Mono in VCF towered over all others in the Tacoma music scene. As influenced by the '60s as other Tacoma mainstays, Mono in VCF careened into a wholly other dark territory. Slick and hypnotic, the band represented all of the music that seemed to never grow out of Tacoma's alcohol-infused nightlife: it was menacing, sexy, intimidating. Mono in VCF was the alluring out-of-towner that had the capacity to destroy a town.
Success greeted the band, and soon their music was being played in other parts of the world - places like Paris and England that absorbed the sordid sensuality with aplomb. As this happened, Mono in VCF stretched further from its roots, as is the mandatory procedure in the life of a band. Like any animal, a band needs room to grow and breathe far from the comfort of its home in order to thrive.
But, perhaps, like the lives of bands and animals, the members of Mono in VCF grew restless and tired of their limited surroundings. In talking with Hunter Lea, former co-singer and co-founder of Mono in VCF, I found that the band is on an indefinite hiatus. No sort of formal breakup ever took place, but rather a gradual deceleration occurred.
Suddenly, the band didn't quite exist anymore.
Hunter Lea started out with music startlingly different than the somber, dramatic music Mono in VCF produced. Raised by a father who secretly (to the dismay of his mother) began submerging himself in the '60s garage rock scene in Auburn, Lea soon found himself drawn to the rebellious rock 'n' roll that his father valued.
"I wound up getting his old Ludwig drum set after the '60s garage rock boom," says Lea. "I remember, as a kid, playing drums with my dad and perusing his record collection. He was a pretty big influence on me."
Lea played drums throughout his adolescence.
"I always wanted to play drums," says Lea. "I finally got a drum set, and that's what I started on. And then a really good drummer moved into the neighborhood, so I couldn't play drums. It was pointless, so I switched to guitar."
In his early years, playing with a band called Circa, Lea honed his skills as a '60s rock purist in Puyallup. New avenues were introduced to him, though, when he met Charles Perales (the first singer for Mono in VCF) and a Moog synthesizer.
"It opened up all these tonal possibilities that you couldn't get with a guitar or a bass or an organ," says Lea. "It could produce any sound you could imagine."
His sonic palette opened up, and Mono in VCF is what spilled out.
In the relatively fresh wake of Mono in VCF, Lea has started recording as a solo artist. Freed from the dark, melancholy restrictions of his former band, Lea has settled into a gauzy, psychedelia-inspired mode. His music sounds like a distant memory of the '60s - perhaps an idealized idea of the way music floated through the consciousness of a decade that neither he nor I were alive to experience.
When you see Lea live, it will be with a new band - having rehearsed together for about two weeks - and it will sound miles away from that menacing out-of-towner.
with Kelli's Starlight Wishes and Michael Gee
Friday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m., $5
The Den @ urbanXchange
1932 Pacific Ave, Tacoma