several bands, but there's nowhere to play. There are two bars that you can play at," Cefalo says. "And the rest of the bars only want to book Steve Miller cover bands. They're not gonna book real, good, original music. When I first came to Cincinnati, I went out all the time. In Lexington you were lucky to find something that wouldn't annoy you to go out and see once a week. But in Cincinnati, two or three times a week I can find something that I actually want to go see. There's variety."
"There's a lot of places to play here now," Deslongchamps chimes in.
Cefalo adds, "And here you actually get paid. In Lexington ... you're lucky if you get a free mixed drink."
"We are impressed, overall, with the vitality of the Midwest music scene," Equanil sums up. "There is a lot going on in the area, and Cincinnati seems to provide a hub for all of this activity, with clubs like The Comet, Southgate House and Sudsy's, among many others."
With one self-titled EP to their credit, Montclaire plan to go into the studio for a late summer/early fall recording session to produce a full-length CD. And they have a busy show schedule, playing out-of-town shows at least once a month, as well as local gigs. The next time you're in the mood for Twin Peaks-age "Disco," check them out.
MONTCLAIRE (montclaire.net) will play at Jacob's on the Avenue on Saturday and Sudsy Malone's on July 11.