Name: Ship of Fools
Members: Raudol Palacios (cello), Michael Blount (guitar), Ashley Monaghan (vocals), Eric Brown (percussion)
From: Baton Rouge
Contact: webpage / facebook / instagram / soundcloud / youtube
Ship of Fools is Baton Rouge native Michael Blount, 23, on guitar and LSU students Raudol Palacios, 21, on cello, Ashley Monaghan, 19, on vocals and Eric Brown, 21, on percussion. Blount cut his teeth on Bob Dylan, Doc Watson and Chet Atkins, developing his skills on acoustic guitar by implementing a fingerpicking technique revolving around alternating bass notes played simultaneously on top of a melody line. Cuban-born Palacios grew up in Venezuela where he started playing the cello at age 8, eventually becoming part of El Sistema in addition to studying at the Mozarteum School of Music where he trained under cellist German Marcano. At age seventeen, he traveled to Switzerland, where he continued his study of classical music at the Conservatoire Cantonal de Sion and Haute Ecole du Musique de Laussane, and developed both his technique on cello and his knowledge of jazz. In the spring of 2013, he moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where he began his studies under cellist Dennis Parker at the LSU school of music. Drummer Eric Brown studied under New Orleans icon Johnny Vidacovich, and vocalist Ashley Monaghan is praised by 225 Baton Rouge for her “poised, pucker-lipped voice, at times a vulnerable flutter or a boom, [which] contributes to that unique sound—a blend of brooding, film noir romantic pop.”
The band took shape around a few serendipitous exchanges at Highland Coffee. Before long, their layered and celebratory baroque pop sound began taking shape, eventually creating what LSU Reveille describes as an “ongoing conversation between the musicians: as the cello pleads, the guitar responds. Monaghan’s vocals provide a soaring English translation of the unfurling musical saga, and Brown’s percussion compels you to pay damn attention.”
Ship of Fools’ unique style is built on interesting arrangements and unconventional uses of their instruments, with Palacios’ cello taking a central role, ripping through leads and engaging in skillful interplay with Blount’s fingerpicked guitar and Monaghan’s controlled vocal stylings. The band first focused on creating a stellar live experience, making every performance a treat, whether playing at Waka Winter Classic, the TEDxLSU after party or at the runway for Southern Design Week: Autumn 2015 (Monaghan is immersed in design and fashion too, with KLSUs’ DJ Strangelove referring to her as “best dressed on campus” during their 2015 interview).
Ship of Fools has captured their first studio recording after months of honing and perfecting their constantly-evolving live show, and are preparing to release their first single, “Handle Myself,” produced by Matthew Schwartz (Pacifico) at Cedar Park Recording in Baton Rouge. “Handle Myself” is one of the band’s earliest compositions and is representative of their compelling style, combining folk and classical touchstones, soulful r&b-infused vocals, rock drums, pop song structures, fingerpicking guitar and shredding cello, all beautifully and tastefully presented.
As Blount says:
“Handle Myself” was the 3rd song we wrote and really the first song that we wrote as a band or collective effort. Raudol approached me with an idea for the intro and over the next few writing sessions we had it completed. It was this song that made us come to the realization that we had something special as a band. This song has been our closer for almost every show we have played and it is very special to us.
”Handle Myself” has just been given the music video treatment, premiering on Songwriting Magazine. Ashley Monaghan, Ship of Fools’ lead singer and the “Handle Myself” music video producer, had been involved in theatre in New Orleans for 10 years before attending Louisiana State University. Dancing was always a major passion for her, so she sought out Sandra Parks, head of the dance department at LSU, to choreograph dance segments for the video. Monaghan also approached The Walls Project Art & Design Center about capturing the “Handle Myself” music video in their space, and the entire video team was comprised of LSU students.
Monaghan says about the music video production:
The Walls Project is an amazing creative force in Baton Rouge and have continuously supported and encouraged Ship of Fools as we’ve grown. The Walls Project Art & Design Center space is open and beautiful with floor to ceiling windows covering two full walls, which Rob Chidester masterfully masked with his vast array of curtains, set pieces, props and more. The video was a complete community effort—there were so many different aspects to attend to and so many different organizations lending a hand.
To describe Ship of Fools as a rising star astronomically misses the point. They’re somewhat of a Halley’s Comet…This sea-worthy ship has a sound that is simultaneously high-energy, theatrical, baroque, celebratory, folksy, and jazzy. This stuff’s got layers on layers. Their work clearly engages each of the artists’ very different musical backgrounds and aesthetics: Palacios’ classical training, Blount’s folksy fingerpicking, Monaghan’s put-the-power-in-power-pop, and Brown’s jazz background. One of the most remarkable elements not only of their musical compositions but also of their stage performance is the sensation of an ongoing conversation between the musicians: as the cello pleads, the guitar responds. Monaghan’s vocals provide a soaring English translation of the unfurling musical saga, and Brown’s percussion compels you to pay damn attention. – LSU Reveille
These pop rockers bring a young, creative energy to their cello-heavy tunes…If acoustic band Ship of Fools is about anything, it is about breaking stereotypes…“You don’t have to have strings that only sound like beautiful lines of melody,” singer Ashley Monaghan, 19, says. “He can shred that thing.”… Palacios, 21, says. “I try to put the cello in a challenging place. I play it as a lead instrument.” Palacios’ lines flow like sharp currents, swiveling the band’s intricate arrangements through a race of alternating rhythms and rolls in tandem with 21-year-old drummer Eric Brown, a jazz-studied disciple of New Orleans icon Johnny Vidacovich. It’s these dramatic shifts that give the music an uplifting, whimsical feel as if it were the soundtrack for the leaping, bounding theatrics of a stage play….Singer Monaghan’s poised, pucker-lipped voice, at times a vulnerable flutter or a boom, contributes to that unique sound—a blend of brooding, film noir romantic pop. The group’s irreverent approach to music doesn’t stop at curious time signatures. This experimentation is often woven into sly melodies or allegorical lyrics. – 225 Baton Rouge, Rising Stars feature