Moe shakes its groove in the post-Dead void
by John Sewell
The '90s have been an extremely fertile time for jam-oriented bands. Though their presence is sorely missed by scads of tie-dyed devotees, The Grateful Dead's demise has opened up the market for bands with a similar approach and ideology. Groups like Phish, Blues Traveler, Widespread Panic, and a H.O.R.D.E. of others have filled the void left by The Dead and experienced brisk sales in the process.
Buffalo, N.Y.'s Moe is yet another band that has found its niche in the groove scene. The band members' fusion of rock, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and whatever else turns their crank has netted them a strong grassroots following. Though the band is perceived by many as being merely another division of the neo-hippy army, the members of the group feel they have a separate identity and will be able to make a marktheir own mark apart from the post-Grateful Dead continuum.
"I don't see that we have a definite link to The Dead, but there are similarities and there is an influence," says Moe guitarist/ vocalist Chuck Garvey. "I can see the relationship and that we have a part in the evolutionary cycle because this whole genre is a lot of different kinds of music put together. That's the exciting part of it, because we're into a lot of different styles and other kinds of music. But then again, in another way I see us as being just kind of a raunchy rock band..."
Raunchy or not, the band has plenty of chops to serve up an interesting mix of sounds for fans of adventurous, fusion-styled rock. The band draws influences from over 30 years of diverse rock music. For the uninitiated, an easy (if incomplete) description of the band would be The Allman Brothers meet Bitches-Brew-era Miles Davis at a Frank Zappa convention.
"Musically, we're all our own worst critics and quality control," says Garvey. "Writing our songs is a definite evolution, and the songs change through the years as we continue to play them. There is a lot of morphing in our music, and we tend to play our songs slower as we get used to them because we get more relaxed and can breathe a little bit more. I think our newer music is a little less dense than our earlier stuff because we're not trying so hard to fill every space. We've definitely grown together as musicians."
Recently dropped from Sony Records, the band is forging ahead on its own and gaining fans in the process. The loss of the major deal has done little to slow the band's steady progress because of its journeyman approach and dedicated followers.
"We had signed a six-album deal with Sonythat was really for two records and then the option for four more," says Garvey. "As it turns out, I guess Sony deemed us an unworthy investment. When we were with Sony, we talked to our A&R guy, and we all felt that we shouldn't go the MTV-hit-single route. We made it clear that we wanted to build this thing slowly.
"So the way it turned out was the record company was waiting for us to get out and tour and manage to sell 100,000 copies on our own, and then they'd jump in and give it a big push," continues Garvey. "We had good sales, but not that good, and I guess they decided they weren't in it for the long haul after all."
Undeterred by the lack of a label, the band has released some of its earlier recordings on their own Fat Boy Records. Garvey says that the Fat Boy label plans to expand its operations by signing other bands in the near future. Though the independent route is okay for now, he is unsure if that is exactly where the band will stay. "I'm not sure if we want to stay on Fat Boy forever," says Garvey. "We like running the label, but we aren't really interested in having to do everything by ourselves. We'll just have to wait and see about what we do for our next releases."
Don't think that the band is in any kind of flux because of its recent label woes. Moe might not yet be a household name, but it is indeed quite popular and consistently draws good crowds in its extensive travels. Garvey says that the band plans to continue its journey for a long time to come.
"This is our career and we're very serious about it. Sometimes it can be difficult, but I don't want to do anything else. The more we do it, the more we realize that we each have different musical and social roles within the band. We've been through a lot together and we've had a lot of bonding. It's kind of like being on a long car ride with a bunch of teenage brothers in the back seat. We get along great, but sometimes it's fun to fight just for the hell of it."