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Monty Are I — from Cranston to Island/Def Jam
By CHRIS CONTI  |  October 7, 2009

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Keep the Cristal on ice until further notice from Steve Aiello, lead singer/guitarist for Monty Are I, who just released their "official" major label debut, Break Through the Silence on Island/Def Jam. The Cranston quintet hit the ground running this weekend with a big CD release throwdown at Lupo's before embarking on a tour through the new year. The promotional machine has been cranking since '07 when Island/Def jam subsidiary Stolen Transmission folded following the release of MAI's full-length debut Wall of People. IDJ had the option of dropping the band but instead upgraded the Warped Tour vets to the major leagues ? signing the papers at the Blue Moon, a hole-in-the-wall bar in Knightsville. Hearing Aiello proclaim "we were happy to learn [label chief] L.A. Reid had faith in us" is clearly light years away from jamming away in Art "Monty" Montanaro's classroom at Cranston West.

Childhood friends Aiello, Andrew Borstein (trombone/keys), Ryan Muir (trumpet), Justin Muir (drums), and bassist Mike Matarese stay the course and ratchet things up on Break Through the Silence, with production help from Matt Squire (Panic! At the Disco) and Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), and that arena-rock guiding hand comes through from the opening title track to the uptempo finale "Convoy of Angels." "Sand Riders Doomsday" and foot-stomper "Kaleidoscope" veer from the hyperkinetic script, along with the decidedly Middle Eastern vibe on "Mirage." There may be a new-car shine on the big sound but, bells and whistles aside, MAI sound more together than ever (drummer Muir is a beast throughout).

Aiello filled me in on all things MAI.

ARE YOU EXPERIENCING THAT "WHIRLWIND" MOMENT? We are definitely feeling the "whirlwind" thing. The record just came out last week, but our work is far from done. It's a whirlwind every day because we are on the phone discussing a new music video or prepping the tour -- the list goes on and on.

HOW DO YOU GET READY FOR SUCH AN EXHAUSTIVE CROSS-COUNTRY TRIP? At this point, it's like clockwork when we prepare for a tour. We rehearse relentlessly and go over everything from merchandise orders and van repairs to saying goodbye to our grandmothers. We have been touring heavily for over five years, so we're accustomed to the cross-country drives. When we're home we want to be back on the road, and sometimes when we're on the road too long, we want to come back to Federal Hill and pick up a nice "sangwich" from Venda.

WAS/IS THERE THE FEAR THAT YOU MAY NOW LOSE ANY TYPE OF CREATIVE CONTROL? We never felt like we would lose any creative control. We were encouraged to explore our musical palette. I mean, we got an entire string section, an English horn, and a tuba all on our record. The label supported us 100 percent.

OVERWHELMING OR NERVE-RACKING AT ALL WHILE RECORDING YOUR "OFFICIAL" MAJOR LABEL RELEASE? Well, I am the type of person to always put pressure on both myself and the band in the studio. The recording process was intense and literally kept me awake at night.

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