Momo Grace: The road ahead

by Caitlin Cohen

photo by Tommy Calderon

After being together for two years, Momo Grace is taking their music in a new direction. The band has a new EP, Alaska, coming out this month.

Monica Parshotam (keyboard, ukulele, vocals), Daniel Lombard (trumpet), Tim Zilar (guitar), Troy Bohman (bass, vocals), and Joji Harada (drums, vocals) will shift their focus in rebranding their sound after Alaska releases.

After a bittersweet farewell to one of their longest members and dear friend, Zach Kutkey, and welcoming Tim into the band, the genre shifted from folk to acquiring a more jazz-influenced style. The group came to a consensus that their new sound is a blend of jazz-fusion, jazz pop, neo soul, and rock.

While they ready the release of a new album, the band has been also writing new songs. With the new line up, they have entered a different phase of songwriting, focusing on collaboration amongst the members – both musically and lyrically. For Monica, she hopes to try writing lyrics with more conscious intention, but songs feel more authentic when she spontaneously writes; those are the songs that brought up more intense emotions. Joji and Daniel both agree that they become more satisfied with their lyrics when they’re passionate.

“If something really heavy, or on the flip side, extremely joyful happened, that’s the only time I could ever truly be happy with the lyrics I wrote. It couldn’t just be like, ‘Oh, I just got back from school. What should I do? I’m just going to write lyrics.’ It’s usually an occurrence and whether it actually pertains to that event,” Joji said. “Personally, I like being vague in lyrics but it usually still holds the weight of that occurrence.”

Authenticity in the lyrics and sound are influential to why Momo Grace makes music because they want to create something that’s relatable and compelling to others.

“When it comes to art, I don’t hope that anyone gets anything specific from it. Just as long as they get something out of it…. The author’s intent is not important, the performer’s intent is not important. It’s what the person viewing my art gets out of it,” Daniel said.

“Music of today is very simple and tricks people into thinking that life is simple. I want people to hear the reality of life,” Joji said. “It’s good to know that I’m not the only one… when songs are overly simplistic and the message is, ‘We’re super happy and have hella money!’ Life’s not like that. Not even for those people. It’s just manufactured by the industry. So I want to bring that authenticity back.”

In addition to honesty, the band also is passionate about social justice. Coming from different musical backgrounds, each member has noticed a lack of diversity in the music industry.

Daniel and Tim both feel the classical and jazz world restrict women in roles of vocalist instead of allowing them to take part in a rhythm section. Daniel shared that it wasn’t until the classical world started hosting blind auditions that the hiring of women musicians increased by 70 percent overnight.

Troy has noticed that women are often treated in a condescending manner due to assuming that women are musically ignorant in the industry.

Tim also mentioned the value of diversity in art. Without those differences, we would never be open to those experiences of marginalized or diverse people. It’s a huge loss to not include those perspectives because we miss out on the opportunity to hear diverse ideas, experiences, and art.

“There aren’t enough women who are in management roles, audio engineers, owners of venues, or leaders in labels. When you’re a woman in the industry and there are particularly white men that control or guide your success, it puts you in a vulnerable place. Women, women of color, queer people, trans people, queer and trans people of color—the more representation in leadership roles, the better,” Monica said. “Part of that means for those people who are in it now to make space for that to happen…the most helpful things I’ve experienced from men, particularly white cisgender men, are when they listen, are receptive to criticism, call other men out, and step aside to make space for talents and success of others to shine through.”

Momo Graces’ new EP, Alaska, launches April 15, 2017. For more about the band, follow their Facebook page.