Wild by Nature: Two Nights of Moon Hooch at Nectar LoungeFebruary 13, 2017
Horn-and-percussion trio Moon Hooch, known for their explosive live performances which incite wildly impassioned dancing, are returning to Nectar Lounge for two holiday performances: April Fool’s Day (April 1, 2017) and Cinco De Mayo (May 5, 2017). They recently played a sold out performance at Nectar in November of 2016.
The trio, made up of James Muschler, Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen, is currently touring around the country, bringing their genre-bending style to numerous American cities. We got in touch with saxophonist Wenzl as they were driving through Virginia to ask some questions about the band.
Nectar Lounge: How did Moon Hooch come to be? I read you got your start on the New York City subway platforms!
Wenzl McGowen: You know it was kind of an accident, we didn’t plan to form a band. But when people suddenly reacted to the music and start dancing, only then did we think…well maybe we should start a band! We all went to New School (The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music) together and after that James our drummer (James Muschler) and Mike (Wilbur) were living in a house with 11 other musicians. A room opened up in the basement and I moved in. Mike and I started going to bartending school together to make some extra money and we all started playing music together whenever the opportunity arose. One day, James and I were playing in the street and Mike came along with another drummer and they kind of joined in and it just felt like we had a really good energy together. So we started going out together more. It started casual, kind of whatever, until people started dancing in the subway. And then we were like, ‘oh sh*t,’ maybe we should put more energy into this project. So we did. It kind of took off.
NL: You guys are known for playing this genre that’s unlike pretty much anything else. On your Facebook you describe it as “Cave Music”, and on your records it sounds like a mash up of jazz, EDM and funk. How was that style born?
WM: Well Mike and James were really into jazz at the time and I was really into electronic music. We played all over the spectrum, but I started writing some songs with elements of electronic music. Mike and James put their energy and their inspiration into these songs and they kind of took a very wild turn.
NL: And people responded pretty well it seems!
WM: Yeah! People were like, ‘what the hell is this, I want to take off my shirt and start dancing.’ People were actually taking off their shirts on the subway platform. There’s video of them waving their shirts in the air, starting sh*t.
NL: I was reading at times the NYPD had to ban you due to the crowd. Why do you think people get so rowdy?
WM: Why? Well, I don’t know. They banned us because it was getting dangerous. People were dancing on the subway platforms, with trains coming on both sides, and that was dangerous! We’re happy no one ever got hurt.
Then the reason they got so wild…people are wild in their nature, all humans are wild, it’s just a question of allowing yourself to be wild or not. And when some people make the choice to connect to this primal energy and don’t care about the social norms, then I think other people are encouraged to do so as well. We do that and
people then don’t really live by the constraints of society. We try to express our innate being at all times if possible. We play our music, and it brings out wild sh*t in other people.
NL: What was it like taking your subway performances to a stage?
WM: Well it was actually kind of easy. If you can make people dance in one place, you can make them dance in another. It wasn’t much different at first. But then later on we started integrating electronic elements into our sound. And it’s an ongoing project, trying to integrate more electronic sounds with our more raw sounds. So that’s something we’re still expanding on, figuring out, adding new elements. We have a synthesizer now and we actually bought a modular synthesizer which is a really cool device. I won’t get into the technical details, but it’s a cool tool that we’ve just got to learn. It really expands our sonic world drastically.
NL: You just released a new EP, Joshua Tree. Will people notice how you’ve been growing there? How did you bring what you’ve been experimenting with into that project?
WM: You know we actually were planning on doing something more electronic, but the first four days we were so uninspired and nothing happened, we just started hiking, walking into vast distances and appreciating life on that level. Then suddenly, we got inspired to just play and not really worry about what we were creating. And in that process, Joshua Tree unfolded. It actually ended up being a much more acoustic album. There are some delays and some effects but most of it is a raw sound. And the next album might be more electronic!
NL: You’re touring right now, so are you playing the acoustic stuff from Joshua Tree or are you incorporating more electronic elements? What is your show composed?
WM: It’s all that. We don’t play any songs from Joshua Tree yet in our live show, but we could if we develop in that direction! Other than that, all we’re trying to do is be present, listen to each other and commit to whatever choice we make. It’s kind of like living life.
NL: You released Joshua Tree for free download. Why did you decide to do that?
WM: We really don’t believe that art should cost money. I think humans should live together like nature does, where plants and animals gift each other. A free of charge service. I would love to live by that principal and give our tracks to whoever wants to listen to them. But unfortunately, we are also kind of trapped in the same economy as everyone else. Mike has a lot of student debt, and we have to make a steady income. But whenever we have money to survive or keep going, we also want to gift, share and not charge. Our main goal is not to make funds, our goal is to make a positive impact musically on this planet. And on that note, we’re all vegans. We promote local food, the co-op, being a vegan chef, we have a cooking blog. We want to put our energy to upholding these values. I think giving things away for free is hopefully inspiring others to do the same. Social change starts with an individual.
NL: You’re coming back to Seattle, a city known for leaning progressive on social change (that also has great vegan food!), for two holiday shows at Nectar Lounge: April Fool’s Day and Cinco de Mayo. Are you fans of Seattle?
WM: We love that part of the country, the wet and the beautiful green. It’s really really wonderful. We’re actually going to rent a house for a couple months in Portland. We’ll be close to Seattle, enjoying living among the tall and luscious trees.
NL: Well we’re excited to have you as our neighbors! And for your upcoming shows.