A little solitude did this Jersey Devil some good.
Matt Mondanile, the former guitarist for Real Estate and Ridgewood, N.J., native, said it was satisfying to move back home after four years in LA to finish “Jersey Devil,” his latest record as solo project Ducktails.
“Where I live with my mom in the suburbs of New Jersey, there’s no one around, it’s very quiet,” Mondanile told the Daily News. “There’s way less distractions. It was nice to listen to the stuff I was working on in a different environment” … his mom’s basement.
Tired of living with a bunch of roommates and working in a noisy warehouse studio space in California, he made the move and finished up the album, which officially drops Oct. 6.
Mondanile provides plenty of dreamy ’80s vibes on “Jersey Devil,” which he recorded on his own and mixed with engineer Ernie Indradat in a studio in Hoboken owned by Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley.
He credits his diverse taste in music from that formative decade — from Japanese pop composer Hiroshi Sato to Billy Joel — with shaping his vision for the record. But Mondanile took pains to keep it fresh.
Ridgewood native Matt Mondanile named the new Ducktails record “Jersey Devil”: ““I was spending so much time in New Jersey,” he said. “It really rang.”
“(I was) trying to make something sound uniquely original in its own way … still having that influence, but without it sounding too much like it’s trying to sound like something,” Mondanile said.
The musician also immersed himself in ’80s movies whenever he wasn’t actively working on the record.
“My mom bought an Amazon Firestick and said, ‘Matthew, you’ve got to hack this,’” which opened up a treasure trove of classics and B-movies from the era.
One movie, “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” based on the 1987 Tom Wolfe book and directed by Brian DePalma in 1990, struck a chord with Mondanile in particular.
“It’s very ’80s, it’s very business, sort of cosmopolitan Manhattan,” he said. “The name is a metaphor for like disposing away of everything that has to do with sin … removing yourself from your own problems.”
With a personally symbolic message like that, Mondanile considered adopting “The Bonfire of the Vanities” as his new album’s title. But he opted for the simpler “Jersey Devil.”
Mondanile performing with Real Estate in 2015. He left the band earlier this year.
(Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)
“I was spending so much time in New Jersey,” he said. “It really rang.”
Now, Mondanile is a little more than halfway through a sublease at an apartment in Berlin, where he once lived while studying abroad in college. He briefly flew back to the states for a handful of shows in the Midwest, where he performed solo and took some fans by surprise.
“Some people are like, ‘oh what a bummer,’ but then are into it anyway,” he said of playing without a band. “It’s almost more confrontational, or controversial for me to play by myself.”
Working on his own has been therapeutic for Mondanile, who left Real Estate earlier this year after he felt he wasn’t living up to his full creative potential.
“It’s way easy for me to just do anything I want and not have to do the lame stuff I would have to do with them,” he said. “Like, play a crappy jam band festival in Arizona.”
Next up for Ducktails are tour dates in Europe and Asia. He’ll be back in the states in winter, with a stop planned on Nov. 25 at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Don’t be alarmed to see just one guy up there making all the music.
“People should be more open-minded about what they see,” Mondanile said. “To challenge people’s expectations is nice.”