The origins of Monday Night Social can be traced all the way back to the first part of 2015, when Brock McGarity, Janet McGarity and Christian Mann first began came together to share their love of 3-part harmonies and indie-folk arrangements. In their initial iteration, Janet sang and handled various percussive elements while Brock and Christian played acoustic guitar and mandolin. They performed a collection of folksy songs which each had brought with them, written before they first got together. They eventually released a 3-song self-produced EP but soon began the work of creating new material as a band.
They soon bloomed into a quintet, as Josh English and JG Oliver joined the lineup on bass and drums respectively. The new songs were still focused on the 3-part harmonies which had become a trademark of their sound, but electric guitar was given a far more prominent role to play. This was evident in their 2017 EP, “Mixtapes Never Lie,” which found them combining Allman Brothers-style Southern rock with traditional Americana rhythms – and adding a modernist pop touch to their rural influences. This continued melodic evolution has now found realization on their debut LP, “Watch It Burn,” an album of fiercely personal story-songs which has a lineage of complicated inspirations reaching back many decades.
Opening track, “Bury Me,” is a crackling folk-rock barnburner, filled with enormous harmonies and nods to artists like The Byrds and Fleet Foxes. The track perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the record, confirming that the band members are just at ease with the past as they are with the present. Voices soar, and the music swiftly follow them into the upper atmosphere – it’s a familiar sound but one done without pretense or plagiarism. Other tracks like “Shutting Down Tennessee” and “Then I Met You” evoke the crossroads of blues and classic rock, with a host of fiery vocals leading the band toward a vividly hued horizon.
“Girl Waits With Gun” feels like a song that could’ve been floating around anytime from the ‘20s to the ‘70s, all shuffling percussion and gently affecting melodies. “Nothing Broken” is constructed from a gorgeously melancholy collection of acoustic plucks and strums, anchored by voices that entangle and caress one another. These are intimate recollections based upon universal concepts such as love, ache and joy; they are painful, euphoric and espouse a beatific rurality which provides the necessary framework for them to function without undue sentimentality or any sense of falseness.
This is an album enamored of its influences but also anxious to adapt those same sounds and explore the band’s own eclectic musical impulses in a setting free of expectation and rhythmic guidelines. “Watch It Burn” establishes a freewheeling environment where concern for adherence to any single genre is non-existent and where the band is given free rein to experiment with a number of different aesthetics and histories. These songs are carefully constructed but also evince a loosely improvisational nature, and it’s within this musical dichotomy that Monday Night Social find a miraculous resolution of all their collective experiences and emotions.