Monday, April 28, 2008

Spotlight: Dayton/Columbus band MOON HIGH

I've seriously been trying to NOT do as many features on Ohio bands, since this is a Midwestern music site, but I can't help it they are always the first ones done with their interview questions!

Anyway, some bands end up getting hype heaped on them because they know people who know people.
I hate those bands.
Other bands end up getting hype because they are creating interesting music, doing as many shows as they can, and show off a unique voice that people just can't help but talk about.
Such is the case with Dayton/Columbus band Moon High. Combining visual elements in their stage shows and tapping into a unique blend of psychedelic folk and indie pop, the band is superb. Relaxed vocal deliveries, banjo, cello, acoustic guitars and a delicate use of drums coming in and out.
Moon High consists of Ryan Wells of Dayton and Columbus musicians David Fowler (also of Heavy Mole) and drummer William Jankowski (also of Church of the Red Museum).
Wells recently took time to answer some questions I had...

PEOPLE WIITH ANIMAL HEADS: One aspect I've enjoyed about your band, other than the music, has been the visual elements of light circles you guys use. What brought that on?

RYAN WELLS: Well, David and I had discussed at great length what all we wanted to incorporate in our live performances well before we started playing out, and lighting was one of the first things that came to mind. We just felt it would enhance the overall experience for the audience to have some visual stimulation that coincided with the audible stimulation. Really turn it into a “performance” rather than a “show”. I think we both agreed that lanterns would fit the mood of our music because they give such a diffused, almost eerie, glow when put through a dimmer; and the banjo light being a stark cold blue was a nice contrast. The fact that they are all circular glowing objects tied it together nicely, especially with the name Moon High. It can be a slight inconvenience setting them up at every show, but the response has been encouraging enough to keep them as a staple element in our live performances.

PWAH: In Ohio it's getting more and more difficult for quieter bands to get an audience, because every city is so stuck into this full-on rock mind frame. I really appreciate scene diversity. That's why it has been nice to see the Moon High name getting passed around more frequently. But have you encountered this dichotomy of having to compete with sheer volume?

RW: Much to our dismay it has been very difficult to battle the sheer level of noise created by people just hanging out in a bar. It’s different from club to club, depending on how elaborate of a sound system they have, but it didn’t take long for us to realize that quieter environments (i.e. house shows or gallery shows) are much more conducive to what we play. You can’t always pack as large of an audience in a basement as you can in a bar, but at least you know that everyone is there to listen to the music. It would be nice to find more places like Skylab, in Columbus, that do produce really good turnouts for quieter bands; but we’ll just have to wait and see if the Ohio music scene starts to shift its ways from the rock and roll mind frame a bit.

PWAH: Describe the Dayton/Columbus connections. I think your other guitarist is from the band Heavy Mole, if I'm not mistaken? How has the helped or hurt you being split between cities?

RW: You are not mistaken. David (guitarist for Moon High and drummer for Heavy Mole) does live in Columbus along with our drummer Bil (who also plays in Church of the Red Museum); while I reside in Dayton. David and I became friends while I was living in Columbus a few years back, but the idea for Moon High didn’t come about until around a year and a half ago when I approached him about possibly working on music together through email. As we grew more and more interested in what we were making musically, the idea of becoming an actual band evolved, despite the long distance. Sadly I’d say there is little to no benefit that comes from us living almost 100 miles apart. I drive to Columbus pretty much every weekend and David drives to Dayton pretty much every Tuesday, so with the insane cost of gas and the almost overwhelming waste of time spent driving, it can put a strain on us. However, we stay surprisingly productive for all the hurdles we have to leap and have such a genuinely enjoyable time being in this band that it’s really a small price to pay in our eyes.

PWAH: I really like to focus on the aspect of Midwestern music on my site. How do you think being from the Midwest has influenced your music?

RW: It’s hard to say really. I think the most direct Midwestern influence would be the strange balance of desolation and urbanization that we live in. There are some bigger cities in the Midwest, but they are always surrounded by so many small towns and communities that are, for lack of a better description, very Midwestern. It’s sort of like being in the South and seeing these places that could ONLY be in the South. There’s definitely a unique feeling when you’re planted in Midwestern rural areas, and I think that whether it’s intentional or not, it comes through in our music.

PWAH: What are some midwestern bands you like right now that you think other people should know about?

RW: I would certainly recommend to anybody who hasn’t already heard of Buffalo Killers to check them out. They have a new album coming out in June that is going to be really amazing. I’ve also been into Time and Temperature (no on-line presence, despite many efforts to get her to) and Jordan Hull lately; as well as Southeast Engine and Gretchen King.

PWAH: Tell me a bit about your CD, any lyrical themes you delve into and what your plans are right now to get the word out on it.

RW:The album is self-titled and was hand made in a small run of a little over 100 copies. We wrote, recorded, and produced the album over most of 2007 and are currently selling it at shows and on our website (
I feel that David and I have both brought somewhat different lyrical themes to this record, while managing to find a common musical ground.
My songs tend to touch upon somewhat fantastical situations that attempt to give a message of creating balance and understanding; while David’s are more centered upon personal reflections of real people, but written in a poetic sense that can be universally understood.
At the moment we’re trying to play as many shows as possible to support the album and have just recently started looking into contacting some labels about the possibility of putting out an official version (hint to any label that might be reading this).

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