From Woodstock to Springsteen: Spain’s Stormy Mondays and the American Dream

Written by Music

Despite hailing from Spain, Stormy Mondays have completed some ultra-American milestones: sharing a mic with Bruce Springsteen (in New Jersey, no less), playing at one incarnation of the Woodstock festival, jamming with Slash, and having a song blasted off into space — quite literally. (Okay, so maybe having your song played on a space shuttle isn’t wholly American, but somewhere in there is the American dream, right?)

Now, they’re unleashing a double EP onto wanton ears all over the world. Wading the River and The Lay of the Land contain the kind of Americana/rock/pop hybrid that’s kept music flowing for decades. We wanted to know more about how the band’s impressive list of accomplishments, and how they generated their can’t-miss sound, so we went to the source: Stormy Mondays themselves.

Your sound is similar to current hit makers like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, but definitely all your own. What artists inspire you?
We like to be a part of the rock and roll tradition. I think it’s our duty to know and respect rock and roll’s rich heritage, and from that foundation, try to find and create our own sound. We find our inspiration in classic artists from both sides of the Atlantic, like the Who, the Beatles, Neil Young, the Band, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, or the Waterboys. We also feel in tune with bands such as the Jayhawks, Counting Crows, Avett Brothers, or Dawes.

When did you decide you wanted to pursue music? Was it a divine decree, or was there a turning point?
There was a definite turning point very early in our career. Picture this: we were a bunch of 17 year olds, playing outdoors in a dingy stage, during the annual festivities of our hometown in Oviedo, Spain. I was halfway through the “Purple Rain” guitar solo when people started to scream madly. I thought, “Well, I’m pretty good but not that good! Something else must be going on.”

I turned around, and there’s this very tall guy with long curly hear covering half of his face, black leather jacket, black jeans, and a top hat. It’s Slash!! It’s 1992, Slash is the world’s most famous guitar player. And he’s asking to borrow a guitar to play with us! That random strike of musical lightning made me fully commit to pursuing my musical dreams.

Unbelievable! And you guys played Woodstock ’99. What was that like, and how did you get the gig?
It was the best road trip ever! We were the only Spanish band to ever play Woodstock festival. We got the gig thanks to the internet. In ’99, our music was on all the MP3 websites that were showcasing music from independent artists, as well as that from the very few heavyweights that saw the opportunity that the internet presented.

The now-defunct website amp3.com was selecting bands to play the Emerging Artists Stage. We had a #1 spot on one of the charts, and we got the gig! Imagine, we only had one record, which was hardly in stores outside our region in Spain, and we were chosen to play the biggest festival ever. It’s a shame it ended up in riots, fire, and destruction.

Recently, you won NASA’s Space Rock contest, and had your song, “Sunrise Number 1” played aboard Endeavor. Did you write the song specifically for the contest? (With a title like that, you’d almost have to, right?)
Yes, the song lyrics needed to be space themed. For a long time, I had been following the Twitter accounts of the Space Station astronauts, admiring the breathtaking pictures of the Earth from above. Then, I learned of the contest, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

The song was going to be played for their wake-up call, the last day of the Endeavor mission. I didn’t want to write a cliched song talking about “light years,” galaxies, and so on. I wanted something real that the astronauts up there could relate to. I started with the idea that when you’re orbiting Earth in the Space Station, there are 16 sunrises every day. Hence, “Sunrise Number 1.” Now, for the music, we had a very recent song, “Weatherman,” that started with the words, “Time to wake up” and was a perfect fit, including some of the lyrics, so we rewrote it for the contest.

How does it feel to think of your music being played in space?
It’s amazing. We have the NASA video showing the mission control room, our song playing, and the conversation with the astronauts. When I watch it now, I still want to jump with joy!

What’s next for Stormy Mondays? Any plans to tour the US in the near future? We’d love to see you live!
We’re dying to return to the US! One of the last times I played there (at the Light Of Day benefit for Parkinson’s Disease in New Jersey) I found myself sharing the mic with Bruce Springsteen, so I have fond memories!

We are working on a new EP and looking forward to some folk/rock festival gigs this summer. Maybe we’ll be lucky and cross the Atlantic again!

Find out more about Stormy Mondays on their official website.