Queen of Monroe ditches old moniker and set list of covers to focus on new material

Queen of Monroe
CD Release of “Blood, Batteries, and Turntables”
Saturday, January 16
Opolis, 113 N. Crawford, Norman
$5 or Free Entry with $10 CD purchase

Stowing a lengthy set list of covers is an unnerving move for a band wanting to transition its fan base to all-original shows. But the members behind Queen of Monroe decided that with the release of their second album, “Blood, Batteries, and Turntables,” it was time to win followers solely on the strength of their own songs.

“We’ve been busting our asses for the last two years writing new songs and putting everything we had into them,” said guitarist Scott Sunderman. “We built a decent fan base playing half covers and half originals, but we are working toward being artists, and that is really the concept of the new album: being an artist collectively.”

The group’s keyboardist and creative leader, Ricardo Sasaki, made a name with the Bolivian rock band Octavia, but has become a behind-the-scenes staple of the metro music circuit with a hand in shows from the Zoo Amphitheatre to the Norman Music Festival. Queen recorded the new album at Sasaki’s studio, Ares, which shares a wall with the Opolis in Norman.

Unlike the previous “Circles,” Sasaki said his fellow musicians were more comfortable making this album more of a collaboration, rather than just handing him the reins.

“The first album was more polished, and when we recorded it, we’d only been together for six months,” he said. “There wasn’t that chemistry from having played together, but with this album, you can tell the chemistry came together.”

The act previously had gone by the name Citizen 5, which had been a reference to the members’ multicultural backgrounds, but Sunderman said recent stylistic changes were enough to merit a new moniker.

“Plus, there are now only four of us, and Citizen 5 didn’t really work anymore,” he said.
The original bassist, Jason Long, left to take a job in Texas, according to the group’s MySpace page.

There are audible differences between “Circles” and “Turntables.” The new sound retains the production sheen and pop-rock tendencies, but with noticeable progressions in quirkier tracks such as “I’m a Pinwheel and I’m Spinning” and “Doll Pet.”

Queen of Monroe debuts the disc with a Saturday show at the Opolis.

“Having our own studio meant we weren’t restricted by time. We gave ourselves nine months to record it,” Sasaki said. “Now we are working on improving the live show so we can improve people, but play a little less often. There are fewer places that allow you to (play) just original stuff, but it’s what every member of the band wants to do.”

Sunderman admitted that although their tenure as a cover band is over, he knows that the time spent rehashing rock standards in metro bars was a major contributor in forging their chemistry.
“Plus,” he said, “playing those covers paid for the new album.”

Charles Martin

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