ARTICLE BY: NICK GUMAS
PHOTOS BY: TATIANA MICHAELIS
Colma based musician Raul Castillo and his current flagship project The Space Monkees have been frequenting local Bay Area venues for the last few years, and accumulating a very loyal fan base along the way. Recently performing at the DNA Lounge on February 19th, I was able to meet with the band watch what they felt was their best show to date.
Frontman and founding member Raul Castillo has had a lifetime of musical experience. Starting his love for music in childhood, he has devoted himself in every way to his passion, and truly lives to perform. In developing his style, Raul has collaborated with musicians specializing in every category from Reggae to Opera, and has taken something from everyone he has worked with along the way.
The Space Monkees have gone through many transformations since they first got together in 2014. Frequently bringing in new artists to work with them on various projects, The Space Monkees are always eager to find new musicians to collaborate with, and encourage anyone who believes they have something to contribute to their unique blend of Punk Rock and Grunge to reach out to them.
Before their show, I sat down with The Space Monkees to talk with them about their history and style, seeing first hand what kind of dedication they have to their music.
How did you come up with your name?
The band explained that they were all big fans of the movie Fight Club, and that in one of all of their favorite scenes in the movie, the character Tyler Durden referred to his followers as “Space Monkeys”, and they chose the name as an allusion to that movie and what it meant to them.
Why did you decide to misspell the name?
“Legal reasons” Raul said half jokingly, and explained that another band had already taken the correct spelling of the name, but still determined to call themselves The Space Monkeys, they decided to change the “Y” to an“E” in an unorthodox attempt to avoid confusion, and to make it easier for fans to find their music online.
Why did you decide to start The Space Monkees?
Having played in a reggae fusion band for years, Raul, feeling he was no longer inspired by his music, made the decision to quit the group and allow himself and the band go their separate ways. After making his decision to leave, Raul decided to take a year off from performing to decide if he wanted to continue to pursue music in that capacity, and after enough time had passed, he felt it was time for him to start a new band. “I realized I wasn’t tired of doing music, I was tired of playing that kind of music. I was tired of being stuck in a genre, reggae is a very easy genre to get stuck doing.”
Raul then started to get his band together. Having taught private guitar lessons for some time, he had a large pool of people to ask to come on board with him and his new project. The rest of the band joked that he was so anxious to start this band, that sometimes it looked as if Raul was trying to recruit everyone he taught.
How would you describe your music?
The group told me they liked to think of their music as “The lovechild of Nirvana and Blink 182”, a description I was not fully able to appreciate until I heard them play live for the first time. Many of their songs have an upbeat and Punk Rock inspired flow, but still presents an element of Grunge.
What is your most popular song?
Way Too Soon: This song is a perfect example of how The Space Monkees draw inspiration from both Nirvana and Blink 182. Way Too Soon blends the type of melody that come with Punk Rock, and shows elements of a Grunge inspired vocal style. They consider it a cornerstone of every show’s Set List.
What song are you most proud of?
Cringe: When they first wrote Cringe, they thought it was “a stereotypical emo song” with “no real substance”, but over time it grew into a song they are very proud of. They described their first draft of Cringe as “very slow and a little uninteresting”, but through countless tweaks and rewrites, they have made it upbeat, memorable, and as they put it, a “Real song”. They change something about this song almost every time they play it to an audience, and see it as living proof that they are always evolving as artists.
What is a question nobody ever asks you?
“Nobody ever asks me what I hate about the band.” Raul exclaimed, there was no need for him to think hard to answer this question. “I hate promotion!” Understandably, promotion can be the hardest part of running a band. With the amount of effort that needs to be put into constantly advertising the band, booking venues, and dealing with bureaucracy, it can be a thankless job filled with rejection and frustration that Raul says takes away from time he would rather spend working on the music he has grown so passionate for.
Raul and The Space Monkees continue to look for musicians, and are constantly holding auditions for local artist who share their same drive. As always, Raul is working on new music while staying true to artistic integrity and remembering to never take life too seriously. Frequenting local showcases, and learning whenever they have the opportunity, the members of The Space Monkees strive to dedicate themselves to their music, never compromising on their level of dedication.
Way Too Soon
Breed (Nirvana Cover)
Special thanks to photographer Tatiana Michaelis, who’s online portfolio can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tatiannamichaelis