moe.: The Jam Cruise Perspective with Al Schnier and Rob Derhak
For moe., big developments happened at both the beginning and end of 2012. In January of last year, the group released What Happened To The La Las, their first studio album in four years and first with an outside producer since 1998 (John Travis, whose credits include Kid Rock, Social Distortion, No Doubt and others). Almost 12 months later, the band closed 2012 with a unique, extremely audience-friendly Relix-sponsored contest that allowed three lucky fans to actually sit in with moe. during their New Year’s Eve run (the three winners just shared their perspectives on Relix.com).
As they took toward 2013 and beyond, the members of moe. are already starting to think about their next studio project, as well as other ways to involve their fans in special events and other creative endeavors. While aboard Jam Cruise, moe. guitarist Al Schnier and bassist Rob Derhak gave Jambands.com a hint of what to expect from the Buffalo, NY-bred quintet this year.
I wanted to start by talking about a contest that Relix and Jambands.com were involved in. Leading up to your New Year’s Eve run, you let fans submit performance clips. Then, the members of moe. sorted through those videos and three fans got to actually play onstage with the band during your run. How did that idea come about and what was it like sorting through over 100 fan clips?
Rob: Well, I guess Al should probably field that because it was his idea. Initially, it was just something that he came up with.
Al: Right, so I’d been talking with the folks on our team that do all of our field-marketing sort of things—social media stuff or whatever. We were brainstorming and trying to come up with ideas for something to do for that run of shows, and I threw out that idea, and they did such an amazing job. I did nothing other than come up with an idea, and they kind of did everything else. They did such an amazing job with it. I have to give our team all the credit, really, for making it happen. The fans responded really enthusiastically about doing this. I guess if you think about it, if you were a fan of some band and you had the opportunity to play with them, why not try? [For Example] if The Dead ever ran a contest like this…
Rob: You guys would enter. [Laughs.]
Al: Right! I guess you probably would have had to mail in a cassette tape back then, like a Betamax video.
Rob: I can’t imagine how many entries they would get.
Al: Oh yeah! It would have been ridiculous!
Rob: We had like over 100 that we had to sift through, which was really hard.
Al: That’s the thing. I think our contest ran for maybe two weeks or so, and people had to post their videos. We ended up with over 100 in the end. It was a lot to sift through that and pick out the talent there. The fans were so talented! It was awesome!
Rob: There were some really good players.
Al: Great, great players. It was ridiculous how good they were.
Rob: I was surprised to see the level of some of those players. I was like, ‘holy crap!’
Al: I was surprised there wasn’t a little more lunacy, [that] we didn’t get more mocking videos. You know, more dudes wearing American flag capes and a shopping cart going down a hill kind of thing. And people were really good. People who are far better musicians than I am that were submitting videos. That was pretty humbling to see—these people that are our fans out there listening to us are actually better than us and now that they had this opportunity, they could play with us. It was cool to connect with that sector of our audience, and we get to do that occasionally when we’re doing workshops or different things. You got the chance to talk to your fans and you get to geek out over the brand of a guitar pedal or something, but this was on a whole other level because now you’re bringing the sit-in to the fan. And it was really cool, like I said, to engage the fans in that type of way. When it came down to it on the day of, we actually got to hang out with these guys and—
Rob: They were all really prepared too, so there was hardly any rehearsal [that] we did. We just went through the song like two or three times before the show, and every single one of them had it down and ready to go.
In terms of the songs that you guys chose, were those songs that they played in their videos, or were they songs that you guys wanted to do?
Al: They chose the songs—we let them choose.
MG: And they all chose different songs?
Al and Rob: Yeah.