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Norfolk band Monback poised for breakout

“Monback,” once an abbreviation for “come on back,” now can be heard during fans’ encore chants at venues such as the Norva and the Jewish Mother in Hampton Roads. Formerly known as the Yolks, Major and the Monbacks have landed sunny side-up, recently releasing their first five-song EP, Monback House Party, on iTunes. The EP awaits possible release in local Charlottesville record stores.

Growing from a five- to a 10-man band thanks to the brilliant addition of a horns section and two alternating drummers, the Monbacks have reached “Monback mania” status in Norfolk, Va. Since its high school days, live shows have been the band’s staple — they recently played an impressive seven shows during a three-week winter break.

For now the Monbacks are just looking for a good time, as their EP title implies. But if the opportunity arises the Monbacks say they aren’t opposed to hitting it big — after they all graduate from college, of course. Something of the sort might be in the band’s near future — Veer Magazine recently nominated them the best local indie/pop band. The winner will be announced Feb. 12.

For now, they’re sticking to the small scale. Though CD sales and shows aren’t making much money so far — at least split between 10 people — they’re all satisfied doing what they love, cliché as it sounds. But the band, especially twin brothers Cole and Neal Friedman, don’t always agree on everything. After differing accounts of who “Major” really is, bassist and third-year Commerce student Cole summarized him best as representing “the Monback in all of us.”

Lead vocalist and guitarist Neal writes the Monbacks’ original tunes with a ‘60s pop-inspired sound. Two songs, “All I Wanna Do” and “The Way Things Go,” date back to 2007-2008, Neal’s 10th-grade years. The lyrics, though simple and sometimes cheesy, are always endearing.

In the early days, the group’s songs were a little lackluster. But with the band’s new members and extra practices, their efforts have paid off. Both “All I Wanna Do” and “The Way Things Go” have been revamped to incorporate new vocal harmonies from Michael Adkins and newest member Harry Schloeder, and to include work from the recently added horns section, featuring Woody Marshall on the trumpet and Jay Einhorn — no pun intended — on the saxophone.

“Sweet Pumpkin Pie” and the more recent track “When I’m Rollin’” are both upbeat melodies with catchy lyrics that are meant for dancing. If their beat alone isn’t enough to get you going, Tyler “Teeter” West is, at least at a live show. From hype man to bongo player extraordinaire, Tyler brings more energy — and sweat — to the shows than any other. His constant movement can never be captured on recording.

The recording does not do a live show justice, but it makes for a close substitute. Make sure to check out this up and coming local sound. After making their first appearance at the University in the fall, they may be back. Keep your ears open.

It seems like the Monbacks will be around for sometime: Monback, hollaback.