The Moondoggies :: The AD Interview

With an appearance in AD's 2008: Songs in Review, and a glowing review in November, The Moondoggies have become one of AD's favorite still-kept secrets, though that is bound to change soon. With more than a half-year since the release of Don't Be a Stranger, AD recently spoke with Kevin Murphy, singer and guitarist for the Seattle outfit. Murphy spoke about the bands deliberate maturation, the creation of their debut and the inherent difficulty of being labeled by genre.

AD: Let's start from the beginning, because there's very little about you guys out there. When did the band form? And under what circumstances?

Kevin Murphy: Well, we were all friends. I was a little anxious to get something going after Alaska. Caleb had started to play in another band while I was gone so I had to coax him back over my way. Carl wasn't a drummer but I'd seen him play and he had a natural sense about it and he could sing well and it's what we sat around and did all the time. So it was something we just built off of and started rolling.

AD: Your songs occupy a wide array of genres and sounds, how does a song develop for the band - the phases it goes through until you're ready to record or play it live?

Kevin Murphy: We play or have partial songs floating around, sometimes already complete and we just put the puzzle together... I don't know how ready I am to track songs, sometimes, because of knowing something’s done. It's hard to put a period at the end of a sentence for me sometimes. Sometimes playing it live is a good way to know how much you like it. Some songs aren't meant to be finished until you're in the studio I think, it adds a good spontaneity.

A number of the tracks mention somewhat religious figures or ideas, but do not feel overtly religious. How did these lyrics enter into the fold and how do you see Lord/Jesus as a useful tool in songwriting?

Kevin Murphy:
It’s sometimes less about the religious aspect itself as it is about the feeling. The songs are more in the vein of desperation that's in a lot of music - the need to connect with something.

AD: You're from Seattle, and, in the past the press has looked at Seattle as, essentially, a city of movements of music, but really, your music (and other locals like Fleet Foxes) are very different and locationless. Do you think your location, the Northwest, is a factor in your influences, or is the notion of "Seattle" music exaggerated?

Kevin Murphy: Your surrounding are what you reflect when you create and are always gonna play a huge part... but because of the times we have access to everything and regional sounds are a little more meshed. There's so many kinds of bands here in Seattle too. But I think for people music itself can be a certain location you like to travel to. Different sounds take you to different thought - and I hope people enjoy coming to where we are.

AD: How did you come to wind up on the Hardly Art label?

Kevin Murphy: Magic. Well actually I've known Nick Heliotis for a long time and he works at Hardly Art. I gave him all the tracks we had done unmastered. Jonathan Poneman got a hold of it and liked it. We were both pretty shocked. And it's nice because their great people and that makes it easy.

AD: Tell me about the recording process, and how you went about it. Did these songs culminate from several years of work? Was it a long recording period?

Kevin Murphy: Mostly songs we had from that year of writing. “Night and Day” is one of the first songs Caleb and I ever did years before... but it was just 10 days non stop. Erik Blood [producer] was awesome and very fast paced.

AD: A lot of people are talking about the sounds that you harken back to, but to me, this record is not a throw-back but a step-forward. How did at the sound of The Moondoggies? Is this just what felt natural or was it a fresh-direction after previous bands?

Kevin Murphy: It was both. It might sound old because it's not full of sounds from computers or whatever. But we're a very low maintenance band that sits around and sings and writes the kinds of songs we want to sing. It has to be fun and gratifying to our own desires and what we want from music. People can think whatever; we just like making sounds in the basement.

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