Student bands come and go, but few have reached the success of The Monks of Funk: producing and releasing a professionally-made album on Spotify. Consisting of members from Northwood High School and University High School, The Monks of Funk have been making music since 2016 and performing more than 25 different gigs across Orange County.
The band was conceived by University junior Suryadip Bandyopadhyay in 2016, and they have been making music together ever since.
“We just all wanted to explore our passions of music together,” Bandyopadhyay said. “But, we wanted to do it different; we wanted something that could live past our graduation.”
The band currently consists of Bandyopadhyay on guitar, fellow University juniors Jaimin Patel on piano, William Lu on tenor sax, James Wang on drums and Northwood junior Chris Visan on bass. The founding members met in a University Jazz band, but Visan, their newest member, is the only musician from Northwood because he joined after their previous bassist graduated.
“When we realized we needed a bassist, we all wanted Chris.” Lu said. “When we added Chris to the band, he surpassed every single expectation we had for him and continues to do so.”
Within Irvine, The Monks of Funk are most well known for their victory in the Battle of the Bands competition held last February at the Heritage Park Community Center. The prize: a 10-hour-long recording session at Hybrid Studios in Santa Ana. The only thing left to do was to decide what to put on the album.
“The good news was that we had plenty of time to decide,” Visan said. “We spent four or five months sending emails without a response.”
Eventually the studio responded, and they spent most of the summer preparing to record the album, rehearsing many of their songs in order to get a perfect take at the studio.
“I remember we spent hours carefully deciding what to put on the album,” Visan said. “I don’t think we ever really agreed on the same set.”
In the end, their debut album “Unlive” featured five of their favorite funk charts, including “Hottentot” by John Scofield, “Sing a Song of Song” by Kenny Garrett, “Wayne’s Thang” by Kenny Garrett, “The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers” by Steve Kuhn and “High Noon” by Chris Potter.
“‘Hottentot’ is the song I would recommend to everyone” Wang said. “ It’s explosive opening leaves even the saddest of people ready to get up and jam.”
“Unlive” was more than the band’s passion project; it was an opportunity for the band to grow and learn as a music group. It was one of many learning experiences they had on their journey together.
“Music is how I choose to explore to the world,” Visan said. “And there are no other people I would rather explore with.”