Big Head Todd and the Monsters have been in existence for more than three decades. During that time, the band has built a considerable and career-sustaining following and has released a dozen well-received albums.
But for many people, Big Head Todd and the Monsters are largely defined by one project: the 1993 album Sister Sweetly.
big hits in the ’90s
Sister Sweetly generated three hits and is overall such a strong, multifarious, and seductive work of art that it’s hard to get out of your mind, not that you would want to.
Lead singer Todd Park Mohr said in a phone interview with Whatzup that he doesn’t mind at all having to revisit a handful of songs every night, some of them more than a quarter of a century old.
“Early on maybe, for a split second, you feel sort of hamstrung,” he said. “But it’s an unusual thing for a song to connect with an audience, for something to become a person’s favorite song, for a song to become connected with a personal experience.
“There’s about five or six songs that we don’t mind playing every show,” Mohr said. “I think if somebody is going to pay to see the band, that’s a reasonable deal. I’ve got 10 or 11 songs after that where I can do whatever I want to.”
Big Head Todd and the Monsters performs November 10 at the Clyde Theatre.
Bent toward the Blues
The band has always been loosely associated with the jam band scene, even though they’ve always favored tight songwriting over unruly noodling.
Perhaps it’s because Mohr’s voice, described as “smoky” by Allmusic.com, sounds a little bit like that of Dave Matthews.
As it turns out, Mohr’s voice also lends itself to singing the blues and it is the blues (rather than noodling) that has consumed much of the latter half of the band’s career.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters sometimes records and performs blues covers under an assumed name, Big Head Blues Club.
In 1996, the band was in a studio recording a version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom Boom” when the man himself entered the room.
Hooker listened to a rhythm track and enthusiastically praised whoever the guitarist was. The guitarist on the track was Mohr, of course.
Morh said it is the best compliment he had ever received. Even with an album like Sister Sweetly under his belt, Mohr said he is proudest of the band’s blues work.
Mohr’s stage name is actually meant to evoke that of blues and jazz saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson.
Big Head Todd and the Monsters formed in 1986 at the University of Colorado. It was then, and is now, comprised primarily of three guys who’d been friends since high school: guitarist and lead vocalist Mohr, percussionist Brian Nevin, and bassist Rob Squires.
Turnover in a band that has lasted as long as Big Head Todd and the Monsters would seem to be inevitable. But the core threesome has remained unchanged.
Mohr said “dysfunction is inevitable,” but the band’s members have always had a great relationship.
“We listen to each other,” he said. “We respect each other. We rely on each other a lot. It’s been a great partnership. Fortunately, our fans have supported us and that has kept us going also.”
The music business has changed a lot since Big Head Todd and the Monsters got involved in it, but the band’s instincts have always been good, verging on prescient.
The band’s business model has always involved vigorous touring and memorable live performances. It has always involved a level of fan service that was once considered unusual and is now considered necessary. Big Head Todd and the Monsters is one of the first bands in the business to offer free downloadable music on its website.
For more than a year now, the band had offered a feature on its website called Monsters Music Monthly. It’s a new song with accompanying video every month.
“I have been enjoying doing that in lieu of albums,” Mohr said, laughing. “From a cost standpoint, (putting out albums) is very inefficient. Having gone through the last two or three albums, especially, it’s a huge loss. We found that we’ve been able to score a little bit of radio and a little bit of satellite releasing a song a month, but more importantly, we’ve connected regularly with our fan base.
“We’re still interested in being creative and releasing music,” he said. “I am still interested in writing music. But I’m not sure about albums anymore.”
Mohr said what excites him most when he thinks about the future is the chance to become a better guitarist.
And he is proud of the band’s role in society because “music contributes to a healthy culture.”
“What we do as a band is healthy for the culture,” he said. “And we all deserve no less than a healthy culture.”
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A Christmas Carol
November 24 • Honeywell Center