Two years ago, I interviewed a British band called The Voom Blooms for our music/culture show, "Visionz", on USFtv. I recently caught up with Craig, former guitarist/keyboardist, as part of an interview for my Arts and Entertainment Reporting class, to discuss what he's been up to since the band split up last year. Check out our episode of "Visionz" below, and the interview with Craig!
With his tight black shirt, even tighter black trousers, and a shaggy mop of dark brown hair, 27-year old Craig Monk looks ready to strap on his guitar and step out onstage to a mass of adoring fans.
But it’s not the stage of the Royal Albert Hall he’s stepping onto, and there are no swarms of fans screaming his name. It’s the Defector’s Weld pub in Shepherd’s Bush, a pub he’s been managing since his former band, The Voom Blooms, split up nearly one year ago.
It’s a quiet afternoon at the Weld, with just a few people scattered around the heavy wooden tables, enjoying pints of lager and seeking shelter from the drizzly London weather. Mellow jazz music permeates through the air, blending together with the murmurings of deep conversations.
As he sits down with a fresh pint of Guinness in hand, Monk seems relaxed, despite this being his first interview in almost one year. Since 2005, he played guitar and keyboards for The Voom Blooms, a Loughborough-based indie rock band.
But after four years of living the rock star lifestyle, the band decided to split. “We were like a unit, a family, but it got to a point where we had enough and were tired of being poor,” explains Monk. “But I still have great memories from being in the band,” he recalls with a nostalgic grin.
The Voom Blooms started gaining momentum in the summer of 2006, after getting over 12,000 fans on Myspace in just a couple of months. After recording their first single, ‘Politics & Cigarettes’, they spent many late nights adding friends on Myspace. “But that was back when Myspace counted for something,” explains Monk.
Their persistence paid off, though, garnering the attention of BBC Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq, who played their single on his show. A week later, after receiving a phone call from Babyshamble’s manager—who had heard their single on Lamacq’s show—The Voom Blooms went on their first tour and signed a one single deal with Fiction Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group.
However, industry politics proved to be difficult for the band. “When our second single ‘Anna’ was released, our former manager decided that we needed a hook in order to get press. He came up with this story about me and George [lead singer] being secretly gay, and missing a gig in London because we were arrested in Paris after getting too drunk. We basically said, ‘Fuck off’, and so we didn’t get a story,” he recalls with a sense of disdain.
“Pressure comes from the top down. The record labels want a certain image, one that will sell. They try to tell you what to do and if you say no, they drop you,” he continues. “It got to a point where it stopped being fun.”
A New Label
Eventually the band moved to an independent label, managed by Brandy Provenzano. Under new management, they were received better in the U.S. than they were in the U.K.—even gaining a residency at Hollywood’s infamous Viper Room.
“I think the U.S. is more open to different genres of music, and the people are friendlier,” explains Monk. “I remember playing one gig at Neumo’s [in Seattle], and I didn’t have the right converter for my plug. The bouncer drove all the way to his house to pick one up for me!” he reminisces in amazement.
“You don’t get that in the U.K.” Despite finding success—and friendliness--in the U.S, the combination of exhaustion and outside obligations led to The Voom Bloom’s split (“But we’re all still good friends”).
Although he didn’t pick up a guitar for six months after the band split up, music is still an integral part of Monk’s life. All of his staff members are in bands (“We have seven drummers, and we even have a drum kit in our basement!”), and The Defector’s Weld often hosts after-parties for his friend’s bands. So will he ever get back into playing music?
Finishing off his pint of Guinness, he replies, “Music is like a drug; of course I’d like to get back into it. But if I do, I’d just like to quietly release something, and not have to market it.” You can take away the tour buses, sound checks, and recording sessions, but Monk’s passion for music remains as strong as ever—band or no band.