By Walter Price
From North Carolina comes a band blurring the lines of alt-country, pop and Americana in a way reminiscent of their contemporaries Family Of The Year, Jason Isbell, Rhett Miller and even Phillip Phillips have done before them. They are known as be the moon.
From the first listen I was taken in with the great storytelling and near perfect arrangements. Creating a sound not overcrowded with arrogance or fluff many try in an effort to gain radio play or to please their possible audience. Instead letting the story guide the listener and let the chips fall where they may.
It is close to impossible to be standouts in this well-known genre but I know you will find be the moon are on their way to doing just that. My main concern is that this may just be a fun weekend project for the guys (Elliott Humphries, Adam Shaw, Freddie Alderman and Steven Bristow) and their sounds will be limited to local gigs. That would be a crying shame but economics, families and careers often direct one’s path. Understandable.
I recently had a chat with be the moon’s Elliot Humphries about some of the this and that’s surrounding the band; a band that you should throw your support behind before their lives force the band to become weekend show warriors.
Be The Moon…
Whitsett, NC isn’t that big of a spot in the world, what’s the scene like there? Is Burlington your actual home?
Well…you are correct in pointing out that Whitsett is not a very large spot! Our home scene, I suppose, would be Burlington, NC. However, we’ve spent the past three years traveling from place to place performing for whoever would listen. We’ve spent a LOT of time in the Raleigh area. We’ve got a ton of great bands that we share our scene with such as Hank Sinatra, The Backsliders, John Howie Jr. & the Rosewood Bluff, Six String Drag, Nathan Arizona & The New Mexicans, Darkwater Redemption, The Ben Sutton Band, & Juju Guru…to name a few. We’re honored to be part of a REALLY vibrant and storied North Carolina music scene. We’re constantly floored by how many incredible bands and songwriters are just here doing their thing.
The band certainly has a sound reminiscent of country/Americana with pop sensibilities; do you focus on a genre for your sound when writing?
That is an excellent question! As a writer, I really don’t try to focus on a specific genre when I write. I always try to write lyrics first and music second. I think that lyrics are the heart and soul of the song. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a LOT to be said for a great hook, but good lyrics stand the test of time. I grew up listening to The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Steely Dan. But my folks always had Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Asleep at the Wheel, and Lyle Lovett stuff around. There was also a lot of big band jazz, like Count Basie, around. Really nothing was off limits when it came to music, just whatever sounded good.
It wasn’t until I went to college in the mid-90’s that I discovered bands like Wilco, Son Volt, Counting Crows, and Uncle Tupelo that I really started to see that country music could be more than what was played on mainstream radio. The albums “Being There” by Wilco and “Trace” by Son Volt really drove that home for me. Out of that came the discovery of The Old 97’s. I had never heard bands be so unabashedly country while still being seriously meaningful and pointed.
Later on I started discovering North Carolina bands like Whiskeytown, Hank Sinatra, 6 String Drag, and The Backsliders. These influences always seem to come through when I write. I LOVE wordplay and juxtaposition in lyrics! I like running words together that don’t typically fit and seeing where that will take the song. I’ve become enamored with master writers like Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen. At heart, though, I think of be the moon as a rock ‘n’ roll band.
What is your record collection like? It must be sporadic and wide ranging.
Well, not as much as you might think. I’ve got the standards, the British Invasion stuff. Then there is my alt. country stuff like Whiskeytown and The Old 97’s. I’ve also gotten into Gram Parsons and Paul Weller. The Jam stuff is fantastic. I love the energy and urgency that they played with coupled with that Motown/Stax R&B feel. When we play live that’s what we try to go for, just pure energy.
How long playing solo before you wanted to ‘thicken up’ your sound with a band?
Again, this is a good question! The full band thing wasn’t planned. I was doing my solo thing and Adam, who plays keys, saw me a this little place in Mebane, NC. We started talking and he, eventually, wanted to team up. I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of starting a band but he and I started doing a duo thing and, viola, be the moon! Freddie (our bass player) and Steve (our drummer) came on board later. I had been in bands with both Freddie and Steve in the past. It all just kind of fell together.
How far are you looking to take be the moon?
None of us ever had any preconceived notion about where the band should go. It’s already gone much farther than any of us thought it would. We will keep doing it as long as we are able. We enjoy making music together. That’s all that really matters.
We approach the band as friends first and musicians second. We look out for one another. We hang out together on off nights. It’ll go where it goes.
What do you guys do when not making chill bare bones music?
I’m a teacher, Steve is a firefighter, Freddie works for a garden supply center, and Adam works in IT.
You guys have a new album coming up, what can you tell me about it?
Well, we’ve been saying that the new record will be out next month. But we may have to push that back a bit due to some unexpected delays in the recording due to an EXTREMELY harsh winter here in the States.
The album will be titled “Golden Age”. Looks like there will be 10 tracks on the record. The songs are pretty varied with regards to content and subject matter. The title cut is based, loosely, on family history and the way the textile industry moved out of our hometown during the last part of the 20th century. I used my wife’s family as a foil to tell the story of our hometown in song. I didn’t want it to be a bright, shiny picture of “the good old days”. I don’t believe in “the good old days”. I think that stuff is false. Times have always been hard in their own way and I wanted to tell people that.
The rest of the album kind of plays on that light/dark theme. There are some songs about breakups and about running away to better things. I took a LOT of cues from Springsteen and Jackson Browne while writing this album. I have come to admire those guys SO much as writers. Just amazing use of imagery and word play.
What are 5 things the world need to know about be the moon?
1. Our families are super awesome!
2. Freddie taught himself to play bass to join the band.
3. Adam taught himself keyboards and percussion.
4. We are blessed to be able to do this.
5. Thanks for listening to our music!
Thanks for taking some time to chat with me.
Hey, have you seen my tambourine…