Ted Feighan is the brainchild behind the sun-soaked project Monster Rally who’s been making looping tropical and exotica sounds for the better part of this decade. Hailing from Columbus Ohio the origin of this project seems a little odd since Monter Rally’s music is full of lush tropical samples. Feighan recently moved to LA where his music makes a lot more sense in the sunshine state. It’s where he met future collaborator Jay Stone who holds his own with his fantastic Melodious Miscreant EP. The two were introduced through Hunter Mack, the owner of Gold Robot Records which is the label Monster Rally is on. Their chemistry on the upcoming collaborative LP, Foreign Pedestrians, is very tight and conjures to mind the same allure Madlib and MF Doom had when making Madvillainy. Recently both of them were kind enough to answer some questions I had for them via email.
Punchland: How did the Monster Rally project start? I don’t really feel like a lot of people are making tropical/exotica sample based music.
Monster Rally: I had been collecting these old exotica, Hawaiian and tropicalia records for a couple of years. I was buying them pretty frequently, based almost entirely on the cover art – because at the time I had no idea who any of the artists were. I would take them home and listen to them in the background while I would work on art. I had always intended to starting making music by sampling all the records I had bought, but it took me a year or so to actually get a sampler (SP303). Once I did I feel like I already had so many ideas of which records I wanted to sample from and it just went on from there.
Punchland: Your early stuff like “The Wolf”, “Surf Eerie”, “Color Sky” etc feels more atmospheric and obviously less beat oriented. Did you decide at some point that you wanted to take your music in a more hip-hop direction and collaborate with someone?
Monster Rally: I think I always felt that I was making hip-hop, even with tracks like “The Wolf” or “Color Sky”. I didn’t really realize until later when I would listen to a bunch of the songs together that it wasn’t really like that at all. When I started I wanted to create music that was sampled together, but sounded like it could have actually been made and existed on an old LP from 50 years ago. I don’t think I ever ‘decided’ to bring in more drums and go in a more beat-driven direction, that’s just the music I was making for a little bit. What I’ve been working on recently (for the new MR record) is much more in the vein on Surf Erie. But, yes I always wanted to collaborate with an MC, but it was really hard to find someone I liked enough to bring in – until I heard Jay.
Punchland: Monster Rally started in Ohio right? When and why did you make the move to California? That’s one thing I’ve kind of always liked about certain kinds of “summer” music like chillwave it never really originated on the beach.
Monster Rally: Yeah, I started the MR project when I was still living in Columbus. I moved to LA in mid-2012 basically because my wife and I wanted to live somewhere warm. I had been really into the entire music and art community here and it just made sense to move. I think there is an inherent escapist vibe to MR and I believe that comes from where I grew up (Cleveland). I was always into paradise-esque places and landscapes, and in Ohio, where it is overcast and grey for half the year, its easy to find yourself daydreaming about warmer climates. But I wouldn’t say that LA is necessarily closer to the places I was dreaming about, because for me it wasn’t just about a place or location, it was about a time period and while you can travel anywhere you want, you can’t ever go back to a particular place at a certain time. So ultimately the space that I’m trying to create with MR is unattainable.
Punchland: Jay what was it like to meet Ted. What was your initial reaction to his music?
Jay: Ted’s a really chill, easy-going guy, like myself. We really clicked when we first met, like we knew each other for years. When I first heard his music I was really impressed and excited, it was like a breath of fresh peppermint air. I was really looking forward to working with him after I listened to his music for the first time.
Punchland: I read that you (Jay) went home and listened to Monster Rally’s entire discography, how was that in terms of trying to prepare verses for the upcoming project?
Jay: I never really prepare verses beforehand. I just let the music (color/mood) dictate where I’m going to begin. After that, it’s like one thought expires the next type of thing. I knew initially from hearing his music that I was going to have fun and really enjoy writing the lyrics. I had a bunch of colors and emotions come into the picture that I hadn’t experimented with before. Overall, it was pretty easy for me to write this album. I had a lot of changes and new additions in my life …lots of stuff to talk about.
