Almost 20 years ago a group of SUNY Buffalo students began playing music together. Today moe. is a band which stands apart from its jam band peers. Taking a break from recording a new album with his side band and picking up a reverb chamber once used by Bob Dylan, vocalist Al Schnier takes time to discuss where the band has been and where it’s heading.
On the band’s current album, Sticks And Stones, moe. decided to deviate from their way of writing and took a more traditional approach. Throughout their career the band had often first worked on songs as jams on stage and used the outlet as a way to work out the kinks before recording it. This time around the band began working and writing in the studio.
“We just wanted to do something different,” Schnier says of the decision and adds, “We’ve done the other, because we’re always touring and playing things live, we end up with more material than would make up an album. This time we wanted to turn the tables. The last couple of albums we’ve set parameters. Fine guide lines. We’re going to record this way, using this technology. It’s like you have two matches and one wish, and if you were on a desert island what kind of album would you make? It’s worked as a way to focus for the album. Otherwise we’d end up with something like Chinese Democracy, where it’s been coming out for ten years.”
Taking a 180 in their creative process did pose a few problems for the band at the beginning of the sessions.
“It was awkward. We had done things the other way for so long, it was awkward. We would kind of stare at each other. Look at each other and go ‘What do you want to do?’ It was like being in junior high and being on my first date. We had to learn a new routine and a new pattern,” Schnier says.
But there’s more to moe. than the band’s music. The band has often lent itself to various charities to raise awareness for causes as varied as the tsunami in Sri Lanka and Autism. Given the rash of recent natural disasters in places like China and Myanmar, one has to wonder if the band would be rallying to help those affected.
“Not so much,” Schnier replies with a hint of regret in his voice. “It’s mind blowing when you think of what you’re up against with some governments. That’s not to say that that we should make no efforts. We’re going to being lending ourselves to a Head Count benefit, for voter registration in this country,” he says of the band’s upcoming philanthropic event.
“It really could be a full-time job to support just environmental causes, and not any social causes. We do what we can. We usually do benefits in conjunction with moe.down, normally medical related. We have done something for cancer research and I think we may do that again this year,” he concludes.