The EMP's 2004 Sound Off! competition wrapped up last weekend, and the winning slots were all close calls. In the end, though, the final score placed Idiot Pilot in third, the Lonely H second, and Mon Frere as the winning band.

The impressive part of Mon Frere's story isn't so much the band members' young ages (18, 19, and 20), because all the bands in the contest were under 21 (the Lonely H's average age is about 15). The shocker is the fact that Mon Frere, the trio from Mountlake Terrace, have only been a band for about four months and they've only played seven shows. So of course they were reeling when they found out that not only had they made it through the semifinals and finals, but they took first place.

As Nouela Johnston, the cute lead singer/keyboardist with an infectious smile, said post-victory, "We knew that we had a sound that would be considered different, but we had yet to discover if that was an advantage or not."

Looks like it was an advantage. With Johnston on keyboards, Kyle Swisher on guitar, and David Haasl on drums, Mon Frere sass up an energetic indie rock aesthetic with catchy beats and dance rhythms, topped off with some pretty powerful female vocals. It's easy to see their influences (Pretty Girls Make Graves, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the Red Light Sting), but they've already taken the right steps to carve a unique place in the local music scene.

"In my previous band, the main focus was to make people feel sad, angry, and violent at the same time," said 20-year-old Swisher. "But going to shows, I had the most fun watching bands like the Red Light Sting and the Gossip. They brought a smile to my face and a shake to my ass."

"That's the kind of fun energy we wanna bring with Mon Frere," Johnston adds. "And P.S., who needs a bass player? My left hand packs a powerful punch."

Of course Mon Frere are still in the early stages of their formation--they've recorded a demo and have some buttons (available at www.monfrere.net), but that's it. All the prizes they won through Sound Off! (including free studio time at Electrokitty Recording, Orbit Audio, and Jack Straw Productions, an appearance at Bumbershoot, and musical gear from Fender) will certainly help them with their future plans.

"We would like to start playing the hell out of this town," Johnston says. "We'll definitely use the studio time we won to record a more polished demo, or even an EP if we have time. And as for the songwriting, we'll write a couple more songs before the recording of our demo/EP and hopefully people will like it and bring more good fortune our way." MEGAN SELING

megan@thestranger.com

Support The Stranger