Interview: Welcome to moe.’s

(The Guide, 7/17) The band  moe. will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Hilton Head Island music lovers: It was their

mispunctuated presence as one of the first bands to visit the still-nascent Shoreline Ballroom in April of last year that helped give the venue a big-name boost. Since then, the Shoreline has brought a consistent flow of big names the island, from B.B. King to Snoop Dogg to Loretta Lynn to Conor Oberst.

The five members of one of the music scene’s longest-running jam bands — one that will hit its two-decade mark next year — will make their return appearance Tuesday. Lead singer Chuck Garvey talked about how their success came from doing musical “missionary work” and why file sharing may be the only thing that can save the music industry.


When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Shoreline Ballroom, Ocean Center, 40 Folly Field Road, Hilton Head Island.

Tickets: $22 in advance, $25 day of show

Information: 843-842-0358,

Question. What was it like being one of the first national bands to play this new venue in a town with a budding live music scene?
Answer. It’s kind of fun, actually. You know all of us, as a business, have to worry about it, like, “Is this going to work out, what’s it going to be like?” It’s not proven.

We kind of started out traveling. We did a lot of exploring. We went to a lot of places that we’ve never been to before. We were doing missionary work. (Hilton Head)’s not a bad place to spend a couple of days. It’s a great spot for anyone to put some shows together. I’m surprised they have not had more rock stars and there’s not something for the more upstanding citizens of Hilton Head.

Q: Most of the moe. experience is in the live show, not the studio album. Is it hard to get people to get new fans to the shows?
A. It’s a lot easier than you think, actually. The first time we went to California, 10 years ago, we sold out the Great American Music Hall due to word of mouth, tape trading and the community of live music. Now (sharing) is exponentially larger. That was the greatest thing for us: the unbiased advertising of just two people talking about what kind of music they like, saying, “OK, you should go see these bands.”

Q. Why did you decide to record your last album (2008’s “Sticks and Stones”) in a church in New England?
A. We realized that making albums in a proper studio is not only expensive; it’s also a vibe-crusher. You feel like you’re on the clock at all times, and time is money, and it’s not quite as conducive to creating. Without those restrictions, it was a lot easier to kind of wake up and start working and be creative. The church was converted into a vacation rental. We all slept, cooked and made an album there. For that process we wanted it to be low-stress and we also kind of wanted to hole up there and not have many distractions from the outside world.

We were able to write and record most of the music in three and half weeks. That place was very inspiring and relaxing. It was slightly like dorm living and slightly posh.

Q. Are jam bands, who are typically more casual about music sharing, better suited to weather the current major record industry upheaval?
A. We’ve kind of operated outside the big machine for our whole career anyway, with the exception of a couple of years with Sony. Everything we’ve accomplished has really been outside the mainstream and the usual channels you expect. It’s because of a loyal fan base and the free trade of music that we’ve grown. We’ve allowed taping and we’ve allowed free trading of taping. What’s going on now, (record companies) know that virally, things like that can get the word out about a band faster. We realized that some aspect of what you did had to be free in order to kind of get the word out and not depend on hype from someone else.

Q. So is that what record labels have to do to save themselves?
A. That seems to be the case now. There’s a lot of talk about subscription-based music trading. Unfortunately, Napster had this giant hammer come down on it originally. If I bought all the music that I wanted, I would be completely broke and not have time to listen to it. It’s through other outlets — through radio outlets and Pandora — that you get to get turned onto other music.

Q. moe. has been a staple at lots of music festivals, including Bonnaroo. How have you seen the renewed clout of the festival scene affect the bands and fans?
A. I think there’s been a giant deregulation of music. There were all these kind of imposed genres that came from radio programming, primarily. You can go to these festivals and see Bela Fleck playing and there’s a guy from Africa and you can also see TV on the Radio playing. They all kind of coexist. That’s how we kind of looked at music in the first place as a band. We figured lots of different kinds of music can be squashed together.

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