What began as a two-piece known as Monkeyknifefight (MKF) in 2002 has evolved into a four-piece punk outfit that’s stirring debauchery across the Port City still today. Local drummer Charlie Smith and guitarist Josh Pearson can be blamed for the upstart of a band that thrives on beer, guns, catastrophes, girls, and bad television—as they noted in an encore interview a few years ago.
“At the time we were living together,” Smith says of Pearson. “We played for about a year or two, playing a handful of house shows and parties. Then we took a break.”
Around 2006 Pearson and Smith picked up their respective instruments again, and asked Jaybee Bratz to join on lead guitar and vocals. Pearson went on to play bass and the trio took over the stage as a three-piece.
“This is the time frame we are basing the 10 years anniversary off of,” Smith tells. “It was during this time when we started playing out at venues and booking a lot.”
Around 2008 Monkeyknifefight went through a few more changes, including the exit of its founding member, Pearson. Smith and Bratz added guitarist Dave Ware and Mitch Jones on bass. The quarter has been performing together ever since.
encore interviewed Bratz and Smith about Monkeyknifefight’s two-day celebration taking place at Reggie’s this weekend. Over a dozen bands will be on hand to melt off the faces of thrashing music lovers everywhere. Naturally, Monkeyknifefight will headline both nights.
encore (e): Ten years! A decade! Congrats! How have you guys managed to be a band for 3,650 days? What does it take to stick together for rock ‘n’ roll?
Jaybee Bratz (JB): Strong love for our music and spending time together with friends. I guess we make it work by understanding that we all have lives, jobs, wives, kids, day-to-day bullshit, etc., that sometimes come before the band.
e: How did MKF begin?
Charlie Smith (CS): The band started mostly because we all really enjoyed punk rock, skateboarding and booze. We were young and like, ‘Hey, I played drums before, and you have a guitar. We should start a band.’ I then borrowed a drum set from my good friend, Brian Walker, before I eventually bought my own.
Our first venue gig was at The Soapbox, and we played after an amateur wrestling event. They didn’t have time to break the ring down, so the ring was in between the stage and the crowd, which made things very interesting.
e: Tell us about songs and records you’ve produced to date.
CS: We only have one full length released, but we have tons of unreleased recordings and live recordings that we do plan to release one day. We have probably written more songs than we can remember. At least enough for three or four albums. We definitely have 30-plus original songs, and we have a list of cover songs we like to throw in our live set at times.
e: When was your last show? About how many a year are you doing these days?
CS: Recently, we opened for The Queers. It was one of our best shows ever—not because of the crowd, or the way we played, but because this band was a huge influence on Jaybee and myself with getting involved with punk music as kids. So it was one of those highlight moments for us.
We average about 12 or 15 shows a year. We usually are good for at least once a month in town and occasionally get out of town for shows on the weekends.
e: Why the 10-year anniversary show? Who’s idea was it?
JB: Because we are legendary, and legends need to be celebrated.
CS: Really, it’s just an excuse to party with our friends. One day we started talking about doing it—and then it just so happened the 10-year party fell on the weekend of one of our best friend’s birthdays: Mike B. He’s been a part of the Monkeyknifefight family since day one, so it made this weekend even more special.
e: Who curated the bands for the show, and how you decide on them?
JB: Charlie got most of the bands together [Madd Hatters, Exploding Math Lab, No Labels Fit, among others.] Most bands we play with regularly, and some feature members who we have played with before from other bands. There’s a good mix of genres throughout both nights. We wanted all the bands to have some connection to us. We did reach out to try to get bands we used to play with to do a reunion but didn’t have luck getting everyone on board.
e: Are all the acts local?
CS: Mostly—four or five bands are traveling.
e: Predominantly what styles of music will play throughout the weekend?
CS: A lot of punk rock in every form possible. Pop, rock, thrash, noise, ska.
e: What’s new with MKF these days? Any new music or records?
JB: A lot of writing and setting up to record a new album over the summer, which will be coming out in fall. We will probably still be playing shows here and there but mainly focusing on putting out our next album. Big things.
e: Funniest band story to date?
JB: Can’t think of anything particular but interacting and making fun of and berating the crowd is always a highlight for me. I personally love when Dave brakes a string and I get the crowd to shout obscenities at him. Most of the funnier stuff happens in the band room when it is foggy and the drinks are flowing.
e: Most memorable show to date?
JB: We played at Ziggy’s for the Rims on the River afterparty last year, and I had the chance to have my 5-year-old son, Sean, come up on stage for a few songs. He thought it was the greatest thing in the world (he thought it would be funny to hold my beer up and act like he was going to drink it).
e: Favorite song you’ve created…
CS: It’s always changing but right now it’s a toss up between “Cancerface” because of its dark and more serious nature than we usually write, and “Sigh-o-nora” because it has a nice happy melody to it and an old showman ‘goodnight to the crowd’ kind of feel to it in the vain of old crooners, like Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.—except we’re singing about scoring blow, Aids and bar fights.