Punchland: How did recording Foreign Pedestrians come about? I’m imagining a Madvillain type scenario where Madlib (Monster Rally) is making beats in one room and MF Doom (Jay Stone) is in another writing verses.
Monster Rally: Ha, close. More like MR is making beats in LA and Jay is writing to them in Oakland. We did the whole record from different spots on the California coast.
Jay: I started recording around mid-2013. Me and my engineer Joe Mousepad recorded at his studio in SF. I pretty much recorded the entire album, minus Cognac and Parthenogenesis, by myself with just my engineer. My girlfriend, Queens D.Light, sat in on a few recording sessions. Since Monster Rally lives in LA he wasn’t able to be in the studio with me. The sessions with Brandon (Rayson) were really dope. He’s very multifaceted and versatile with his skills and abilities. We work really well together.
Punchland: I really like how the B-side is like a more traditional Monster Rally release, but the A side adds a different take on the music. Jay were you able to write verses pretty easily for Ted’s production? Like it came naturally to you?
Jay: I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it definitely was a natural and organic process. The music itself inspired the initial mood of the lyrics and some of the stories and occurrences within them. Some songs didn’t take as long as others to write, and some songs were more challenging than others to write. There was a spectrum of ease and difficulty. Lake Merritt was the last song I wrote, and it didn’t take me long to write it …it kind of just poured out of me.
Punchland: After listening to Jay’s EP his style seems like a natural fit for Monster Rally as in it’s more on the left field/jazzy side of hip-hop. I’m assuming Hunter Mack thought the same thing, how did you feel (Ted) about Jay rapping over your beats?
Monster Rally: As I mentioned, Hunter and I had been on a years-long quest to find the right MC for an MR release. He had heard Jay’s EP and knew that there was something there. He then sent it over to me and I listened to it probably 25 times in a row just trying to get everything Jay was saying. But I knew when I heard him that he would be perfect for was I was doing, as long as he was into it. I sent just the ‘No Cilantro’ beat first as sort of a way for us both to see where we were at. Once he finished with that one I think we both knew we were going to be fine, ha.
Punchland: Ted you make the artwork for all of your albums which I think is really cool. Every release has turned out looking really good and you stick with a consistent aesthetic that fits your music really well. It always gave off a Person Pitch type vibe to me would you say that is somewhat intentional or a coincidence?
Monster Rally: Thanks. Not intentional, but not a coincidence either. I was really inspired by that record back when I started MR. At the time, all I was listening to was Madlib, J Dilla, and The Beach Boys when I heard Person Pitch I was blown away by how well he had used those beach / surf style samples to create the album. I had been making collage work for a little bit before then but that cover art is classic and beautiful, visual collage is the perfect way to express the sampling style of a record like PP or any of mine.
Punchland: The title of the project, Foreign Pedestrians, sounds really fitting. Any backstory and how you guys came up with the name?
Monster Rally: We had gone back and forth about a couple of names and Jay had said ‘Foreign Pedestrians’ which just sounded right. I thought it made sense for what I do musically, walking through a bunch of foreign and exotic sounds, but Jay had some other reasoning. Jay?
Jay: I came up with the name. It was inspired by the overall feeling I got from the album in its entirety …the production and the lyrical content. The production sounds foreign in different ways, and the lyrics are riddled with pedestrian situations.
Punchland: Are you two looking to work on more projects together in the future?
Monster Rally: Definitely, It’s so great working with Jay on this release and seeing him grow as an MC over the past couple years.
Punchland: Any plans to take this collaboration on the road. Hopefully a more extensive tour?
Jay: Yeah, we’re planning on doing a California tour …and maybe some shows on the east coast. We’re also playing some shows at SXSW in Austin.
Check out Punchlands review of Foreign Pedestrians here!