WHAT: Moving Matter SXSW Show
WHERE: Troubador Saloon (MAP)
WHEN: Tuesday, March 13, 2007, 11:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.
WHY: If you love a great jam band - get in on Moving Matter now. Best jam band I've heard in years - no joke.
MORE BAND INFO: Moving Matter website here. Musical samples here
I was introduced to Moving Matter rather by chance, as they were opening for another band I went to Stubbs to see. Sometimes, life's sweetest pleasures are total accidents, and we wound up arriving early enough to catch the entire Moving Matter set.
The band, originally from Fort Collins, Colorado, relocated to Austin in 2003 after having achieved considerable success in their home region. They're certainly a rock band, but they have a rich, progressive sound that's enhanced considerably by their heavy incorporation of new music technologies and synthesized sound. It would be fair to classify Moving Matter as a "jam band," and that's really their strength.
One of the great challenges of a band that ventures into improvisational jamming is keeping the listener actively engaged. It's not only difficult to do technically, but it's incredibly easy to lose direction. Moving Matter manages to avoid that, though, and I think their success in that regard is due to two factors.
First, the band has that "it" cohesiveness factor that you only pick up after playing, living, and breathing together for years and years at a time. They really, truly know each other - as people and as musicians - so the jamming feels like a cooperative effort. There are times during many jams of other bands when I feel a strain between various band members as they search for a unified direction to take the song. Moving Matter seems to ebb and flow with a rare cohesion, however, and that's not something you can just turn on and off. You've either got it, or you don't.
Second, the progressive technologies the band uses add layers of complexity and richness to their sound that I find enthralling. Josh Pearson uses his Roland V-Guitar to create sounds you just don't expect to be coming from a hollowbody guitar. Or a guitar of any kind. Keyboardist Dustin Bozarth, meanwhile, may be the glue of the jams - his various additions of synthesized sounds into the jams elevate them from 'interesting' to 'captivating.' It's easy to imagine Moving Matter as a very strong, interesting band without D-Boz, as they like to call him, but it's impossible to imagine their sound capturing my interest quite the way that it has.
The other really unique aspect of a Moving Matter show experience is the light show which accompanies each set. Matt Jones was enjoying Moving Matter's sets in Fort Collins when he asked if he could help them with their website design. It wasn't until nearly two years later, though, that 'Jonezy' noticed an un-occupied light console at one of their shows. Not one to be shy, he took over the console and put on a light show to accompany their spacey jams. Both the band and Jones realized that they'd stumbled into a great fit, and the partnership was born. Truthfully, the marriage is a boon for show attendees. Moving Matter's sound drifts into delightfully digressive jams, and Jones enhances listeners' abilities to lose themselves in the music by providing a visual backdrop that serves to further enhance the Moving Matter show experience.
After their Stubbs show in February, I had a chance to introduce myself to the band, and asked them if I could preview their SXSW gig at Troubador on Tuesday. The guys were very accomodating and had some terrific answers to my questions.
You guys came down from Fort Collins, Colorado to Austin in 2003 - despite having built a nice following up there. Can you talk about why you decided to move here?
Chris: I think that we felt a sense of urgency in Fort Collins. We were definitely bringing a lot of people out to the shows - at least a lot more than we are so far in Austin. On top of that, we were playing the premier theaters around Colorado quite frequently. Still, we felt like we were maxing out our crowd for our style of music in that territory.
I just think we felt that if we stayed on track with what we had going we would have burnt out our stay, so to speak. We've seen so many bands that just stick around one area, max it out and then fizzle to nothing because they didn't either change the music repertoire or change their scenery. We decided it was time for a change. Now, if we had known how hard that move on us was going to be, would we have still done it? I don't know. (Laughs.)
Josh: The other thing is that we know that we're going to need to tour nationally to reach the kind of level of success that we want to. You can base a national operation anywhere, of course, and Austin just seemed like a perfect place to try to grow our fanbase and make the right contacts.
Before we get into the music, I want to talk about the light show you guys have for each set. Matt Jones joined the three band members in 2002 to become the group's full-time light show coordinator. That's a pretty rare thing for a band that's not out touring nationally; can you talk about "Jonezy" and what he does for the band?
