Robbie Russo & the Monkey Butlers Discusses Music, Shows and Some Insight!

Well crafted together band ROBBIE RUSSO AND THE MONKEY BUTLERS has put together a unique style of their own creativeness. With this, they have gone on to release an EP, and are currently in the studio working on all new music! Some shows have also been played with a whole lot else in the works as well. The band discusses all of this all below.

1. Please tell us about the history of your band and its members.

We all met at the University of Birmingham. We were all studying music. My intention, upon arriving at the university, was to form a band; quickly I sought out a two guitarists, a drummer and a bassist – looking for a Thin Lizzy-esque style. The guitarist and I had grown pretty close in that time and he took a great interest in it too. So we organized a first rehearsal and when I walked in the room was occupied with a few extra members. Saxophone, trumpet and piano. I was reluctant at first, but as soon as we started playing together we all felt a spark. Since then we haven’t stopped playing. 

Our first gig was a Christmas charity gig where we just played a few Christmas covers. Even though a small affair, it still placed us firmly on the map. Ever ready to give an overly exaggerated performance, we were not quickly forgotten and found it soon played in our favor; playing all sorts of affairs and invites. I worked the band hard throughout our time at uni. We played more gigs than any other band in our sphere, charity event, conferences, galas, balls, functions, festivals. If you want to be the best live band, there’s no better practice than diving in. We still make huge efforts to be the best live band around playing about two big gigs every month. 

Over the years the shape of the band has changed. Members have left, got better jobs, can’t commit their time – all that one would expect from the pressures of modern day life. Nevertheless, we have all remained best mates.

Our current band format goes: 

Robbie Russo – Front man/acoustic guitar 

Richard Schaeffer- lead guitarist

Altus Chan – Trumpet/Backing vocals

Jacob Plumtree-Jones – keys

Conor Sharphouse- Bass

Charlie Pollard - Drums 

2. What’s the origin of the band’s name?

It wasn’t until our second year at university that we really ramped up the band as a serious endeavour. As all university expatriates will know, first years are spent wasted (literally), wasted having fun and being rather naughty. 

So as second year came round we decided the first thing our band needed was a name. The majority of us came up in the summer to practice and start really taking things seriously; dedicating hours a day to coming-up with an interesting band name. 

One afternoon we have ourselves a deadline and came around to the thought that ‘monkeys are cool, ‘everyone loves monkeys’. And so names were thrown out their like ‘King Monkey’ and other Monkey based atrocities, until our guitarist remembered an episode of the Simpsons which featured a quick sketch about Monkey Butlers. We were sold.

That’s the one! It encapsulates our good-natured, funny, primal performances and, of course, our dedication to serve up quality music aha. 

3. Where is the band based out of and what is your music scene like there? Are there any local bands you could recommend?

After leaving university a lot of us split and went out back home but we still have a firm basis in Birmingham. Playing with many bands around there and countless gigs. Though we have had plenty of other gigs in London and elsewhere, Birmingham will always be our home. We have met plenty of other great bands around their such as The Creature Appeal, Whate, Mosaics, Melts and Red Zest. I have to say that the city is brimming with musical opportunity and, being a resident of London myself, it’s so much friendlier and easier to meet like-minded people. Yep I can say with certainty, the Midlands is where music is really cooking right now.

4. How would you describe your style?

No matter how many times we have been asked this we always struggle. We like to think our sound is uniquely our own, crafted through years of playing primarily our own material. However our influence has always been strongly old-school, with a strict composition style very much emulating those of old. So I guess you could best say our sound-world is akin to that of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Roxy Music. And yet, we encapsulate the wild performances, energy and soul of artists like Queen, Otis Redding and The Doors. There’s only one real way to find out, and that’s to come down to one of our gigs x

5. What have you released so far and what can someone expect from your works?

We released an EP a month before the pandemic which kind of put a spanner in the works. It features two songs. Well-produced, high-energy pastiches that, at the time, were out most popular live songs. They’re comedic, yet hiding elements of truth, and we really pushed ourselves in the studio to get a sound that was anything other than boring.

Our lead singer and primary songwriter, Robbie Russo, also has a load of his demos available on Spotify. One can listen to the music straight from the source before it gets to the band. Honest, personal and introspective ruminations on what it means to be a struggling artists in the 21st century.

6. Do you have any new music in the works?

We are heading into the studio again in October and plan on releasing some more of our fans favorites' tunes. We’re very excited.

7. How about playing shows and touring, have anything planned out?

We have just finished a stint of playing almost a show a week for the last couple of months or so. At the moment we are planning on taking it easy and working on our recordings to make sure our next release is going to sound as good as possible .

8. What plans do you have for the future as a band?

I don’t think people understand the real hardships artists have to endure. It’s not just a hobby. We are baring our soul because we want it to be heard. There are always so many questions and anxieties one suffers: ‘how long can I keep doing this’, ‘will this ever sustain me financially’, ‘how long before I need to bend and get what’s deemed a REAL career’, etc. 

But every time we have been blighted by these questions, the weight of them has been alleviated as soon as we start playing together. The fun we have, the sound we make together - it’s a real affirmation and it’s just keeps us believing that as long as we keep playing we’ll be happy. So I don’t ever want to see an end in sight.

9. Where can we listen to your band and where can we buy your stuff?

Best head over to Spotify, there you can find me Robbie Russo and our band’s EPs. All you’ve gotta do is search The Monkey Butlers 

10. What is it you’d like a listener to remember the most when hearing your music for the first time?

I think at the end of the day we just want to be remembered, full stop. Sure we’d like people to know us for our fun, honesty, making people smile and dance – but just to leave a lasting impression, any feeling at all, that means enough to us!

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