Five years ago, singer Greg Vanderpool (second from left, below) and guitarist Roberto Sanchez morphed their Austin band Milton Mapes into Monahans, named after the West Texas desert oasis. In March 2010 the quartet—fronted by the 38-year-old Vanderpool and rounded out by Mapes veteran Britton Beisenherz on various instruments and former Spoon bassist Joshua Zarbo—began releasing a new song per month online, a handful of which are still available for free download at monahans.net. The final song in the series, “Seabirds,” features vocals by Sinead O’Connor.
Both you and Roberto came out of Dallas’s Deep Ellum scene.
Roberto and I were next-door neighbors. We played around Deep Ellum starting from the time I was in high school. We moved from Dallas to Nashville in 1999 to start Milton Mapes. Then we decided to reconvene in Austin.
What prompted the name change to Monahans?
We felt Milton Mapes was played out. We had gone through a lot of players and had been categorized in that alt-country realm, but it wasn’t something that we were really into. I never thought that the goal was to ride that sort of wave of music. So we took a break and wiped the slate clean just to see what would happen. We decided to change the name so there wouldn’t be any preconceived notions.
For much of the past year you’ve been recording and releasing a song a month online for free. Why?
Two of us were expecting children, and we weren’t sure what we would realistically be able to do in 2010. When you’re touring on the level that we’ve been, you’re lucky if you break even, so we didn’t figure we had anything to lose. We wanted to get our music out there and stay productive. Doing it this way also let people into the creative