You Want Moe Jams, You’ve Got Moe Jams

May 3rd, 2006

Fans appreciate band making its music assessable to them.

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Jam band.
The words evoke images of tie dyed clothing, long hair, VW vans and the aroma of perspiration and smoke.
Yet despite its improvisational and organic nature, the genre is diverse and its fans are committed.
Take Moe, the upstate New York quintet.
“One thing I’ve discovered is that people don’t come to our shows by accident,” guitarist Al Schnier said. “If you show up, you’ve meant to be there. Either you’re a fan, or a friend goaded you into coming, or you heard our music.”
Some of those conscientious first-timers are likely to be surprised by what they hear. The twin-guitar attack of Schnier and Chuck Garvey owes just as much to Eddie Van Halen as it does Duane Allman.
“The thing about the jam band scene is that there’s a wide spectrum of music,” Schnier said. “The Yonder Mountain String Band are essentially a bluegrass band, but they put on a long show that stretches out and is definitely not the traditional bluegrass structure. Then there’s the Disco Biscuits, who incorporate progressive rock, classical and electronica into their shows and music. And yet both are jam bands.”
Keeping fans in the fold is vital to a band that tours hard and makes records sparingly. Moe hasn’t yet released a follow-up to 2003’s “Wormwood.”
“Going into the studio is still something we struggle with,” Schnier said. “I’m not sure it makes sense financially. After 15 years, we’ll get some … radio play, but I don’t expect us to cross over into the mainstream. We can’t afford to pay radio enough to play our records.”
So on its Web site, the band states that “audience taping is highly recommended at all times.” Those live recordings give fans some new material to listen to, but even Schnier admits: “My favorite things to listen to are not live albums but studio recordings: ‘OK Computer’ or Abbey Road’.”
Moe returned to the studio not once, but twice this year. Early recording sessions resulted in “vague, lifeless versions” of songs the band first presented long ago in concert. So the band returned, “deconstructed the songs and exploited the studio,” Schnier said.
With one studio album in the can and a live DVD planned for fall release, new songs are floating around.
“We’re geared up to do a studio album of new material, which we can take out and premier live like a traditional band does,” Schnier said,. “We constantly have material. It’s a matter of scheduling it in. The other side of being in a jam band is that you’re always on tour.”
Fans will support what the radio won’t, provided they always have an outlet to tap into.
“You have to hit as many markets as possible with frequency,” Schnier said. “Make shows as reasonably close together as possible so people can come two nights in a row if they want.”
But if fans are encouraged to follow the band, they need variety.
“The same show every night doesn’t work. People won’t come,” Schnier said. “So you have to be willing to take chances onstage. And it follows suit that you’d better have a semi-decent grasp on an instrument to pull it off.”
Just as important is the relationship between band and fans, he said. Before there was Myspace or even the Internet, Moe gave away its music.
“If people came with a blank tape, we would give them a copy of a prerecorded show,” Schnier said. “The (record) industry doesn’t get it. If you make yourselves available, fans will build a lifelong relationship.”

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