Mention Banana Monkey to certain people on the Shanghai music scene and their eyes will glaze over as they drift off on a wave of nostalgia, muttering the names of long-closed venues such as Shuffle or even Bonbon. Founded in 2006, the local garage rock fourpiece were one of the brightest bands of their day, renowned for raucous performances and organising shows themed on monsters such as Frankenstein and Wolfman. But, just as it seemed Banana Monkey were at the top of their game, the band went quiet, with a self-imposed absence from the live scene lasting months.
At the tail end of 2008, they emerged once more – notably playing a New Year’s Eve show at MoCA – before again calling it quits after just a few months, reportedly following fisticuffs with another prominent local band at the old 0093 practice space. Not that the individual members disappeared from the Shanghai spotlight completely – drummer Wang Yulong became a photographer, frontman Bono set up fashion brand Where What Who, bassist Linfeng made a name for himself as an electro DJ and guitarist Misuzu founded new bands such as The Beat Bandits and The Instigation.
Late last year, the band announced that they would reform yet again, and the last few months has seen them begin gigging regularly for the first time in years. ‘As long as no one has any serious health problems, we won’t split up again,’ says Misuzu in answer to inevitable questions about Banana Monkey’s longevity this time around. ‘We’ll continue playing together for a long time now.’
Although the band’s sound was often likened to that of The Strokes, Misuzu says that part of the reason for their stuttering progress before was a divergence of tastes. ‘When we played together before, I wanted to play mod revival music, our bassist was more interested in being an electro DJ and our lead singer had different artistic and traditional rock ideas. These differences effectively caused us to split up, but now these problems no longer seem like problems. In fact, we see this variety as a strength now. There’s a completely new feeling to the band.’
Banana Monkey are now working on new material and Misuzu says they’d like to finally release a CD this year. If the band’s history is anything to go by however, fans shouldn’t hold their breath. After all, even if they do stay together, Misuzu warns that ‘it might not happen – in 2012, we’ll also be waiting for the world to end.’