The Rhode Island music scene is an ever-changing beast. Honing a specific sound, inspiring an audience, and navigating the cliques are three incredibly difficult balls to juggle. If anyone has irrefutably tamed that beast, it’s Monty Are I. The Providence band climbed the ladder of the regional scene, was signed to Stolen Transmission Records (a subdivision of Island Def Jam) and eventually Island itself. They toured with the likes of Sum 41, Yellowcard, and across the country with Warped Tour on multiple occasions. But most importantly, they made music that people cared about and held onto.
However, after a decade, that journey came to an end when band member Mike Matarese decided he “was ready to move on to steady, stable adulthood, or at least steady income,” says keyboardist/trombonist Andrew Borstein. “Mike’s last show in April of 2010 ended up becoming our last show, but that’s not how we planned it or how we billed it. We never actually broke up, officially. Maybe we wanted to keep that window of possibility open. That was that. A good 10-year run.”
Die-hard fans would say that it was an amazing one. They performed legendary shows around the state. They served as a role model for other Providence-based musicians, to whom they consistently lent a helping hand. Their success was proof that good people doing hard work can get to the next level, and the next, and the next. “It’d be wonderful to think that we had an impact on the RI music scene,” says Andrew humbly. “A small legacy, even. We certainly have a lot of great memories.”
Since the break-up, a reunion had been talked about but grew more difficult as time passed. “Ryan moved to Florida and began teaching music, Justin moved to Pennsylvania to do art direction and photography, and I stayed in RI while applying to psychology undergrad programs,” Andrew explains. “When Steve moved to California and joined 30 Seconds to Mars, the prospect of a real reunion was put to rest for good.”
But on January 4, MAI returns to Providence for a performance at The Strand. Originally announced at smaller sister club The Met, the show sold out in less than 48 hours, over two months before the concert date, forcing the move to a larger venue. “We weren’t sure we’d get more than a few hundred friends and family to show up,” Andrew says. “Would people remember us? Would they still care? We have fans flying in from California, Canada, UK, and even Israel for this show! We did not expect this response at all.”
With the date fast approaching, and the band getting together behind the scenes to gear up for the big night, one has to wonder how time has changed things. “We spent every day together for 10 years with barely a day off. We lived together. We worked together. We couldn’t go to the store to buy milk without having a band vote,” Andrew reflects. “That’s one of the best side effects of this show, getting to reconnect with these guys. I mean, I think it’s fair to say we love each other.”