Is it live?
As a long-time member of the so-called jam band scene, the live concert experience is central to the existence of the band moe.
One of the challenges that faces a band like moe. is how to translate the sound, the vibe and the atmosphere of a live show into the sterile atmosphere of the recoding studio. With their latest release, Wormwood, moe. found a novel way to mix the worlds of live performance and studio craftsmanship.
The band spent two weeks on the road, recording their concerts. After choosing the best performances of each song, they stripped back the live takes, leaving only drum and percussion tracks. They then rerecorded bass, guitar and vocals in the studio.
“From a lot of different standpoints, it just seemed like a good idea to get that really good kind of elastic vibe from an actual live performance, and also have the controlled studio environment,” said guitarist Chuck Garvey.
Recent CDs have found the members of moe.—Garvey, singer/guitarist; Al Schnier, singer/guitarist; Rob Derhak, singer/bass; Vinnie Amico, drums; Jim Loughlin, percussion/acoustic guitar—growing more comfortable with the studio and using the technology to enhance their recordings.
“The studio has just been a constant learning experience for us, and a different way we could exercise some different creative muscles,” Garvey said. But blending live and studio performances created its share of technical challenges.
“The final quality of the drums, it suffered a little bit obviously because of the live environment …” Garvey said. “There were a lot of things that we kind of had to tackle as we were going along. … It was definitely hard, but it was a fun problem-solving kind of thing to do.”
Listening to Wormwood, there’s certainly a crispness to the performances that reflects the energy moe. typically achieves in concert.
The CD’s 14 tracks work together as a cohesive set of music, even though the songs boast considerable diversity. “Not Coming Down” and “Okayalright” showcase this band’s sound in a brisk, rocking setting. The mellow side of the band emerges on the dreamy instrumental title track. Songs like “Gone” and “Kyle’s Song” fall between those stylistic extremes: The former has a relaxed, vaguely country-rock tone, while the latter echoes of jazz and funk.
The band’s first self-released CD, Fatboy, was issued in 1992, followed by another studio effort, Headseed. An extensive touring schedule built enough of a following to attract the attention of Sony 550 Music. They signed the major label deal, and although moe. released two CDs on Sony 550 (No Doy in 1996 and Tin Cans & Car Tires in 1998), Garvey said the band didn’t benefit much from the marketing muscle of the major label.
moe. went back to their own Fatboy Records label and the do-it-yourself world when they released Dither in 2001. That was followed by the concert CDs, Warts And All Vol. 1. and Warts And All Vol. 2.
“We were kind of naïve about it," Garvey said. "We thought a major label was the end-all be-all, and then we found out it was pretty much the opposite. … We found out a lot about that stuff the hard way. Luckily we have really loyal fans."