A Publication of WTVP

Discovering his jam

by Katie Faley | Photos by Ron Johnson |
Brien Manckton, a Peoria native, also repairs and tunes guitars while on tour
Brien Manckton, a Peoria native, also repairs and tunes guitars while on tour

Peoria native Brien Monckton credits his hometown with helping to spark the passion that’s given him a rock ‘n’ roll career

Music flows through Brien Monckton’s veins. Always has.

“Looking back at home videos, the common theme was always music. He was dancing, singing or playing an instrument,” said Jackie Monckton, Brien’s mom and biggest supporter.

Monckton has gone from a little kid listening to live music with his mom in Peoria to chasing his musical dreams. He’s a backline tech for the up-and-coming alternative rock band The Backseat Lovers.

But that’s not where it all started for Manckton, who already has a musical rap sheet longer than most 24-year-olds.

Figuring things out

Monckton had performed with local bands growing up. He knew he wanted to pursue a career in music. He just didn’t know what that would look like.

Classroom academics were never his, ahem, jam. But he took a woodshop class in high school at the Woodruff Career & Technical Center, which he enjoyed and where he excelled. An idea was forming in his mind.

After graduating from Richwoods High School in 2017, he researched some opportunities and stumbled across a luthier school in Phoenix. That’s luthier, coming from the word lute. It’s the craftsman’s trade of repairing and building stringed instruments. He found Roberto Venn School of Luthiery, an accredited school where students specifically learn to build and repair acoustic and electric guitars. Monckton made his decision and carted off to Arizona. While there, he perfected his craft and built three guitars from scratch.

Moving up and away

From Phoenix, Monckton moved to L.A. and worked in a vintage guitar store.

“Some of those guitars were from the 1940s and ‘50s,” recalled Monckton. “The store had nothing newer than 1980.”

One day, he got a call from a friend about a band looking for a guitar tech ASAP. He contacted a member of the ‘80s rock band Faster Pussycats and met him for drinks.

“He kept buying me drink after drink. I finally told him I was good, I didn’t need more,” remembered Monckton. “He said, ‘You’re hired.’ That was the interview. They didn’t want somebody on the crew that was going to party.”

Monckton toured for a time with the Faster Pussycats, then with the L.A. Guns, another ‘80s rock band. Then came the MotoChrist tour. And then Rose Tattoo, which took him to Australia. Then with Tom Keifer of the band Cinderella.

Oh, and there was the KISS Kruise.

he’s played a part at some of the world’s most iconic stages and festivals

“I’ve been all over the U.S., all over England, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Mexico, Canada and Scotland,” said Monckton. Meanwhile, he’s played a part at some of the world’s most iconic stages and festivals, including the Ryman Auditorium (home of the Grand Ole Opry), Kilby Block Party, Newport Folk Festival, the Stone Pony and Lollapalooza.

As far as his favorite stop, Monckton mentions Amsterdam. “I poked my head out and the opening drummer said to the crowd, ‘Hey everyone, this is Brien. Say hi to Brien.’ And then the crowd started chanting ‘Brien!’ A crowd of 3,000 people chanting your name. That was pretty cool.”

Doing his thing

As a backline tech for The Backseat Lovers, Monckton travels with the band on the tour bus.

“So many days, I have absolutely no idea what city I’m in,” he said. “I just walk off the bus and do my thing.”

And walking off the bus represents the start of a long day.

“It’s usually about a 16-hour day,” Monckton said. “I start at 8 a.m. and then am running all day. I have an earpiece in from start to finish so I can communicate with the other techs and the band.”

He and a small team begin by unloading everything, setting up the venue and tuning the instruments.

“When the band needs the guitar switched out while performing, I’ll take out the guitar they need. When the show’s over, I take down. That usually lasts until about 1 a.m.,” said Monckton. “Sometimes after the show, a bunch of screaming 16-year-old girls try and storm the stage. I have to get the band off the stage without a swarm of girls getting them.”

If that’s not rock ‘n’ roll, what is?

First love

Monckton loves being surrounded by music, but there’s nothing he loves more than making music. When he’s not busy tuning instruments and setting up pedal boards, he’s jamming with the band during sound checks.

He easily rattles off his musical inspirations: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Willie Nelson. The greats.

Manckton plays multiple instruments, including his latest, the Hammond organ. He is self-taught on the keyboard, pedal board, harmonica and drums. But guitar is his first love. He’s even created a recording studio in his L.A. apartment.

Monckton is back on tour now. The band has upgraded to two tour buses and a semi-trailer, its growing fleet a sign of its growing popularity.

Though he says he’s just riding it out to see what happens next, Monckton’s goal is to play in his own band one day.

Even though L.A. is his home for now, Monckton still loves to come back to Peoria. He’s grateful for the people who helped him discover his passion for music and gave him a shot.

“When I was back in town a few years ago, I was looking for places to perform with some of my old friends,” Monckton recalled. “I went in Bacci’s and asked if they’d be interested in hosting us. They said they’d been wanting to get into live music, so it was a ‘yes’ from them. Now they host bands for live music all the time. We started that.”


Katie Faley

Katie Faley

is a Peoria native — Notre Dame High, Class of 2013 — who moved away following college, earned a master’s degree in theology from the University of Notre Dame, and returned with a fuller appreciation of her hometown. She works at OSF HealthCare