The Bel Mondos formed in the Spring of 1980 at Columbia University School of Law in New York City. Driven by twin songwriting powerhouses Jay Dougherty (SOL 1981) and Rollo Rousseau (CC 1979 & SOL 1982), the Cheesy Farfisa stylings of Brooks Barnett (formerly partnered with Dougherty in legendary Yale band, The Rockets) and the pounding pulse of rhythm section Steve Monas (SOL 1981) on bass and John Mernit on drums, the band quickly drew a devoted following in the student lounges and rented lofts of the Upper West Side. Singer Sharon Van Epps joined the Bel Mondos briefly, contributing with Dougherty two instant classics to the set list (“Just Tonight, “He Can’t Run”) and her own brand of nihilist romanticism on stage. As Jay’s muse, Sharon also inspired the unforgettable numbers ”She Said No”, “Change Her Mind”, and many others.
In 1982, Bel Mondos fan and Law School classmate Nigel Sinclair (producer of "Eight Days a Week," "Material World", "No Direction Home," and other films too numerous to mention) financed the recording of their first eponymous EP; notable guest artists included Captain Beefheart’s guitarist (and Jeff Buckley mentor) Gary Lucas on slide guitar (“The Runaround”), and playwright Alice Gordon on background vocals (“Vinyl World”). After debuting the EP in New York, the band’s ensuing promotional tour included a stop in Austin, Texas for bassist Monas’ wedding bash. Only a few dozen vinyl copies of this rare treasure are still in circulation; remaining copies may be obtained from collegband.com, or by rooting through Jay’s garage.
Like so many other bands, the Bel Mondos’ brief moment in the spotlight eventually gave way to a dark night of drug abuse, romantic entanglements and demanding day jobs; Dougherty and Rousseau departed for the West Coast, where both launched brilliant careers as showbiz attorneys; Monas eventually joined them in Los Angeles, struggling to keep afloat in the wake of their celebrity and finding brief fame as The Karaoke Guy in the Trey Parker/Matt Stone classic “Orgazmo”. Rousseau built his professional career as a lawyer and executive in the music business, at Disney's Hollywood Records and other companies and firms. Barnett stayed East to become the resident pipe organ tuner at Yale University, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist in many popular New Haven bands, including Washboard Slim and the Bluelights, Connecticut's most popular modern jug band. John Mernit continued to play drums in such groups as the Chicago-style blues band, Bobby Radcliffe and the Homewreckers, the folk rock group, The Outlanders, and the No Wave downtown NYC art-rock group, Chinese Puzzle, while at the same time building a successful career as a producer, director and writer in documentaries and television, principally for PBS and National Geographic. He is currently Senior V.P. Programming for Smithsonian Enterprises in D.C. Today, the Bel Mondo sound remains a hallmark of the Upper West Side New Wave/No Wife movement of the early 1980s, and legions of subsequent imitators have once again proven the old adage “flattery will get you nowhere."