With an appearance in AD’s 2008: Songs in Review, and a glowing review in November, The Moondoggies have become one of AD’s favorite still-kept secrets, though that is bound to change soon. With more than a half-year since the release of Don’t Be a Stranger, AD recently spoke with Kevin Murphy, singer and guitarist for the Seattle outfit. Murphy spoke about the bands deliberate maturation, the creation of their debut and the inherent difficulty of being labeled by genre.
AD: Let’s start from the beginning, because there’s very little about you guys out there. When did the band form? And under what circumstances?
Kevin Murphy: Well, we were all friends. I was a little anxious to get something going after Alaska. Caleb had started to play in another band while I was gone so I had to coax him back over my way. Carl wasn’t a drummer but I’d seen him play and he had a natural sense about it and he could sing well and it’s what we sat around and did all the time. So it was something we just built off of and started rolling.
AD: Your songs occupy a wide array of genres and sounds, how does a song develop for the band – the phases it goes through until you’re ready to record or play it live?
Kevin Murphy: We play or have partial songs floating around, sometimes already complete and we just put the puzzle together… I don’t know how ready I am to track songs, sometimes, because of knowing something’s done. It’s hard to put a period at the end of a sentence for me sometimes. Sometimes playing it live is a good way to know how much you like it. Some songs aren’t meant to be finished until you’re in the studio I think, it adds a good spontaneity.
AD: A number of the tracks mention somewhat religious figures or ideas, but do not feel overtly religious. How did these lyrics enter into the fold and how do you see Lord/Jesus as a useful tool in songwriting?
Kevin Murphy: It’s sometimes less about the religious aspect itself as it is about the feeling. The songs are more in the vein of desperation that’s in a lot of music – the need to connect with something.
AD: You’re from Seattle, and, in the past the press has looked at Seattle as, essentially, a city of movements of music, but really, your music (and other locals like Fleet Foxes) are very different and locationless. Do you think your location, the Northwest, is a factor in your influences, or is the notion of “Seattle” music exaggerated?
Kevin Murphy: Your surrounding are what you reflect when you create and are always gonna play a huge part… but because of the times we have access to everything and regional sounds are a little more meshed. There’s so many kinds of bands here in Seattle too. But I think for people music itself can be a certain location you like to travel to. Different sounds take you to different thought – and I hope people enjoy coming to where we are.
AD: How did you come to wind up on the Hardly Art label?
Kevin Murphy: Magic. Well actually I’ve known Nick Heliotis for a long time and he works at Hardly Art. I gave him all the tracks we had done unmastered. Jonathan Poneman got a hold of it and liked it. We were both pretty shocked. And it’s nice because their great people and that makes it easy.
AD: Tell me about the recording process, and how you went about it. Did these songs culminate from several years of work? Was it a long recording period?
Kevin Murphy: Mostly songs we had from that year of writing. “Night and Day” is one of the first songs Caleb and I ever did years before… but it was just 10 days non stop. Erik Blood [producer] was awesome and very fast paced.
AD: A lot of people are talking about the sounds that you harken back to, but to me, this record is not a throw-back but a step-forward. How did at the sound of The Moondoggies? Is this just what felt natural or was it a fresh-direction after previous bands?
Kevin Murphy: It was both. It might sound old because it’s not full of sounds from computers or whatever. But we’re a very low maintenance band that sits around and sings and writes the kinds of songs we want to sing. It has to be fun and gratifying to our own desires and what we want from music. People can think whatever; we just like making sounds in the basement.
Continue Reading/Download “Changing” After The Jump……
AD: Erik Blood, producer of the record, said that, essentially, you were a very easy band to work with, needing little interference. Before heading into the studio, how sure were you of what you wanted the record, and each song, to sound like?
Kevin Murphy: I didn’t know anything. I’d never made an album. I’d try to do it myself but I could never finish it. It wasn’t until we got the mastered copy that we were like “ooooooohhhh I see.. that’s it.” But now we can go into it a lot stronger and involved with different recording styles.
AD: I read an interview you did with the Portland Mercury. You had some less than kind words for music bloggers and hipsters – and country music for that matter. But someone is going to give this record to someone else and say, “These guys sound like x, y and z.” You’ve characterized your music as not garage, not country, but just Rock & Roll. What is Rock & Roll? Is is a statement that you don’t want to use tons of pedals? Is it harmonies? Is it just what comes naturally? If it’s that, how did you decide that this is what was natural?
Kevin Murphy: Rock & roll has all those things. I love country music, I understand people have to order things and they want to explain it. But to me music is more of an intangible thing. I don’t like explaining why I like a song. You don’t really decide natural, natural just is. It’s what you are. So to me, rock & roll has all those things, country, punk, bluegrass, pedals, garage. Because I feel that whatever song we want to write or do write it could fall into any one of those – we don’t want to limit ourselves in anyway – cause we like all that music. I don’t use pedals because it distracts me and I don’t have the patience.
AD: While the record doesn’t feature any “country” songs, there are a wide range of sounds/genres represented from song to song, and even within some of the songs. How have you been able to write a much more rocking (at least, garage-rockin’) song like “Changing” followed by “Night & Day” which has hints of “Changing” as well as softer acoustic moments. It’s not a “jam” record but it is one of swings in tempo and loudness. How did you go about writing these more varied tracks?
Kevin Murphy: It’s just the mood I or we are in. They start on the acoustic anyways usually. “Changing” was way laid back before, but suddenly it was obvious that song had more venom in it and should be yelled. Songs just have to find their place. We usually just feel ‘em out and things fall it to place.
AD: Your record label, Hardly Art, has called your music, basically, the music of the “Highway.” What does that mean to you, if anything at all?
Kevin Murphy: Really. I hear it’s a good album to listen to when you’re driving around. Maybe that’s it.
AD: And a follow up to that: You’re the sound of the “Highway” but the band hasn’t left the West Coast yet, only going as far South as San Francisco. Do you have a desire to tour nationally? Internationally? To do the press involved?
Kevin Murphy: Oh for sure, and it will happen – but we have to be able to make it work, and we’re talking to some people. Probably nothing big on scale geographically at first but we’ll eventually get around. We have some things we’re working out.
AD: You spent time in Alaska a few years ago, which you’ve described as essentially, a time in which you needed to keep yourself busy because there was nothing to distract you. How much of the material on this record is from, or is roughly from, that time?
Kevin Murphy: Actually I don’t think any of the Alaska songs made it on to the album. But the next one might have a few little things that have resurfaced.
AD: If you could pick one current band to go out on the road with, who would it be?
Kevin Murphy: Well our buddies, the Maldives, would be a really fun tour. But Camper van Beethoven, Built to Spill, Beachwood Sparks would all be awesome in my mind. words/ b kramer
MP3: The Moondoggies :: Changing
Amazon: Moondoggies – Don’t Be a Stranger