MUSIC

Monsterboy Lives lets off steam with new EP ‘Heavy’

Veronica Wirges and Chris Long of North Little Rock-based Monsterboy Lives will release a new ep, "Heavy," on Friday.
(Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Brian Chilson)
Veronica Wirges and Chris Long of North Little Rock-based Monsterboy Lives will release a new ep, "Heavy," on Friday. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Brian Chilson)


Singer-songwriter Chris Long finally found the sound he'd been looking for, and it just happened to be coming from the baritone saxophone played by his wife, Veronica Wirges.

For the past several years the North Little Rock-based couple, who have been married for 17 years, have performed as Monsterboy Lives, mixing Long's guitar, sampling, keyboards and soulful vocals with Wirges' sax to create songs that run the gamut from indie dance-pop to alt-blues-tinged rock.

On Friday they will release "Heavy," a four-song EP of sexy, pulsating bangers. The couple are working on the release with indie label Kinetik, which is affiliated with Universal Music Group's licensing house APM.

"Heavy" kicks off with the ominous, industrial-leaning "Dashie You Dirty Girl." The slamming "Burn Boy" is next with its techno beats, siren and furious tempo. "Zero Two" slows the pace a bit while the EP closes with the brooding title cut, an instrumental that swells and contracts and sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of a suspense-thriller.

The EP comes after Wirges and Long both had health scares related to adrenal issues.

"There was a lot of time coping with being sick, not knowing what was going on with us on top of the emotions of the pandemic," says Wirges, 44. "We'd been misdiagnosed several times and we were both told that there wasn't a solution to what we had. It was a really scary time. And then we found out there was a treatment ... there were a lot of things to process."

They were able to stay afloat financially with help from MusicCares, the nonprofit that provides health and welfare services to the music community.

During their illness, the couple were working on "clusters" of material that eventually made up the "Heavy" EP, Wirges says.

"We weren't sure we were going to release them, but that was the first thing APM picked up. And we started playing them at festivals and people just really loved them."

The couple started dating about 20 years ago. Wirges managed a band Long was in for a while, but after that fizzled out they began looking for a songwriting partner for him and traveled to Nashville, Tenn., where he made the open-mic rounds. In 2017, they won a trip to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., and Long brought along his guitar.

A writer from MTV.com spotted them in the campgrounds at the festival and referred to them as a husband-and-wife duo in her story about the Bonnaroo experience.

"We got the article and I was like, wait, I'm in the band," Wirges says.

About six months later a promoter from Texas tracked them down to perform at a show featuring female musicians that would be adjacent to the massive South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin.

Just because they weren't actually a band didn't mean that they weren't going to play.

"It was an unofficial day show at South by," Wirges says. "You don't say no to that."

They had eight weeks to prepare, and Wirges went to their attic to retrieve the baritone sax she hadn't played since high school. After taking the instrument to a shop where it was nursed back into playing shape, she began practicing.

"She played every day for six weeks until her lips bled," says the 39-year-old Long.

They figured it would be a one-time thing, but the Austin show was such a good experience that the couple decided to continue. Both compare their early days as a musical duo to dating each other all over again, and Long says that the saxophone's sound was the final component to his sound that he'd spent years seeking.

"I always had this idea that I wanted to work with a cellist," he says. "I thought that was a cool way to replace a bass player. When she started playing [baritone sax], I was like, that's the sound! I already had a place for it and ideas for it."

The pair have released a string of singles and have played local and regional shows. During the early months of the pandemic, they livestreamed shows almost nightly for a while.

They are the recipients of a Sally A. Williams grant from the Arkansas Arts Council and earlier this month each received a $10,000 Catalyze grant from the Mid-American Arts Alliance. They were among 25 Arkansas artists to receive the grants.

While Long acknowledges that the money is certainly a boon, he's just as happy about connecting with fellow grant recipients during a two-day event later this month in Little Rock.

"There will be mentors, we're going to have one-on-one sessions and we will get together with other artists. I'm really excited about that."


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