From modest beginnings in a Buffalo basement over two decades ago to today’s multifaceted success, the members of moe. have never lost sight of the earnest, elemental goals that they aspired to from their very first show: to deliver honest, heartfelt music and to ensure the audience has a good time. Considerate and conscientious in their actions and decision-making, moe.’s refreshingly unpretentious attitude has won them a devoted legion of dedicated fans (ranging from seasoned concert-goers to eager young newcomers) and has given rise to a thriving cottage industry – a self-contained nation-state in which the band and their audience live as equals, thriving on a reciprocal appreciation rare in today’s increasingly fragmented musical landscape.
2010 marks the twentieth anniversary of moe.’s frontline of Rob Derhak (bass, vocals), Chuck Garvey (guitar, vocals), and Al Schnier (guitar, keyboards, vocals), who continue to perform together with the addition of drummer Vinnie Amico and percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Jim Loughlin. Keeping a consistent lineup intact and productive over two decades is no small feat. moe.’s saga is made all the more remarkable because they have consistently done so on their own terms, as independent artists who actively manage their own affairs while staying well ahead of industry and technological developments, including successfully self-releasing their own music and offering instant on-site digital concert recordings at their shows.
“We never really had the rock star attitude,” explains founding bassist and vocalist Rob Derhak. “It was always about – to a fault almost –having a personal connection with the fans on stage. No matter where we play, we want them to know that they are part of the show – like we were playing in a living room. We need their participation to inspire us, and, when we first started, we needed their apartments to sleep in…”
Even with their twentieth anniversary in sight, there is little inclination towards nostalgic reflection or self-congratulation within the walls of moe. They still describe themselves as a rock’n’roll band, without qualifications, compilations, or asterisks – even though their kaleidoscopic music spans all the way from tight, incisively well-constructed songcraft to fluid, conversational extended improvisation, incorporating everything from straightforward rock and Americana influences to bouyant Jamaican and South African inflections. Much like their music, their career has defied the traditional rock band trajectory, with a brief flirtation with the major
label system only reinforcing the fact that they function best when in control of every aspect of their music and how it is documented and presented. In honor of their anniversary, the band has compiled Smash Hits Vol. 1, a sort of Young Person’s Guide to moe., featuring band and fan favorites – some recast in new recordings which showcase the band’s ongoing evolution. “It’s what we and others perceive as our strongest crowd pleasers of the past twenty years,” Rob muses. “It’s a compilation that you can listen to over and over again. Something your mother might enjoy.”