:: LOHI Music Festival :: June 14 ::
By Hap Fry
Pardon Al Schnier for not always being completely in the know about his whereabouts. The man had a lot on his plate.
For starters, he was just two days away from striking a match and setting fire to the 14th Annual Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, Ill. If that weren’t enough, Schnier and the rest of his moe. bandmates were set to unveil their highly-anticipated album No Guts, No Glory just a few days later.
So excuse Schnier for being a little less cognizant about his surroundings on this day, which found him and the rest of moe. in Peoria, Illinois getting ready for a radio interview/performance with WWCT.
“We were just hanging out at Summer Camp this morning and we decided to jump ship,” Schnier said that day during a phone interview with The Marquee. “We all just got in a van and just ended up here. I guess we’re in some sort of a recording studio. It’s actually pretty cool.”
The irony that moe. finds itself back in a studio right before kicking off another whirlwind summer tour was not lost on Schnier, nor was the fact that half of the new album’s 14 songs had yet to be played live.
“It’s totally different because you don’t really know how they’re gonna be received,” he said. “When you see how people hear and react to something for the first time, it is always an interesting process. You hope you have them after the first chorus or at least by the end of the song. But sometimes it takes a year for us to grow into a song and for fans to grow into it. Sometimes it takes a while for a song to get its legs underneath it, and sometimes it’s just a matter of it being a shit song. I mean, they can’t all be beautiful children.”
There is no doubt a little truth to that, but any uncertainty surrounding the material on No Guts, No Glory was overshadowed by the energy and excitement that always comes with releasing a new record. The album is the group’s first studio album since 2012, when the band released What Happened to the LA LA’s.
“A new record always keeps the spark going – that and role playing and wife swapping,” Schnier jokingly said. “It breathes a little life into the machine. It’s always nice when there’s a new record.”
While almost any group would say the same thing before the release of a new album, there might be an added level of truth to that sentiment. No Guts, No Glory is accompanied by a pretty good backstory.
As it turned out, the group’s eleventh studio album initially was supposed to be an all-acoustic collection recorded in a barn, but after almost a month into exploring that idea the “logistics” of making it that way just “kind of” went by the wayside, Schnier explained.
Schnier and his bandmates had sought out highly accomplished and regarded producer/engineer Dave Aron, who previously facilitated albums for Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and Dr. Dre, along with more mainstream acts like Prince and U2. Despite his hip-hop pedigree, Aron, the band said, “has an ear for rock.”
“Dave’s our friend, so we just thought let’s go make a record with him in L.A.,” Schnier said. “I thought it might sound a little like Sublime or Beck or even a little early G-Love, but then once we got there, we were just like, ‘We need to bring it back to the Northeast.’”
It was only back on their turf that the group found its groove with the process of putting together No Guts, No Glory, which still had an acoustic theme and Aron’s touch on it.
“I think I was the one who said it, but I was like, ‘I’m just not feeling this as an acoustic record,’” Schnier said. “‘What if we just played these like moe.?’ Everyone was thinking the same thing, anyway, so that’s what we did — but all of the songs started off acoustic and turned into rock.”
Because the songs were written acoustically, Schnier said they have a “little more solid foundation” to them. He also added that once the group — which in addition to Schnier (guitar/vocals), features Chuck Garvey (guitar/vocals), Rob Derhak (bass/vocals), Vinnie Amico (drums) and Jim Loughlin (percussion) — found the right locale, the production of the album was smooth.
“This recording was probably the easiest we’ve ever done,” he said. “We got so much work done in such a little amount of time. It was effortless. Everything was organic, and the best part about it is we probably have at least another 10 songs that we could have put on it.”
That’s saying a lot when you consider the history of moe., but it’s also a testament to the band’s improvisational approach to life and music. The group will celebrate its 25th year together in 2015, and special destination gigs and a special recording for the occasion already have been discussed.
It’s really a bit much to take in for Schnier, who was a full-time graphic designer at the Buffalo News when moe. formed as a group back in 1989. “I think when we first started, we were just happy to get a gig playing somebody’s house party,” Schnier said. “We just did it because we were driven to play music. And we just kept trying to improve.”
That approach for the group continues to this day. Even though moe. has long established itself as one of the premier jam bands, they are continually looking for ways to evolve and grow – No Guts, No Glory and its metamorphosis as an album being a perfect example.
Then again, it also is the same old moe., which could best be described as a constant and relentless touring force. “We tour all the time, so making a new record fuels the fire,” Schnier said. “Most bands do a tour in support of a new album, but it’s the other way around for us. We put out an album in support of a tour.”
:: moe. ::
:: Mishawaka Amphitheatre :: June 13 ::
:: LOHI Music Festival :: June 14 ::
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