The Legend of Moonalice Rises

 
Every musician, regardless of how old he is or how much experience he has had, still dreams about playing good music, traveling and living well. Roger had the ability to harness that and implement a plan for following through with it.

-Jimmy Sanchez

 
Photo by Jay Blakesberg

When Moonalice started, what was your impression of the situation, as it's not the typical "four teenage friends sitting around in the garage plotting their rock & roll destiny" sort of endeavor?

Jimmy Sanchez by Weiand
Jimmy: In some ways, Moonalice was still very much just that. Every musician, regardless of how old he is or how much experience he has had, still dreams about playing good music, traveling and living well. Roger had the ability to harness that and implement a plan for following through with it.

Pete: We've all been around the block a bit, and it immediately became apparent that the combined musical experience in Moonalice was going to give the band the freedom to create a refreshing, anything goes approach to our music and shows.

Roger: Phase one for the band was to create a great sound and find an audience. On those metrics, I think we're doing really, really well. To make that happen, we had to play every gig we could get, as fast as we could get them. It wasn't very efficient in terms of tour routing, but it got us playing at a very high level.

Did the band ever seem too formulaic or contrived? Or did the opportunity for artistic freedom and musical rewards among some friendly faces supersede any other considerations?

Jimmy: I believe that the artistic freedom and musical rewards differ from member to member.

What's your impression of the band now?

Pete Sears by Weiand
Jimmy: I believe that it's a strong band with some good material, a strong CD, a performance that continues to develop and that it has come a long way in a short amount of time. The balance of a lot of touring, rehearsing and recording has undoubtedly played a big part in this, too.

Pete: After playing so many shows together, I feel Moonalice has found its sea legs and, like most bands, is continuously evolving its sound and approach to performing. I have no idea what it will sound like in a year's time, which is how it should be.

I enjoy the musical interaction we have going. We have two wonderful lead guitarists, both with completely different approaches to their playing, and Moonalice tries to give them both the freedom to stretch out, which gives me a chance to have some fun on the piano, keyboards, and accordion. But, when my old Hot Tuna bandmate Jack Casady is unable to do a tour with us, we all cover on bass, so I get to play a little on that instrument as well, which is nice. Barry also plays the pedal steel as well as guitar, which adds another wonderful element to the music.

Roger also has a wonderful rapport with audiences. He researches the local history of each town before we play, and weaves it into his unique take on the Moonalice legend. The in-between song banter is never the same two shows in a row. Jerry Garcia's personal road manager, Steve Parish, an old friend of mine, has joined us as tour manager.

Roger: When he [Steve] worked with the Dead, his job was to keep the Deadheads away from the band. Thousands of people have stories about getting thrown out of the backstage area by Big Steve. In Moonalice, Big Steve's job is exactly the opposite. He is there to get fans as close to the band as possible. That's why he introduces every set. That's why he presides over "the hang" with fans.

Roger, what's it like to be the team owner, general manager, coach, and player?

Roger: The band is very democratic, but GE and I take the lead on music and business, respectively. For me, the business role is new. We tried having managers, but it was too expensive, so now I do it. It's fun! We just try new stuff all the time. The stuff that works we do more of!

Who brings the material to the Moonalice table?

Ann McNamee: All four of us do - Roger, GE, Pete and myself.

Ann McNamee & Sears by Weiand
Roger: Our repertoire is about 100 songs, and we have about 25 originals that we have not yet had time to rehearse and perform. Most of the songs are written by Ann, mostly supported by GE. GE and Ann also bring in most of the covers.

Pete: The writing is spread around pretty evenly. I wrote one of the songs on the new CD, "Kick It Open," with my wife, lyricist Jeannette Sears. GE also brings some wonderful material to the table, and sings anything from old civil war songs to Chuck Berry tunes. Jimmy and Barry don't write, but they, of course, help with the arrangements.

Ann: For the CD, T-Bone asked me to write for others to sing, so that's how a song like "Unspoken Words" came about. Isn't Pete's voice perfect for that Beatles-like song?

Ann, what are your musical influences?

Ann: Stravinsky, Carole King, Bon Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Szymanowski and Bach. My background is in classical music and teaching music theory.

How/why were the tunes on the CD chosen?

Roger: T-Bone recorded 23 songs and finished 20 of them. He chose the eleven on the album, as well as the sequence. As producer, that was his job.

Why did you go for a vinyl sounding recording? How was this effect achieved?

Roger: Is this a trick question? The short answer is that we didn't want the album to sound like shit on an iPod. When we were kids, music sounded much better than it does today, largely because the technology was simpler. Labels only had to worry about mastering for home stereo and cars. Now there are mp3 players, subwoofers, ear buds, computer speakers, and lots of other output modes. The result is that the lowest common denominator sounds terrible on almost any playback system.

T-Bone pointed out that musicians could do much better without spending more money. All that was required was mastering for the main playback systems: home stereo, DVD audio, mp3, AAC, and FLAC. As a result, our album has both a CD and a DVD. The DVD has the DVD audio, mp3, AAC, and FLAC, as well as two music videos.

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