While some bands cringe at the thought of labeling themselves, Mountjoy has adopted their genre, “psychedelic swagger,” with pride.
Comprised of Victor Gennaro on guitar and vocals, Bob Szafranski on bass guitar, Ryan Farber on drums and Cameron Sima on guitar, Mountjoy is becoming a presence in the South Philadelphia and Northern Liberties music scene. Gennaro, Szafranksi, and Farber are all Temple alumni.
Mountjoy’s progression to its current lineup has been interesting, and began when Gennaro’s previous band, under the same name, disbanded. He knew Farber from a project called the JLE’s, short for the Joyful Little Erections. Gennaro and Farber connected with Sima who was in the Robotrippers, and completed their lineup by adding Szafranski, who they found on Craigslist a little more than a year ago.
Mountjoy’s members are dabbling in the arts by more than one route. Szafranksi works with the BodyFields Performance Collective and Farber has a dubstep project.
Mountjoy is currently working on its second album, which has yet to be named. The band released two songs – both recorded in one day – in the beginning of March on their Bandcamp page, available through a name-your-price option to encourage people to attend their live shows.
“We’re trying to get people to come to our shows and have fun,” Szafranski said. “We’d rather do that than have a million people listen to our music and never come to our shows.”
The band undoubtedly thrives off of their live performances. Mountjoy has played at Johnny Brenda’s, Kung Fu Necktie, Station Bar & Grill and frequents at El Bar. Mountjoy is currently working with Flash Mob Productions and the up-and-coming label Onthedownbeat Records. Other bands on the label include the Lawsuits, Los Hombres and Rebecca Way and the Lesbians.
The Temple News: Who/what are some of the band’s prominent influences?
Bob Szafranksi: I read a great quote from John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin that said, “I can play the name game here and list all the people I like listening to, but everything influences me. If I’m in the grocery store and hear a horrible, horrible song, I put that in my brain under the category of ‘Don’t Do That.’”
We play whatever we feel like playing. I think we’re influenced by everything we listen to. One day that might be the growlers, another day that might be the Beatles, one day that might be the Velvet Underground.
Victor Gennaro: I went to school for acting at Temple, and there was this awesome drama teacher named Philippe. He said to “absolve yourself of being creative or original.” Because once you’re no longer worried about being creative or original, you will just be free to let the things that naturally come out of you happen. So you don’t have to worry about “this doesn’t sound like something” or “this does sounds like something.” Play what you love, and no one’s going to be like, “Oh, they’re a Velvet Underground ripoff,” they’ll just be like, “That guy loves playing guitar.”
Ryan Farber: But, imitation is also the most sincere form of flattery.
BS: Which is why we do covers.
TTN: How would you describe your audience?
VG: Our core group that comes out are always trying to dance and trying to have a laugh. I think you can tell it’s someone there to see us because they’re holding a bottle of whiskey and asking you if you want to take a shot with them. Our friends are just trying to be as open to everyone as possible.
BS: They’re trying to have as much fun as we’re having on stage. Some bands, people will come out and just stand there and watch them and kind of be respectful. We try to get the crowd to have fun and dance with us. It’s always fun when someone new comes, and finds out it’s okay to be a little stupid.
VG: Sometimes I think rock and roll music is kind of getting a boring vibe, compared to other media outlets. There are so many things going on, it’s like, why would you want to spend five dollars to get into this bar when you can spend five dollars to get into that bar? And the reason is, you have to show them that you’re better than YouTube.
BS: Except for our video on YouTube, because that’s better than YouTube.
VG: It’s a paradox.
TTN: Where’s your favorite place to play?
BS: I think my favorite place to play was Bookspace – a place just North of Girard [Avenue] on Frankford [Avenue]. It’s a bookstore warehouse that has a trapeze [and] a bunch of cars.
VG: We literally ended a set once with me jumping off of a piano onto a trapeze, swinging around.
BS: It was always crazy.
VG: We were younger then.
TTN: What’s the story behind the band’s name?
VG: Mountjoy is actually a prison in Ireland. My last band had a kid from Ireland in it. Mountjoy prison is the only prison in western civilization where you can be sent for life in solitary confinement. It has got a huge history of mental illness and people killing themselves and crazy things, and when I was 19, I thought that was really punk rock.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.