Monolith Agency hopes to help Alaska bands attract attention

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 13, 2012 

You might not have heard of the Monolith Agency, but if you go to many shows at Tap Root, Humpy's or the Blue Fox, chances are you've heard one of the bands the group has brought to Alaska.

The Anchorage-based agency got its start two years ago, formed by a couple bassists -- Marc Bourdon of Historian and Turquoise Boy, Martin Severin of Jack River Kings -- and singer-songwriter/ Whipsaws frontman Evan Phillips (who's also sat in the producer's chair for a number of local artists).

The trio set out to bring more notoriety to the indie-er side of Alaska's music scene, working as the publicist for singer-songwriter Emma Hill and indie-pop band Lavoy. The agency booked national tours for Hill and helped coordinate Lavoy's appearance last year at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. But the group has also spent much of the past two years bringing Outside bands to Alaska.

"Our original goal in 2010 was to have a national presence, but in the beginning we bit off more than we could chew and decided to draw it back a bit and focus on Alaska," Bourdon said in an email.

To that end, Monolith has been building relationships with bands and booking agencies in the Lower 48, setting up Alaska tours for a slew of mostly rustic and rootsy rock bands like Tumbledown House, The Devil Whale, Black Carl, Truckstop Darlin' and others.

In other words, Monolith has been taking risks on booking a lot of bands most Alaskans hadn't heard of.

"Let me put it this way: We have never been in the red," Bourdon said. "That doesn't mean that we are taking holidays on the fruit of our labors."

The agency is putting the spotlight back on local bands this weekend with the second annual Monolith Showcase, featuring 10 local acts across two nights of music that ranges from dance to folk to indie-rock. Friday's lineup includes Emma Hill, The Super Saturated Sugar Strings, Ghost Hands, Lavoy and Historian, while Saturday features Hawkins Wright, Young Fangs, The Sweeteners, The Modern Savage (formerly known as The Young Guns) and Alex the Lion.

As for national attention on this pocket of the Anchorage music scene: The Super Saturated Sugar Strings just wrapped a summer-long tour in Canada and the Lower 48, The Modern Savage was recently featured in the Anchorage episode of the web series "American Hipster," Lavoy frontman Tyrell Thompkins sang the national anthem before a July soccer match at Chicago's Wrigley Field, and the Boston Phoenix's annual Best New Bands in America feature named Historian the best new band in Alaska.

"We sold a bunch of albums after that and we got a couple emails from some places back East hoping that we would come out," Bourdon said, talking about the extra attention his band received after the Phoenix endorsement.

Now, after a couple years of importing bands to Alaska, Bourdon said that Monolith Agency is better poised to shoot at what the group originally aimed.

"We now feel more comfortable with the realities of trying to be a national entity," Bourdon said. "To that end, we are going to be attending a music conference that focuses on the college tour circuit, and we are currently trying to setup an Alaskan showcase at SXSW in 2013, all with the goal of helping our bands bulk up their national stature."

Monolith Agency hopes to help Alaska bands attract attention

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