Like Phish, Blues Traveler, and Widespread Panic, the jam-oriented rock group known as moe. originally came to prominence on the road, building a loyal following of fans through live performances and grassroots efforts. In fact, it is not unusual for moe. to play more than 200 shows per year. The quintet also established a strong online presence. Through their official website, they became one of the first bands to employ live webcasting of concerts and to e-mail newsletters to fans. moe. also succeeded in capturing the energy of their live set in the studio. After issuing material on their own Fatboy Records during the early 1990s, moe. secured a major-label deal with Sony/550 Music in 1996. Subsequently, the group returned to releasing albums independently, first in 2000 with L, a double live CD, and in 2001 with an acclaimed studio set entitled Dither.
The music of moe. incorporates a variety of styles, including classic rock ‘n’ roll, progressive rock, blues-rock, bluegrass, country-rock, calypso, and funk. Such eclecticism, in turn, resulted in critical comparisons to everyone from the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead to Frank Zappa, Tom Petty, Primus, Camper Van Beethoven, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Everybody takes their influences and the people that they have listened to in the past and tries to put them together in a unique way,” explained guitarist and vocalist Chuck Garvey to Mike Matray of Down Beat magazine. “Each of us likes a lot of different styles of music, and trying to put them all together in our own format is what’s fun for us. It’s also the challenge because we are all battling to get those influences represented in the music that we are doing.”
Because their sets rely so heavily on improvisation, the band also shares common elements with the jazz idiom.” There are a lot of relationships between our music and jazz,” added guitarist and vocalist Al Schnier, who serves as the other half of moe.’s frontline guitar duo. “Certainly the musical styles are different. But as for the nature of the show, there really isn’t a whole lot that is different. There is going to be a head and a turnaround and a bunch of improvisation in between. It’s just that we happen to be a rock band and not a jazz band. I’ve felt that way from the beginning.”
Comprised of bassist and vocalist Rob Derhak, drummer Vinnie Amico, and percussionist and acoustic guitarist Jim Loughlin in addition to Schnier and Garvey, moe. formed in 1991 in Buffalo, New York. They derived the group’s name from an old Louis Jordan song called “Five Guys Named Moe.” This title was also the name of the band’s first incarnation, minus Loughlin, which included a saxophone player as the fifth member. Over the years, the group has been based in Albany and in New York City, and by the later 1990s, the individual members lived in various towns throughout the Northeast.
Moe.’s ability to meld various musical elements and improvise as a cohesive unit onstage, willingness to create unity between the band and the audience, unpredictability from one show to the next, and relentless touring schedules spanning cities and towns across the United States enabled the band to acquire an ever-growing audience. Affectionately calling themselves “moe.rons,” these fans often follow the group for several dates in a row. “The music is the statement,” offered Garvey for the moe. official website. “If you come to three different shows, you’re going to have a different experience each time, and each one will emphasize distinct portions of our music. And a lot of how that manifests itself depends on the band-audience interaction. Our shows are organic events, and there is a very real social aspect to performing that influences what and how we play on any given night.”
Despite their reputation as a live “jam band,” moe. achieved the same chemistry on record. Their debut recording, an independent demo titled Fatboy, surfaced in 1992 and was reissued on the band’s own independent label, Fatboy Records, in 1999. moe. then returned with their first “proper” release, Headseed, in 1993. The ten-track album, also on Fatboy, remains a fan favorite for its spacey guitars, signature bass drive, improvised jamming, and overall funky energy. It contains the quintessential moe. song “Tim Ed,” as well as versions of “Timmy Tucker,” “Recreational Chemistry,” and “Yodelittle.” The album sold surprisingly well—over 20, 000 units—considering that moe. was not linked with a distribution company. The group followed this
Members include Vinnie Amico, drums; Rob Derhak, bass, vocals; Chuck Garvey, guitar, vocals; Jim Loughlin, percussion, acoustic guitar; Al Schnier, guitar, vocals.
Formed group in Buffalo, NY, 1991; released Headseed on own Fatboy Records, 1993; released Loaf, 1995; signed with Sony/550 Music, released major-label debut No Doy, 1996; released Tin Cans and Car Tires, 1998; returned to releasing music independently with the live album L in 2000 and Dither in 2001.
Addresses: Mail —P.O. Box 2716, Kennebunkport, ME 04046, (212) 592-3542. Management— Top Artists Productions, Jon Topper and Dan Getz. Booking —Monterey Peninsula Artists, (831) 655–6900, e-mail: [email protected] Publicity —Coppertop Inc., Jim Walsh, (607) 275-8217, e-mail: [email protected] E-mail —[email protected], [email protected], [email protected] org, [email protected] Website —moe. Official Website: http://www.moe.org.
effort with a limited-edition live album from a show at Wetlands Preserve, New York City, called Loaf. Released on Fatboy in 1995, the now out of print set sold around 5, 000 copies.
In the wake of moe.’s rising popularity, Sony signed the band to a deal with its 550 Music imprint. The nine-song No Doy, moe.’s major-label debut, arrived in 1996. Selling in excess of 65, 000 copies, it was produced by John Porter, whose credits include work for Roxy Music, the Smiths, Taj Mahal, and Keb’ Mo’. With this album, moe. continued to showcase their songwriting and instrumental skills and retain their live energy with songs such as the album opener “She Sends Me,” the clever, stripped-down “Moth,” and the anthemic “Rebubula.”
By now, critics were speculating that moe. would surely become “big” someday. Rolling Stone, for instance, in 1997 named moe. one of the top ten “underground” bands of the year. However, the members of moe. themselves felt that No Doy, while a solid record, ultimately stifled their sound with glossy production. Thus, when they began work on their second studio album for Sony/550 Music, moe. enlisted the help of producer John Alagia, regarded for his work with the Dave Matthews Band, as well as technical whiz/engineer John Siket, whose credits include work for the acclaimed indie band Yo La Tengo and fellow jam-rockers Phish. While technically masterful, compact, and filled with vocal harmonizing and guitar interplay, the resulting album, 1998’s Tin Cans and Car Tires still retained moe.’s onstage flow.
In April of 1999, moe. ended their alliance with Sony and returned to their own label. They released a double live album, simply titled L, in the year 2000 on Fatboy. The following year saw the release of their most accessible album to date, Dither. Here, the band opted to explore the more personal aspects of making music—including utilizing a studio environment to its fullest—rather than trying to rework or capture the live performance. “In the studio, you have the opportunity to actually work with the instrumentation, the different sounds and explore something in a different perspective and direction, instead of stretching something out in that linear fashion,” Schnier told Matray.
“It’s something that we really wanted to do,” Garvey explained further. “We’re hoping that the fans will appreciate the fact that this is another part of the creative process that we get to indulge ourselves in, and hopefully everyone else is along for the ride.” Produced by the band as well as Siket, Dither indeed won over fans and critics alike. The band soared with songs such as the road-weary” Can’t Seem to Find,” as well as a rendition of the 1980s hit” Big Country.”
Fatboy (independent demo), 1992; reissued, Fatboy, 1999.
Headseed, Fatboy, 1993.
Loaf (live album), Fatboy, 1995.
No Doy, 550 Music, 1996.
Tin Cans and Car Tires, 550 Music, 1998.
L (double live album), Fatboy, 2000.
Dither, Fatboy, 2001.
Down Beat, May 2001.
All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (June 15, 2001). moe. Official Website, http://www.moe.org (June 15, 2001).
RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (June 15, 2001).
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