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NMF Q&A: Moon Hooch on Weird Dreams and Sustainability

Interview by Wyatt Zelle, Contributor

Forward by Megan Fair, Features Editor

In its career so far, Moon Hooch has released two albums and knocked an NPR Tiny Desk Concert out of the park among touring and festival hopping. The sporadic and unique horn-based music is unlike anything popular presently, and festival-goers at Nelsonville Music Festival had the opportunity to enjoy the one-of-a-kind trio up close and personal on the Porch stage.

Introduce yourselves.

Michael Wilbur: I mainly play the tenor saxophone, but I also use my voice to create sounds, along with the clarinet, the flute, other indigenous bamboo flutes and wooden flutes, the synthesizer and the guitar.

James Muschler: I play the drums in Moon Hooch. I also play saxophone, piano and guitar.

Wenzl McGowen: Seagulls are my favorite bird. I also like eagles and crows, but generally nightingales are also very inspiring.

How long have you been playing and what are your first experiences with playing music?

MW: I’ve been playing since I was eight years old, which is almost 18 years, making me 26 in July. My first musical experience was playing "Mary Had a Little Lamb "on the alto saxophone in fourth grade.

JM: I’ve been playing piano since I was five, so I guess 21 years. The first music I learned was out of like some entry-level piano book I probably can’t remember since I’ve seen the book.

WM: I’ve been blowing into the saxophone for 16 journeys around the sun.

So how did you guys come together?

MW: The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music decided to take all of our money and we were found floating around within the hallways of this prison… We were equally as weird and James and I were attracted to each other’s music… Not just the music… and Wenzl, same thing happened with him and we all came together in a park.

How did you find your sound?

WM: We didn’t really look for anything so I don’t know.

MW: It found us.

WM: Now we’re playing this weird ass music and people are liking it who are weird. Ya know? Before we knew it we were in it so let’s keep riding this wave, we’re still riding this wave.

Have you had any unique tour experiences?

WM: I have one. We were all sleeping in a motel and I was dreaming that we were driving across a bridge. There was a protest in front of us. All the people at the protest had shirts on that said “paid volunteer.” So someone’s funding this protest and they want us to know it, how weird. Then there was a bunch of military vehicles on the side of the ride that stopped cars and searched them. So they stopped us, searched our car and found a bag of coins. Just like random coins. And the military officer is like, “What is this?” And Mike’s like, “It’s money, it’s not real don’t worry about it.” And the officer’s like, “No, money is real.” No, just because you’re stuck in this illusion of corporate wealth and the rest of the country is under the illusion, doesn’t mean it’s real. So then he said, “You say this one more time and I’m gonna put you in a camp.” And he hits Mike in the chest and then Mike wakes up next to me in the motel and he experienced getting hit in the chest. So we had the same dream or something... that was weird.

Anyone else?

MW: Um… this is like sorting through a 6000-page novel.

Let’s get the greatest hits, if that’s a thing for a novel.

MW: In New Orleans we pulled over in this abandoned parking lot near the bay. And started rehearsing a song that we’ve never played since, and it’s gone forever. We drank wine and played bullshit.

WM: Mike likes wrestling our tour managers. One time he wrestled another tour manager and broke his rib. We visit a lot of farms. We check out people living sustainable. People living off the grid. There’s some really interesting instances out there. We visited this guy Jim in Florida who raises chickens and has a very interesting worldview.

JM: Last fall we had a day off in the Redwoods and we went down this trail and it was mystical experience. It was paradise. At the end of the trail there was this amazing beach and we meditated near the ocean.

WM: What about sexual experiences?

JM and MW: [Groaning]

No? Better left unsaid? We’ll move on. Do you guys prefer playing festivals or clubs?

WM: I like festivals better because I hate dealing with a room. In a room the sound is so unpredictable, it’s like bouncing off the walls. Festivals are pretty straightforward--what you put in comes out. That’s all you gotta worry about. Also more exposure. More people getting their mind blown cause they took eight tabs of acid.

How would you describe your typical practice session?

JM: My New Year's Resolution was to practice at least four hours a day and some days I can’t practice because the day doesn’t permit, either I’m in the car or I can’t sit down. But I play a lot of instruments, so I make up for it.

How’s Nelsonville so far?

WM: It’s soothing. To be [immersed] in nature, our first setting sun cast its light onto our skin and now the moon smiling from the heavens.

Nice. How does it compare to other festivals?

WM: Depends on what you are comparing it with.

The vibe, the crowd, the air.

WM: I feel like if I turn left or right I have a different experience at all times. It’s really hard to compare something as a whole. It depends on what I engage with, what I experience.

MW: We’ve noticed this festival is much more sustainable than others. There’s usually trash and drunk people puking on the ground. This one has kids running around and having a good time and people just here to enjoy the music. It seems like everyone has a mutual respect for the land, which is pretty cool.

WM: That’s a much better observation. Scratch what I said.

Are you guys big on sustainability?

MW: Yeah, I mean it’s really our only hope as a planet.

Being from NYC, are you still engaged with those music communities?

MW: There’s this place called The Freedom Garden. We all lived in Bushwick, it’s a really cool collective of musicians who put on DIY shows in their basement. We have all performed there a bunch of times. They’re constantly having really experimental shows, people trying out new things. It’s a really conducive environment for collective creativeness. Kind of an open place for people to learn. I still play shows with them. Try to play with as many people as I can while I’m not on the road.

JM: All the circles kinda meet.

So when can we expect some new Moon Hooch tunes?

All: Tonight!

JM: Our third album comes out in a few months.

Nice. Where did you record that?

JM: Most of it hasn’t been recorded yet. We recorded it, and then did overdubs, and then upon reflecting what we did in the studio, it was missing interactive energy that elevates the music. So we’re gonna do it again, we’re gonna do it live and in a more professional recording studio.

I definitely think when records are tracked live it’s a much more involved experience. JM: Special energy.

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