When I first moved here to the beach, not quite two years ago, I see the name Monkee Paw on a venue marque. I think to myself - Monkee Paw? What the heck kind of name is that? So for the next fifteen minutes, the name keeps going through my head. Monkee Paw, Monkee Paw. The next time I see the name, the same thing happens. After spending 35 years in new homes sales and marketing for large national home builders, I begin to realize, these guys are either genius marketers, or they’re just really lucky to come up with such a catchy name. Inasmuch as luck is always good to have on your side, these guys leave very little to luck. They’re on their game, with skill, and an undying work ethic.
So, last year, Mary and I were looking to get some work done on the house. I’m upstairs in my studio practicing my guitar and vocals, loud, as usual. The doorbell is ringing and ringing, which I did not hear. I finally finish a song and answer the door. The guy says his name is Adam. I invite him in and he says he is in a band. I said, “oh, whats the name of your band?” He says, “Monkee Paw.”
Monkee Paw. Three of the greatest guys you could ever talk to make up this highly talented tro with Adam Ask on drums and guitar, Mike Givens on guitar and drums and Rick Smith on bass guitar and keyboards.
You guys are versatile musicians. How do you take advantage of all that talent on stage?
I’ll be playing drums and Mike will be on guitar. All of a sudden we decide to changes things up and he and I will trade positions. That always seems to capture the audience’s attention. Rick is our bass player but, he has become more of our keyboard player recently, and he plays bass with his feet. I’ll let Rick explain how he does that. We work very hard to sound as big and diverse as we can.
Are you guys all local to the area?
My grandparents moved out here from Monterey, Calif., and so my parents thought they would head this way, too, around the time I was 6. So I pretty much grew up here.
Rick Smith: Been here all my life.
Mike Givens: Me too.
How did you get started in music?
My grandmother got me started playing piano when I was four. At the end of 2006, I bought my first set of drums. Two months later, I was working at a restaurant in Bethany Beach and Aaron Howell was playing. I went over and asked him if he needed a percussionist. He said sure, come on out and see what happens. I got the gig and wound up playing with Aaron for over a year. Shortly thereafter, we were hosting an Open Mic in the same area where I was working and my friend Mike Givens would come out and we’d jam together. Everyone was telling Mike and me that we should get something started. HIs band broke up around that time and we went out and got some gigs.
I started when I was around 9. My friend, same age, was playing guitar and taking lessons. I went to college out in Monterey, California, when I was 19 and they had this class called Rock Ensemble Workshop. That was a really cool experience. I came back to the beach and picked up the bass guitar. I was in a band we called The Trend. We had some pretty decent bookings for just getting started. We played the Salisbury Civic Center the same day that Hurricane Gloria passed through Ocean City.
Both of my parents were really big music fans. My mom told me that my dad would put music up against my mom’s stomach all the time before I was born. My grandmother introduced me to the piano when I was a year old and started taking piano lessons at a very young age. I was always infatuated with all kinds of music. I actually believed that’s what I was here for. I started playing drums in the 4th grade and stuck with that for years. I started in my first band in middle school, called Substance. I got called in one day because the drummer got sick. I started playing guitar shortly after that, and I switched all of my time and energy into guitar. Right after that, the singer quit. One day, I was asked to sing. I never believed I would ever be making a living as a singer. All thorough high school, with Substance, we were playing Rusty Rudder, arenas and stuff like that. It was really cool because we would come to school the next day with all these great stories.
Mike, you mentioned that Monkee Paw tends to harmonize well together. How did you arrive in a place where you guys can get your voices right in that sweet spot?
Back in 2007 or so, I would go out to a Thursday night open mic in South Bethany that a lot of the local musicians came out and participated in. It became the social and musical thing to do, at the time. Actually I miss that. However, I was really drawn to Van Halen and Metallica growing up but, I wasn’t playing that music. So I see Adam up there and he is playing this music and I loved it and he had just started playing. Each week I’m watching this guy get better and better. So that’s when we decided to to do something together as a duo. We wanted to put together a song list that would go over well in just about any venue and we worked at it pretty hard. It was me on acoustic guitar and Adam on the Djembe. So here he was playing all this shredding metal music and now we’re harmonizing like the Eagles, etc. So we’re out playing shows and building our name gradually. That’s how the harmonies came about. We worked on it over and over. I’d listen to the songs at home and start singing the harmony parts. Now we only have to sing a song 3 or 4 times before we know exactly where we want to be in each song. I don’t take what Adam and I have vocally for granted at all. That is what we saw people noticing the most about us at the time. We would hit those vocals spot on, and you could see people just stop and watch. That’s when we knew we had to focus even more on our harmonies.
Where does the name Monkee Paw come from?
After our first gig, Mike and I went out and celebrated extensively. The next day I wake up and realized we named our band Monkee Paw.
We wanted a name for a while. We were looking for a name that was memorable and would leave an impact on people as soon as they heard it. Like Adam said, we were out partying and that name got thrown around a lot. We decided that next day that we had found our name. We think we are fortunate that we achieved what we were looking for.
Wrap-up: Once again we find ourselves with far too much information to fit everything on one page. More focus on Rick Smith next week. Please check back for Part 2 of the extremely talented MONKEE PAW!
Also, for those of you who are in and out of town and don’t get a chance to pick up a hard copy of The Coconut Times every week, all back interviews for Meet The Band are online at www.coconuttimes.com. Click on meet the band, archives.
RandyJamz is the frontman for The RandyJamz Band and half of the duo with, The Baltimore Boyz, featuring Jay Vizzini. Available for gigs of all types as a solo, duo, and full band act. If you would like to be interviewed for a Meet The Band article, contact him at: email@example.com