What It's Really Like To Be in a Band, Starring Seattle's Moondoggies

Categories: Q&A
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Headlining the Independent tonight is a Seattle folk-rock band by the name of Moondoggies. Maybe you have heard of this band, or its rich, rocking, Neil Young-indebted sophomore album Tidelands, which was released on the Hardly Art label last year. Or maybe not.

Maybe you imagine that because the band has a record out, and is on a headlining tour across the country, it is on the way to massive stardom. Or at least decent earnings. But this is not necessarily the case. When we spoke with singer-songwriter Kevin Murphy, he was on a brief break from a regular day of work at a Seattle bakery. With that kind of introduction, it only seemed fitting to discuss what life is really like on the road.

Where are you right now?
I'm at work right now. I work at a bakery. It's pretty chill, [you] just listen to music and make cookies all day. They'll let me take off time around touring and stuff.

Are you all working day jobs? Anyone doing the band full-time?
It's like a balancing act. It's definitely kind of a punch in the gut to not work for a month, but we're able to make it work. So, still doing the day job.

How long is the upcoming tour?
I think it's maybe a few days under a month.

And that's your first headlining tour? Explain what that means for you.
When you're support, you're making nothing. It's a little bit better [headlining]. It's also a psychological thing. Going around being the headlining act, I guess it's like stepping up a little bit. You get more than 30 minutes. You got a little more freedom.

Do you get better stuff on your rider? Like, bottles of Hennessy instead of E&J?
You put stuff on there that you're like, 'That'd be cool.' I think one time we went to a venue, we had all this stuff, we were like 'Wow, this is great.' And then we realized that was our rider and we'd just never gotten it before. Typically venues kind of look at [the rider] and brush it off, and get you beer. Some places are kind of stingy, they'll give you like two drink tickets.

Is there anything particularly funny on your rider?
It's just like, a bottle of whiskey, chips and salsa, and whatever. [We're] trying to put some healthy stuff on there, because it's easy to eat junk when you're on tour. Nothing too extreme.

What are some places you've played that stand out?
The best so far has been - on the West Coast it's been San Francisco, and on the South ... North Carolina was somewhere that last time was really responsive, so I'm excited to go back there. And there's a good amount of firsts on this tour - Boston, Toronto. It's surprising in general to go anywhere out of your comfort zone and have people be familiar with [your music].

What did you like about playing S.F.?
It's probably one of the best crowds that we get to play for. They're really responsive. And the last time we played there, it just felt really comfortable. Kind of like playing up here. I mean Portland's kind of hit and miss, but every time we play San Fran it seems realy good.

What do you like to do when you're in San Francisco?
We have a friend -- I didn't see him last time, but our friend Bhi Bhiman is a local musician, we always kind of barhop with him.

You guys get Mexican food here?
Yes we do. We get some good tacos. I think it was one of those street vendor type places. And then I got some really good barbecue there, too.

Do you actually get any time when you're on tour to go explore the cities you're playing in?
That's the thing - 99 percent of the time you don't really fully get a ticket in. You're in the city but you can't really say you know a lot about it unless you get to hang out. New York we've actually gotten to hang out there, and San Francisco a little bit, but for the most part, you're going to bed at 3 a.m. and then sometimes you've got like an 11-hour drive, so you're just rolling out of bed and jumping in the van and going. That's the bummer.

What do you tour in? A van? Bus?
Actually for this tour, the band that we're touring with, the Quiet Life, is hauling the gear. And we're sharing a lot of gear and stuff, so I think we're taking our bass player's truck. Which I feel a little more comfortable with, if the weather isn't that great in certain areas.

Yeah, I was just talking to a guy here who rolled his van a bunch of times in Wyoming.
Yeah, Wyoming was nasty when we were there. Actually we can't take the van we have now, because we hit a deer in Kansas on the tour before last one. We just totally destroyed the right side of it.

I heard that you lived in Alaska for a while?
Yeah, I lived there for four months, for a summer, just to work up there.

What was that like?
Alaska's beautiful. The job I was working was with tourists, so it wasn't the most pleasant experience -- people asking you pretty lame questions.

Like what?
'Uh, do you accept American money?' It's like, really? Or, people saying 'I'm from here, do you know where that is?' And it's like, they have schools up here. 'Where's the polar bears?' A lot of the locals just can't stand the tourists, and I can see why. But it's like 80 percent of their economy now, so...

What part of Alaska were you in?
It was Ketchikan. It was like a two-day ferry trip [from Seattle].

How did that inspire music? Or did it?
I made kind of a studio in the attic, because I was living in this like furniture warehouse and just had a lot of time on my hands when I wasn't working. And I kind of had that goal in mind to become more disciplined with it. So I just set up a four-track and I'd try to write songs eveyr day. A lot of that stuff, we're still developing it. I look to that time as inspiration - when I get a little lazy or when I'm frustrated, just somehow that stuff developed over time and it gives me patience.

Is it something you think about doing again?
If we we're ever living off of this, I think it'd be awesome to go to different cities and hang my hat there for a little bit, because there's something about that that definitely rattles your cage a little bit. Doing the same thing every day you kind of get a little stagnant. But that's not something I can really do at the moment.

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The Independent

628 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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