Limelight: Mondo Drag Embrace Their Inner Pink Floyd

Mondo Drag black and white group shot

It’s been a long, strange trip, but Mondo Drag have finally found some stability. This comes mainly after moving from their native Iowa to California two years ago.

“In 2011, we toured around in an RV Camper Van, but it was such a terrible experience that we lost our rhythm section,” says keyboard player and vocalist John Gamino. “Both Johnnie Cluney [drums] and Dennis Hockaday [bass] left, and because Johnnie was also our vocalist, we had to look for a new singer as well! I’d never sung in a band before, but for some insane reason I volunteered to take over from Johnnie. At first it was terrifying, although now I’ve settled into the role.

“Johnnie and guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard put Mondo Drag together a decade ago,” Gamino continues. “At the time I played guitar, but knew the guys. When they told me the band needed a keyboard player, I agreed to take on the role, as well as playing saxophone. I became a fully fledged member in 2009, in time to appear on the debut album.”

Released in 2010, the first album was called New Rituals. It immediately cemented Mondo Drag’s musical style, combining space rock, psychedelia and a sense of flamboyance.

Every great prog band has influenced what we do, but it’s really Floyd who’ve been the cornerstone of our sound.

“Over the years, we haven’t really changed what we do. From the beginning our biggest inspiration has always been Pink Floyd. I could name almost every great prog band as influencing what we do to some extent, but it’s really Floyd who’ve been the cornerstone of our sound.”

A year after New Rituals was put out, Mondo Drag recorded their self-titled second album. But this is where the story takes another twist.

“We didn’t actually get to issue this until last year,” explains Gamino. “That’s because we didn’t want to release it without having a line-up in place to tour. Andrew O’Neil [bass] and Ventura Garcia [drums] didn’t join the band until the summer of 2013. We had to leave Iowa to find them, because there was nobody in the area who fitted the bill. That’s why we ended up in California.

“By the time we had Mondo Drag back on track, the album was so old we wanted to record a new one as soon as possible. Which is why it seems as if there’s been no time at all between that second album and our new one, The Occultation Of Light.”

Now the five-piece are determined to spread their wares internationally, beginning with a European tour that’s been locked in for April.

“Audiences over there will appreciate that our style is based around the Hammond organ. But even that’s by accident – I used to work as a sales rep for the company that sold the instrument in the States. As I was always around the Hammond I began to play it… Sometimes it does seem like everything about this band is serendipity!”

PROG FILE

line-up
John Gamino, (vocals/keyboards), Nolan Girard, (guitar/synthesiser), Jake Sheley (guitar), Andrew O’Neil (bass), Ventura Garcia (drums)

sounds like
Meddle-era Floyd on a space rock trip

current release
The Occultation Of Light is out now on RidingEasy Records

Check out Mondo Drag’s website for more.