It’s the quirkiest song on Monkey House’s new album, “Friday,” and the genre-blurring band pulled out a big gun to tell the story visually. The Academy Award-winning producer of “The Shape of Water,” J. Miles Dale, a huge Monkey House fan, directed the idiosyncratic “Shotgun” video.
“(Dale directing) is one of those wonderful things that falls into your lap. His fanship is genuine. He recently came to our debut live gig. Before we went on stage, he said to me, ‘If you forget the lyrics, look over at me. I’ll be singing right along,’” recalled Breithaupt, who produced the last two Monkey House albums with Cardinali.
The video was lensed in Toronto at Pinewood Studios, a world-class facility. “Miles called in his A team – lighting, cinematography, wardrobe, makeup, gaffers, etc. – that happened to be available. It was a massive crew. We had no idea the scale of what Miles was putting together until we showed up on the set. Initially, we thought the crew was there for a different shoot. Then we realized this big production was for us. That was kind of cool. But even then, the magic of what Miles captured on film is the spirit and energy of the song, which is pretty self-evident,” said Breithaupt.
Dale said, “The way this came together was fated. Unbeknownst to anyone, I was pretty much the #1 Monkey House fan out there. When I realized my old friend, Peter Cardinali, was producing their records, I asked to come into the studio to hang, listen, and meet Don (Breithaupt) and the band. When Peter told me he wanted to do a video for ‘Shotgun,’ I volunteered on the spot. Would not have missed the chance!”
Monkey House’s fifth album, “Friday” debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes chart in Canada, Norway and several other territories, No. 4 in the United States and No. 5 on the pop charts in Germany when it dropped on July 26. The album also entered the Billboard chart at No. 11.
With Breithaupt handling piano, keyboards, organ, and lead and backing vocals, the core band that has been together for 25 years consists of guitarist Justin Abedin, drummer and percussionist Mark Kelso and bassist Pat Kilbride. Supplementing the sound is a horn section consisting of trumpeters William Sperandei and Tony Carlucci, alto saxophonist Vern Dorge, tenor saxophonist John Johnson and trombonist William Carn; along with percussionist Art Avalos and background vocalist Lucy Woodward.
“We opted to use a small horn section on this album because I wanted it to feel more like a jazz gig, something more spare,” said Breithaupt. “After playing together for 25 years, now that I know my core band members so well, I can write things specific for each player. For instance, take the bassline on ‘10,000 Hours.’ Picturing Pat, I knew he’d be amazing on it. I tend to be very specific like that when I write. I then live with the bass, drum, guitar and keyboard tracks for a while before doing vocals and adding horns and percussion.”
Among the noteworthy guests on “Friday” is legendary Grammy winners Manhattan Transfer who ply their trademark voices to illumine “The Jazz Life.” Snarky Puppy guitarist Mark Lettieri shreds in the solo spotlight on the album opener, “10,000 Hours.” Drew Zingg (Boz Scaggs) delivers a timely guitar solo on “Nine O’clock Friday.” Michael Leonhart (Steely Dan) is featured blowing a regal muted trumpet throughout the amorous ode to New York City, adding warmth to “Island Off The Coast Of America.”