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100 Monkeys – No Monkeying Around

The band poses for a picture. Left to right: Jerad Anderson, Jackson Rathbone, Larry Abrams, Ben Johnson, and Ben Graupner.The hundredth monkey effect. Once a certain portion of a population has been reached, an idea or ability spreads to the rest of the population instantaneously. 100 Monkeys has reached the hundredth monkey. The five-man band is gaining widespread popularity—not only in California, their home base, but also throughout the entire country.

For a band that started less than two years ago, 100 Monkeys has received unprecedented attention and accolades. This year alone, it has been picked by Rolling Stone as one of the five breakout bands to watch and featured on Last FM, Vamp Radio Online, Portrait Magazine, and MTV. The band has also just finished composing the score for Girlfriend, an Indie film planned for release later this year. WhatHigh school buddies and band mates Ben Johnson and Ben Graupner, from left to right. is the key to the band’s success?

As it turns out, it’s a combination of things. Talent. Twelve-hour rehearsals every day for months. And companionship—a kind of closeness that allows 100 Monkeys to spend all that time together without driving each other crazy.

“We’re a tight knit group,†says Ben Johnson, one of the vocalists of the group, “We consider each other family.†He and Ben Graupner, both of whom I met with for an interview, have known each other since boarding high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. The band does everything together—from driving from city to city in their crazy, monkey-and-banana-decorated van to having Nerf gun wars in gas station parking lots.

This familiarity aids 100 Monkeys in its muLeft to right: Ben Graupner, Ben Johnson, banana, Jerad Anderson, and Jackson Rathbone.sic as well. At every concert, the band performs an improvised number. And where do the musicians get the idea for the song? Why, from their audience of course! The audience shouts out topics for the band to pick from, and then and there, the band creates music and lyrics that correspond with the chosen theme. A feat such as this requires a band to be intensely tuned in to and comfortable with each other’s sound, style, capabilities, and limitations. 100 Monkeys has achieved this. “Little Black Book,†one of the band’s favorite improv numbers from a concert at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington D.C., is even on the band’s latest live album, which is aptly titled Live and Kickin Part One.

As you might guess, 100 Monkeys is an extremely fan-friendly set. It is known for its unpresumptuous attitude and accessibility to fans. Currently, the band is on a 100 Cities Tour; the hot spots picked (of course) by their loyal fans. In California alone, the band will be performing a total of 24 concerts this summer. Other destinations include Memphis, Tennessee; Richmond, Virginia; Dallas, Texas; Orlando, Florida; and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The band is overflowing with creativity, freshness and energy. Members Jerad Anderson, Larry Abrams (a.k.a. Uncle), Jackson Rathbone, Ben Graupner, and Ben Johnson can all play a variety of instruments—and in any given concert they do, swapping instruments and vocalists in an idea they’ve named the “Monkey Switcheroo.†They also compose and write their songs, which abound with humor, satire, and thought-provoking messages.

The only songs on their albums that aren’t original are written by Spencer Bell, a close friend and band member of The Stevedores (of which Ben Johnson used to be a part) who passed away in 2006 at the age of 20. 100 Monkeys participates in Spencer Bell Legacy Concerts, along with other bands including The Stevedores, which raise money for adrenal cancer research.

There’s nothing quite like experiencing the 100 Monkeys perform, live and kicking. The band members love what they do, and it shows. “When you’re doing something you really love,†says Ben Graupner, “no matter what, the reward is amazing.†For concert dates and locations, check out the official website: 100monkeysmusic.com.

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