Moe Meguro is an oddball in the world of music collaboration. A self-described “commuter” band, the three members live in disparate locations. As such, they cut to the chase when working together, and the songs reflect this very work ethic. The band recently released their self-titled record, a 9-track assortment of infectious tunes combining noise rock, emo, and classic rock. The album includes a cover of John Lennon’s “#9 Dream,” performed not unlike Big Star may have sounded playing it. Starting off the record, tracks like “Today’s Happiness” and “CC” catapult the listener into their world of Crosby, Stills, & Nash meets Cap’n Jazz, an impactful remark an audience member once noted to the band.
Unfortunately, due to distance, the band is rarely able to perform. Therefore, music lovers should rejoice at this hidden gem and cherish the nuances in each song. It may be the only chance to listen to the band for the time being. Our curiosity was so much that we asked guitarist Bernie Gelman some questions about the mechanics of a commuter band.
You are in Texas, Logan (drums) is in California, and Jojo (guitar) is in Japan. How did you guys meet and form the band?
We’re all originally from the Bay Area in California. Jojo and I have known each other since we were in bands in high school. We didn’t actually get together to play music until a few years later, when we did San Mai Niku (our first LP). There was actually a different drummer on that record (Buddy Hale). When Jojo and I met up to start working on material for our most recent, self-titled album, Buddy wasn’t available. I’ve known Logan for a long time because our bands used to play together when we were teenagers. I asked Logan if he’d be interested in playing with us and the rest is history!
The album was written and recorded in a few days when you were all together. Where was the album recorded?
We tracked the album straight to tape at Shipwreck Studios in Oakland, California. The overall tracking and mixing time for the album was less than a week, but we spread those dates out over two separate sessions in the course of about a year. The studio actually burned down a few months after we finished recording the album. It’s weird to think that the place where all of those sounds were captured doesn’t exist anymore.
It sounds like there’s a lot going on in terms of guitar tracks and overall production effort. How were you able to finish it all in a presumably short and pre-determined time frame?
Thanks! One advantage of our slow-moving process for writing and recording material is that we have a lot of time to tweak and perfect ideas before we go into the studio. There are actually fewer guitar tracks on each song than you would think. We tend to take a less-is-more approach to guitar sounds and spend a lot of time working on crafting the tones and function of each instrument within a song. Jojo and I both tend to play relatively dense chord voicings to fill out the space, particularly since we rehearse the songs without bass. Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine is a huge influence for us in that regard.
We were also limited, in a good way, by both time and our recording medium— we only had a finite number of tracks on the tape machine! So, we came into the studio with a pretty cohesive idea of the overdubs that we planned on doing.
In an ideal world, would the members of Moe Meguro live relatively close to each other? Or, is this your ideal world, perhaps because you’re all forced to focus and collaborate more in these specific allotted scenarios?
In an ideal world, we’d all live a lot closer together. Living far apart means that we have a lot of time to work on material before we meet up and we’re less likely to get on each other’s nerves, but it makes almost every other aspect of being a band twice as hard. Scheduling rehearsal and recording time usually needs to be done months in advance and, when we finally do meet up, we usually only have a few days to get everything together for the studio. It’s not unusual for us to have only played a new song a handful of times before we commit it to tape!
Additionally, live performance has definitely taken a backseat to recording for us. Since we meet up so infrequently, it’s always going to be a toss-up between playing some shows or working on some new music, and who wouldn’t want to work on new stuff? We went on a two week west coast tour last summer, but we really should play more gigs since nobody really knows who we are.
What’s next for Moe Meguro?
We’re deep in the process of recording our next LP at Different Fur Studios in San Francisco with Sean Paulson. We’re well over halfway done with tracking, so hopefully we’ll have something out by the end of this year! I’m really jazzed about some of the new sounds we’re getting: lots of very pretty guitar sounds and a really eclectic set of material. We’re getting some help from Madeline Kenney’s Copper Mouth Records on this release. More on that soon!
Your Bandcamp description of “Crosby, Stills, and Nash meets Cap’n Jazz” is surprisingly accurate. Can you talk about your blend of styles and influences?
That blurb was actually something someone said about us after a show last summer. We were playing a song with some three-part vocal harmonies and I guess that was what came to mind for them.
The three of us each have pretty diverse listening habits. I’m definitely the resident Beatles nut, but I also spend a lot of time spinning Talk Talk or Yes albums. Logan and I both spent our teenage years playing in bands influenced by stuff like Joan of Arc and Don Caballero, so that whole math rock thing has definitely seeped into our musical vocabulary. Jojo used to be really into Modest Mouse, but he’s really all over the place with what he likes to listen to. We all are! I think that we approach songwriting from a collaborative point of view that incorporates and expands on all of our influences. We always try to play parts that serve the song, but aren’t 100% expected, which hopefully makes for an exciting listening experience!
Name an album that changed your life.
Papa M’s Live From A Shark Cage is huge for me. It’s the solo stuff from David Pajo, the guitarist from Slint. That album is amazing from start to finish and features some of my favorite guitar playing. When I was about 19 years old, Pajo did a tour where he played that record from front to back. The show only ended up having about ten people there, so it was super intimate. When Pajo started playing the opening notes to “Arundel,” the guy standing next to me started crying.
Purchase Moe Meguro here.