After twenty years together and nine studio albums, one might think moe. had pretty much done it all. Yet the famously independent-minded jam band is reaching for new ground on its latest project, What Happened To The LA LAs.
To begin with, moe. has signed with Sugar Hill Records, the band’s first label sojourn in nearly a decade. The group also chose to work with an outside producer for the first time since 1998's Tin Cans & Car Tires, with John Travis (Kid Rock, Social Distortion, No Doubt) getting the call.
“For most of our career we’ve done everything on our own in a very cottage industry, home-y kind of way,” notes Chuck Garvey, who contributes guitar and vocals to moe. Other members of the band are Vinnie Amico (drums), Rob Derhak (bass, vocals), Jim Loughlin (percussion, Malletkat) and Al Schnier (guitar, vocals, keyboards, mandolin).
Continues Garvey, “With most of our recordings, we’ve gotten the equipment together, we’ve paid for everything ourselves, we’ve produced it ourselves and we’ve had complete control over it. For this album we actually made the leap of putting ourselves in someone else’s hands to help us come out with something different.”
What Happened To The LA LAs features 10 tracks of compact melodies, each textured by moe.’s signature rock riffs and flourishes, and backed by a roller coaster ride of pulsing drums. It’s that pure moe. sound which the band’s ardent fans -- affectionately dubbed moe.rons -- have come to love over the band’s decades of industrious touring.
Most of the material on What Happened To The LA LAs has been road-tested at moe.’s rollicking concerts. “Bones of Lazarus” has been part of the moe. repertoire for more than 10 years, says Rob Derhak, though it went through a major transformation in the studio. Chuck Garvey’s “Suck A Lemon” was written for moe.’s fan-inspired psychedelic Halloween show.
“Downward Facing Dog” is a newer moe. song, written by Al Schnier. It came together rather organically when Schnier realized what had been several different songs actually flowed together into one composition. Lyrically, the song addresses a time when Schnier was dealing with his father’s poor health.
“I had a lot of big issues on my mind,” Schnier recalls. “Being a dad, and being in this situation with my own dad, just makes you look at the big picture. I wanted the song to be something where I could express a passion for life and have it be something that people could relate to.”
Partnering with Sugar Hill enables moe. to work with a label which shares their distinct approach. Explains Garvey, “Everything we do has a very independent spirit to it, whether it’s the creation of T-shirt, a song, or an album. We have a whole team of people who have worked with us for years who are part of that process, and everyone at Sugar Hill gets that this is how we work. And we get that same sense from Sugar Hill, too. It’s an organization that’s been around for a long time and we’ve crossed paths with a lot of the bands on the label over the years. It does seem like a good fit.”
It helps that moe. is working with longtime fans at Sugar Hill, who bring an enduring respect for the band to this new partnership.
“I first saw moe. in the summer of 1997, and have been a fan ever since,” says Stephen Brower, Sugar Hill’s Senior Vice President, Marketing / A&R Development. “What they have accomplished in two decades is impressive. Their independent success is the envy of most independent bands, and the fiercely loyal fanbase they have cultivated is certainly a testament to that. As a band that prizes technical craft, songwriting, and the live music experience -- all traits long associated with our label - it's very exciting to welcome them into the Sugar Hill family.”
What Happened To The LA LAs will be released on January 24, 2012. The album will be available for pre-order at moe. concerts and at www.moe.org.