Interview by Scott Preston
moe. is the preeminent progressive rock band on the music scene today. In a remarkable career that’s touched upon three decades and produced 17 albums, the quintet of Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey on guitars and vocals, Rob Derhak on bass and vocals, Jim Loughlin on percussion and vibes, and Vinnie Amico on Drums, continues to push the standard for performance art.
Critical acclaim and a solid national and international fan base has built a dedicated following that grows each year. Whether touring across the globe, headlining music festivals, or sharing the stage with such celebrated acts as the Allmans, The Who, or Robert Plant, among others, what keeps moe. at the forefront of the music scene is not only the energy and vitality of their music and songwriting, but the showmanship in which it is delivered
Cincy Groove: I see that you have been offering flash drives right after your shows with the live recording on them. How long have you guys been doing that?
Chuck Garvey: I think we started right after the new year this year. Years ago we did the instant live thing where you could get cd’s right after the show. We were one of the first ones early on to start doing that. After a while people stopped doing it and we were wondering what was next. The live cd thing is a really cool idea but it very cumbersome and hard to maintain over a long period of time. A friend of ours brought the flash drive idea to our attention. We had been talking about it and the price on bulk flash drives finally came down. We have been making a Matrix mix or a “hybrid” mix, with the soundboard and 4-5 mics at this point. We really have been working on a hi-fi representation of our show that you can wear around your neck on your way out. It’s really pretty amazing. Literally about 15 minutes after we finish the encore they are ready. We also put on all kinds of extra goodies, side project stuff, lyrics, photos.
Cincy Groove: What have been some of your favorites moments from past moe.down’s?
Chuck Garvey: Some of my favorite moments at moe.down have been when we have done something that is more spontaneous. That’s what we try to do at our shows in general. One of my favorites happened with the Flaming Lips. Al and I went on stage and wore animal costumes while playing Pink Floyd tunes with the Flaming Lips. It was pretty damn cool and surreal at the same time. Also the first moe.down with Ani Difranco and David Grisman was pretty cool. I just remember standing behind the stage watching the David Grisman Quintet play and just thinking this is the coolest thing in the world. We get to invite people we really like to come and then we get to sit here and watch them play.
Cincy Groove: Do you play in the moe.down charity golf outing?
Chuck Garvey: I used to, but there is so much going on now with moe.down I don’t get a chance to very often. But what I do is steal a golf cart and drive back and forth and high five people as they come through. It’s fun to see how people are doing and watch them start drinking at 10 in the morning.
Cincy Groove: Are there any moe. NYE plans?
Chuck Garvey: We are working on it, there are a bunch of things that are happening in the fall that have to jive for plans to work out. But we will probably announce something at moe.down. That’s a good weekend to do something like that in front of 10,000 people.
Cincy Groove: Are there any new moe. projects in the works?
Chuck Garvey: We were going to begin working on something but decided to put it off for a little while because the summer was so busy. Everyone has some material in the demo stages, we all just have to get together and work on it collectively. We have been self producing for a while and have been talking with different producers to help on the next project. Just because the workload does get kind of insane. Its also just good to have another objective person there to give their perspective. We really have this crazy anarchy / democracy thing going on in the studio (laughing).
Cincy Groove: Tell me about your live release series “Dr Stan’s Prescription”.
Chuck Garvey: He has been archiving for us for about 10 years now. He talks to a lot of tapers to help make sure we are recorded. He is another example of someone outside of the organization who can say this is what the fans are excited about or can be someone who can stand back and say this was a good show whether we liked it or not. They can hear those spontaneous moments that we might think is a train wreck but the fans are excited about it because it’s raw and fresh.
Cincy Groove: What has been one of the more crazier things you have seen on the road?
Chuck Garvey: In 1997 we played at Fiddlers Green in Denver on Furthur Festival and while we were playing it started pouring down rain and this place was kind of set up like Red Rocks and all the rain was channeling down to the pit in front of the stage. People were knee deep in water and they were still getting down and going crazy. It actually started lightning and we really didn’t want to go on but we could see that the people weren’t going anywhere. I think we pretty much played all if not most of our set even though it was raining and kind of dangerous. We played at the All Good Festival one year and Deep Banana Blackout was on stage and a lighting truss had come down and partially hit the keyboard player and drummer while they were playing. Then of course there are some things you just can’t talk about and some things you’ll need therapy for. We have been doing this, being a full time band, since 1994 and the amount of crazy shit you see especially when your in a van touring the country is not right, you shouldn’t come out of it sane (laughing).
Cincy Groove: When was it that you realized that music was going to be your path in life?
Chuck Garvey: I had never really thought about music seriously because I was going to college thinking I was going to be an architect, then it was computer art/animation. We started playing, just goofing around playing cover tunes and all of a sudden Rob started writing songs, and I wrote a couple. We realized we can do this and our friends will come and watch us play and we’ll all drink beer and have some fun on the weekend. Then before you know it Al started booking shows in New York City, we at the time were in Buffalo. So we were leaving town, and when you leave town and go somewhere else there is a certain amount of respect that you get because your not just playing at frat parties on the weekend. Word started spreading and there was this gray area where we were just doing it and it was cool then we realized this hobby was becoming much more enticing than our day jobs that we were in danger of losing anyway. We were recording and releasing demos, but it was just to show people that we could go and play in their bar. At one point in early 1994 we started recording at a friends house. We were recording in his living room but he had really good equipment and he was a good engineer. So we felt we were making a good recording, it was all our music and we started to take it more seriously. In the fall of 1994 we finally gave up our day jobs and I don’t think it was until a year or two later that we thought music was going to be a viable career. Our crowd’s at The Wetlands in NYC really started to pick up and from there people were telling other people all over the country and the world. It helped I think that about the same time the internet started to take off. Within a couple years we went out to San Francisco and sold out the Great American Music Hall because people were talking about us on the internet and trading tapes.
Cincy Groove: Here is a question that probably only Ohio people will understand but do you prefer Goldstar or Skyline?
Chuck Garvey: I think I actually prefer Goldstar but my wife and I just went to Skyline the other day and it was pretty damn good. I’m not going to make a definitive choice right here because I don’t want to piss anybody off (laughing). I definitely saw the beauty of Cincinnati chili early on.
Sep 4-6 2009 moe.down 10 Snow Ridge Ski Area Turin, New York
Oct 7 2009 Washington & Lee University Lexington, Virginia
Oct 9 2009 The Town Ballroom Buffalo, New York
Oct 10 2009 The Opera House Toronto, Ontario
Oct 11 2009 House of Blues Cleveland, Ohio
Oct 14 2009 Lifestyles Community Pavilion Columbus, Ohio
Oct 15 2009 Cla Zel Theatre Bowling Green, Ohio
Oct 16 2009 The Eagles Ballroom Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Oct 17 2009 Madison Theater Covington, Kentucky
Oct 31 2009 Washington Avenue Armory Albany, New York