Since their formation, Bay Area-based soul outfit and JOVM mainstays Monophonics — Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys), Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), and Max Ramey (bass) – have developed and honed a sound that continues in the classic and beloved tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records, recorded on vintage analog recording gear and paired with a healthy amount of old-fashioned woodshedding and craft. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band explained in press notes.
Monophonics’ third album, 2020’s It’s Only Us, which featured “Chances,” and “It’s Only Us” received praise from the likes of Billboard, Flood, Cool Hunting and American Songwriter, while selling 10,000 physical copies and amassing over 20 million streams across the various digital streaming platforms. Thematically, It’s Only Us touched upon unity in a fractious and divisive world, strength, resilience, acceptance — and of course, love.
Their fourth album, last year’s Kelly Finnigan-produced Sage Motel derived its title from a real place — The Sage Motel. What started as a quaint motor lodge and common pitstop for travelers and truckers in the 1940s, morphed into a bohemian hang out by the 1960s and 1970s: Artists, musicians and vagabonds of all stripes would stop there, as seedy ownership pumped obnoxious mounts of money into high-end renovations, which eventually attracted some of the most prominent acts of the era. But when the money ran out, the motel quickly devolved into a hot sheet hotel.
If The Sage Motel’s walls could talk, they’d tell you tales of human highs and lows, of a place where big dreams and broken hearts live, and where people frequently have found themselves at a crossroads — often without quite knowing how they wound up there. Thematically, the album tackles all of those subjects — with the band further cementing their reputation as one of the world’s premier psychedelic soul bands.
JOVM mainstay Kendra Morris is a Florida-born, New York-based singer/songwriter, musician, and multi-disciplinary artist. As a singer/songwriter and musician, Morris can trace the origins of her music career to discovering the joys of multi-tracking and harmonizing with herself on a karaoke machine in the closet of her childhood home.
Morris went on to play in cover bands in Florida before relocating to New York with her band, which played her original material. Her first band split up and she dealt with the aftermath by writing material alone on an 8-track recorder in her closet. Sometime after, she met longtime collaborator and producer Jeremy Page and signed to Wax Poetics, who released her full-length debut, 2012’s Banshee.
The Florida-born, New York-based JOVM mainstay self-released her sophomore effort 2016’s Babble. She then went on to collaborate with DJ Premier, 9th Wonder, MF DOOM, Czarface, Ghostface Killah, Dennis Coffey and Dave Sitek among others. And while being a grizzled, New York scene vet, Morris’ work generally embodies a broader sense of American culture, drawing from a wide array of influences across music and film dating back to the mid 20th Century.
Last year’s Nine Lives was the Florida-born, New York-based JOVM’s mainstay’s first full-length album in about a decade. The album represented a major turning point in her life both professionally and personally for Morris: The album heralds the beginning of a new chapter, an evolution to the next level of adulthood — and the first on her new label, Karma Chief Records. Thematically, the album’s material encapsulates moments from what could easily be nine lifetimes lived over a chronological time period — or nine lives lived simultaneously in parallel and convergent realties in the multiverse.
Last year, the JOVM mainstays and labelmates toured together and they’ve finally collaborated on a song together — the woozy and trippy soul jam “Untitled Visions.” Built around a strutting yet cinematic arrangement that serves as a perfect vehicle for Finnigan’s and Morris’ soulful vocals, “Untitled Visions” is about the hectic and bizarre lifestyle that comes from being on tour. The song’s narrators dive into the feelings of boredom, anxiety, anticipation, stress, fun and more that one feels while living a life on the road.
The accompanying video feature edited footage of 50s and 60s era cars driving on the highways, byways and streets, flowers bursting to life and then contracting, a Fred Astaire-like dancer performing — and seemingly heading off to the next tour stop.