If you buy moe.’s latest album and first best-of Smash Hits Vol. 1 at the in-store (only $9.99), we’ll give you a FREE TICKET (while supplies last) to the Knitting Factory show courtesy of your friends at The Record Exchange and The Knitting Factory! NOTE: Buy-CD-get-ticket deal will be available starting at 2:30 p.m.
From modest beginnings in a Buffalo basement over two decades ago to today’s multifaceted success, the members of moe. (moe.org) have never lost sight of the earnest, elemental goals that they aspired to from their very first show: to deliver honest, heartfelt music and to ensure the audience has a good time. Considerate and conscientious in their actions and decision-making, moe.’s refreshingly unpretentious attitude has won them a devoted legion of dedicated fans (ranging from seasoned concert-goers to eager young newcomers) and has given rise to a thriving cottage industry – a self-contained nation-state in which the band and their audience live as equals, thriving on a reciprocal appreciation rare in today’s increasingly fragmented musical landscape.
2010 marked the 20th anniversary of moe.’s frontline of Rob Derhak (bass, vocals), Chuck Garvey (guitar, vocals) and Al Schnier (guitar, keyboards, vocals), who continue to perform together with the addition of drummer Vinnie Amico and percussionist/multi-instrumentalist Jim Loughlin. Keeping a consistent lineup intact and productive over two decades is no small feat. moe.’s saga is made all the more remarkable because they have consistently done so on their own terms, as independent artists who actively manage their own affairs while staying well ahead of industry and technological developments, including successfully self-releasing their own music and offering instant on-site digital concert recordings at their shows.
They still describe themselves as a rock’n’roll band, without qualifications, compilations, or asterisks – even though their kaleidoscopic music spans all the way from tight, incisively well-constructed songcraft to fluid, conversational extended improvisation, incorporating everything from straightforward rock and Americana influences to bouyant Jamaican and South African inflections. Much like their music, their career has defied the traditional rock band trajectory, with a brief flirtation with the major label system only reinforcing the fact that they function best when in control of every aspect of their music and how it is documented and presented.
In honor of their anniversary, the band compiled Smash Hits Vol. 1, a sort of Young Person’s Guide to moe., featuring band and fan favorites – some recast in new recordings that showcase the band’s ongoing evolution. “It’s what we and others perceive as our strongest crowd pleasers of the past 20 years,” Rob muses. “It’s a compilation that you can listen to over and over again. Something your mother might enjoy.”
moe. tackled that most predictable of career milestones – the greatest hits package – with typical irreverence and innovation. An informal poll was conducted, with the band members all chiming in with what they thought to be the group’s most popular songs – not necessarily their personal favorites, but songs that fans have reacted to strongly over the years. Then they asked the people around them – management, wives, webmasters, guitar techs, etc. – to make similar lists. The lists were then compiled and tallied, with all the votes weighed equally, and a track list emerged.
What initially began as a collection of pre-existing recordings slowly mutated, and the collection now includes eight new recordings. “We tried to license a few of the songs from the Sony albums from them,” Al recalls. “They said why don’t you license your stuff to us, and we’ll put it out?” With the limitations and constrictions of the major label still fresh in their minds, moe. politely declined. “We decided we’d re-record the Sony songs that had made it to the top ten,” he continues. “Sony owns those recordings, but not those songs. So we recorded those, along with one other song that we had never made a studio recording of. Then we mastered everything, and we realized that those songs we recorded in the apartment in Buffalo didn’t sound as great, so we actually returned to Buffalo to record at GCR Audio. The idea is not to be revisionist: it’s just to put out a contemporary, well-made version of these songs for posterity.”
moe. extended the inventiveness with which they conducted every aspect of their career into the concert arena with the first moe.down festival in 2000. The first year, moe.down drew 3,000 attendants to the Snow Ridge Ski Area in Turin, New York. Subsequently, moe.down attendance has topped 10,000, bolstered by savvy booking that combines an eclectic range of rising talents with established artists such as the Flaming Lips, the Violent Femmes, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood, with John Scofield. In addition to moe.down, moe. hosts the ski- and snowboard-themed snoe.down. They also put together two moe. cruises. They capped off their 20th anniversary year by hosting the tropical throe.down – a vacation for the band and their fans in the Dominican Republic in January 2011.
Via their transcendent live performances, their well-crafted studio albums, the thriving taper culture, and their unique events, moe. developed a vital relationship with a dedicated, ever-expanding fan base. “There was never a moment,” Al explains, “when we decided ‘Hey, people really like us – we need to capitalize on this!’ It’s been a very organic relationship that’s grown like a friendship. None of it was manufactured because of a contest or someone told us that we needed to capture e-mail addresses … and we’re not counting on our next single to maintain it.”