The Midnight Moan
With that description, you know you’re interested in the Midnight Moan’s latest album, Comes in Phases. We asked the group to tell us what our eardrums should expect – they said, “It’s very straightforward rock (I wasn’t kidding about it all being major chords). But there’s enough variety to keep it interesting. It’s rare that people listen to full albums, but we wanted to make one that holds up song to song. The kind of thing you could put on late at night and play all the way through. It has some country, blues and New Orleans influence that may not be obviously apparent on the first two singles (“Short Stay” and “What I Need”).” Click to http://www.themidnightmoan.
XXQs: The Midnight Moan
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you think makes you stand out from others in your genre?
The Midnight Moan (MM): The sort of music that was around before computers had to win at everything. Rock and roll. A lot of guitars. We sing songs about love and lonesomeness. The things that keep us up at night. As far as standing out above others, I’m 6’4” so I’m probably taller than others in our genre.
PEV: What kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
MM: Everyone had a bit of different taste. The other guys got into jazz and punk way more than I ever did. But we really bonded over garage rock, classic rock and blues. We warm-up rehearsals with a lot of Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker type stuff. But I was also really into a lot of the New York rock bands like Television, New York Dolls and of course the Velvet Underground.
Growing up in St Louis, my first concert was the Steve Miller Band, which is pretty par for the course. At any given time he’d be on three radio stations at once there. And I have to hand it, the guy has written some pretty great songs.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in NYC, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
MM: Our first show was in the basement of a place called Lit and like most things at Lit, it was a little arty, a little dirty and secretly awesome. I had known the owner/artist Erik Foss for a while and he booked us. We’ve been fortunate to be booked at some great places around the city: Union Pool, Hank’s Saloon, Piano’s, The Bitter End.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Midnight Moan show?
MM: Sweet sweat and misty, misty atmosphere.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
MM: Not sure I can put it into words, but it’s somewhere between “Who am I and what am I doing here?” and “Let’s rock.”
PEV: How has playing in The Midnight Moan been different from working as a nightlife writer?
MM: Both give lots of pleasure. In a lot of ways The Midnight Moan really grew out of my experience writing about NYC’s nightlife. I definitely have seen and heard a lot of music when out on the town. In a way I formed the band as a reaction against what I’d call “PBR” or “Pussy Brooklyn Rock.” Sensitive lumberjack types. I’ve also been around during the whole “Chefs Are The New Rock Stars” thing we’ve seen in the last few years…which is something we’ll be cringing about in 10 years.
MM: Songs are like butterflies. Melodies just land on you and you try to catch them. Some are more fully formed than others, but you take what you’ve lived, what you’ve learned and what you can imagine and try to fill in the details from there. Sometimes I get very technical with the lyrics and sometimes it’s just pure emotion.
But it’s also about playing this particular style of music. Call it blues-based rock or garage rock or classic rock or whatever. People can say we’re derivative but it’s the sound that I love and a sound that needs to be preserved. Classic rock is my folk music. One thing I love about going to New Orleans (an endless source of inspiration) is that the culture there is not disposable. It is rich and vibrant and part of everyday life. There is musical tradition that is passed down…there are living roots. I feel rock and roll is still a vibrant art form and I consider us part of that tradition. If people want to say we sound like the Stones of whatever…well, fuck. I take that as compliment.
PEV: How do you feel about the evolution of the group since it’s conception?
MM: The sound gets tighter and more complex and you start to write songs with the other band members in mind…playing to their strengths. It’s always evolving. Our next album might even have some minor chords.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Midnight Moan?
MM: That our drummer Ricky Gordon played on the Public Enemy album Apocalypse 91…The Enemy Strikes Black. That one of our guitar players, Steve Cuiffo can speak two hours of Lenny Bruce material absolutely verbatim. That our bass player, Joe Sweeney, would love to help you get an apartment in New York City.
PEV: Tell us about your recent release, Comes In Phases.
MM: It’s very straightforward rock (I wasn’t kidding about it all being major chords). But there’s a lot of variety to keep it interesting. It’s rare that people listen to full albums but we wanted to make one that holds up song to song. The kind of thing you could put on late at night and play all the way through. It has some country, blues and New Orleans influence. We got a smoking sax solo from Tom “Bones” Malone of the original Saturday Night Live band on one song. Brian Mitchell, who played a lot with Levon Helm over the years, contributed a killer piano part on a tune. It’s good drinking music.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it for the first time?
MM: I make music that I like to listen to so I am usually pretty excited.
PEV: What does it feel like to listen to the completed album?
MM: A bit sad that it’s “completed”. It’s always a learning process and one occasionally wishes there was endless amounts of time to noodle with it or re-do things. But at a certain point, the more you mess with it, the more of the original energy gets sapped.
PEV: With all of your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
MM: Well I’ve mentioned New Orleans. I decided to start the band after a night there when I ended up on stage at a few places solo with my guitar and got a great reaction. I’d love to go back down there with the band. A lot of places in the south would be fun…and of course would love to play St Louis. Give Steve Miller a run for his money.
PEV: How have all of your friends and family reacted to your pursuit of music?
MM: Most of my close friends have been hearing songs I’ve written for years before I actually started a band or recorded any of them. So I think they are happy to see me putting it out there. But there are a lot of people I know who have no idea.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
MM: Rev. Charlie Jackson and his choir because they could raise hell and call it heaven.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
MM: I don’t know too many new bands but I am digging the Owsley Brothers. I think they’re from Northern Florida. Solid rock.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would do for a career?
MM: I like to think we’d all end up as part of the same wisecracking ring of jet-setting jewel thieves. That way we’d still be together.
PEV: So, what is next for The Midnight Moan?
MM: We’ve pretty much written the second album and then some. I want to keep recording, keep fighting the good fight. But we’ll be playing some east coast dates this summer. We have a very cool video that our friend Laura Merians shot at Richland Farms. It should be out in a couple weeks. The good fight.