Dan: Matt is amazing. He's become such a large part of the band, and his instrument (the lights) is a big part of the Moving Matter experience. Jones does so much for the band, internally and externally, and I think much of our success can be attributed to his hard work and dedication over the years. I personally owe a lot of my well being to Mr. Jonesy: he lives life like nobody else, he has helped us so much to visualize our dreams in the recent years, and I truly think if it weren't important for the light guy to be out in the audience, that he should be on the stage with the band.
Josh: Jonezy has just been a great friend over the years. Strangely enough, in some ways he has pushed harder for the success of Moving Matter than some of the band members themselves. Jonezy is definitely a dreamer and it's impossible to say that we'd be who we are without his positive energy and hard work. We're very lucky to have such a skilled lighting designer even though we're not a nationally touring act, although that too is about to change.
Turning to the music now - you guys laid out some 10-20 minute jams at Stubbs that were, in my view, exceedingly interesting. I think keeping a jam engaging for that long is one of the most difficult skills for a band to master - but you guys had a real sense of where to take things, and how to make it a cooperative effort. How have you guys developed this skill over the years?
Josh: I completely agree that keeping a jam interesting for any length of time is very difficult to do - even I find some of our jams to become redundant and lackluster at times. I think a lot of whether or not a jam is interesting falls upon the way I feel that night. If I'm having a good night, feeling good, playing well, hitting the right notes, transmitting the right melodies from the light in the sky, then I become completely engulfed in the moment and feel like nothing can stop the jam.
After playing with these guys for seven years, I've really gotten a great sense of their playing and can really tap into what they're thinking - usually, at any given moment. If one of the members is unhappy up their on stage, or preoccupied with something else, I can sense it and it throws off the vibe of the music. We've all talked about how amazing it would be to have 30 minutes or so together alone before we walked out on the stage in order to clear our thoughts and leave any baggage off the stage. It can be overwhelming sometimes before shows hurrying to set up equipment, use the bathroom, and get drinks. It's no wonder sometimes that we get up on the stage and rush a song or make a mistake.
Chris: The other thing is the phrase you mentioned in your question: "over the years". . . It's really just a product of living, eating, breathing, and playing together that lets us fall into those rhythms. It's just like with anything else - you do it long enough and it becomes second nature. It also really helps that we all love the same styles of music and don't have very many quips about creative aspects of the band. You know, one guy doesn't think that we should be playing a country song while the other guy is thinking we should be playing a polka song.
Along with your ability to coordinate long improvisational strings together, the strong use of synthesized sound in your music is what makes it special, in my view. When and how did that make its way into your sound?
Chris: I think it made its way into our sound progressively as we discovered, and could afford, those new pedals and effects. Technology is moving just as fast in musical electronics as it is in almost anything else. I mean, with that Roland guitar synth, Josh can play his guitar and make it identical to a flute, sitar, trumpet or hand drums. I would also note that these kinds of effects are going to be very prevalent in the jam scene for years to come. And now that Dustin has joined in with his array of synthesizer noises, we have a lot of options and a much fuller sound.
Dan: I think that it has always been with us, and thats what is so awesome about having keys in the band now. D-Boz and Josh can now use each other to rest on and can lay down more snyth action. D-Boz has all the right tools to make sure that the space ship is always hovering in the distance, so to speak. It's a big part of our sound, and more importantly, I think it's a big part of us taking our sound to the next level.
If you were telling someone who had never heard you guys live why they should come to Troubador on Tuesday night, what would you say?
Chris: Because Dan, the drummer, is going to do a fucking drum solo while downing an entire can of Easy Cheese. You tell me: is that worth your 5 bucks?!
Josh: All you need to know is that we throw a great party. We put on an amazing light show with great music. We're there to enjoy the evening and we try to make the evening all for your enjoyment.
I'll hold you to that drum solo promise. Thanks, guys, for chatting with me, and I can't wait to see the show Tuesday night at Troubador. Readers, make your plans now. It's gonna be a great party.