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Published: 2014/08/29
by Brian Robbins

The Road to Glory with moe.‘s Chuck Garvey

I grew up with vinyl and I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m saying when I refer to thinking about an album as a record – in terms of sequencing and song-to-song flow. No Guts No Glory feels like a record to me. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a good album on shuffle (laughter) but it feels like these songs are meant to be the way they are.

We definitely feel that sequencing is a kind of art. I think the sequencing of every studio album we’ve released has been done thinking of it as an album. We’d think in terms of time constraints and have a “side A” and a “side B,” even though it’s going to be on a CD or digital files – we’d make sure there was a certain flow to it. Or think of it as a setlist, where it has to have a certain momentum at the beginning; a certain momentum in the middle – and then a conclusion, you know? So if you to listen to it all the way through, it makes sense.

It seems now that very few people do that, because there’s so much music out there. At the same time, for all of us, we’re of that mindset where we’d consume this thing as a whole, rather than taking out one track and throwing out the rest.

Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking on our part to think that people will listen to the whole album. (laughs)

Man, I hope that never ends – at least in my lifetime. How about we talk some specifics on a few songs?

Sure!

You mentioned “White Lightning Turpentine” – it tickled me how it announces itself with that rolling, burbling acoustic riff – but it really becomes a moe. tune the moment you first hear Jim’s mallets.

Absolutely.

Do You think it’s fair and/or correct to refer to Jim as one of the band’s secret weapons? His work is amazing … like a sous chef who’s in the background throwing all these weird and cool spices over everyone’s shoulders into the pot.

Yeah! (laughs) It’s a very signature thing to hear Jim on the vibraphone or a xylophone … there are very few people who have that as an element of what they do. He’s definitely a secret weapon in that regard.

His percussion work, as well – combined with Rob on bass and Vinnie’s drums … that’s some kind of serious rhythm machine, right there.

Definitely! (laughs)

There are a number of shapeshifts in that song, even though it’s only something like four-and-a-half minutes long. That’s one of the many things you guys do so well: morphing from this vibe/this rhythm/this melody to something else to something else to something else in four-and-a-half minutes without it sounding busy. Where does that come from within the band?

I think a lot of that comes from both improvising live and writing the songs; composing the songs in a way where you feel that as you progress, it’s going somewhere – it’s a journey. Incorporating shifts in time, feel and even style is something that announces different moods or different meanings throughout the song. It’s also a way to get a little more depth out of what could be a very bare bones song on its own lyrically; you can write a lot more drama, a lot more scope into it with music.

I think people who listen to music – and have the patience and love for it – want it to unfold like that. It’s like reading a book or watching a movie. So, hopefully, those kind of changes or that kind of approach inspires creativity in other people … and maybe they make up their own story. (laughs) Those are the kind of fun elements that we appreciate as musicians or fans of music.

You compared listening to a song to watching a movie: “Same Old Story” – that should be a theme song to a movie. It hasn’t been made yet, but I want to see it.

What kind of movie would it be, do you think?

Oh, man … like one of those old, classic James Bond flicks with some Spaghetti Western elements and some surf on the side. It’s a frigging kaleidoscope of moods.

Cool! (laughs)

The suite “Silver Sun” is an amazing trip. How developed was that when you guys went into the studio?

It was completely developed. We did a Halloween show a few years ago where we asked fans to give us suggestions for a theme; it ended up being “The Electric Lemoe.nade Acid Test” – our version of Acid Test-era psychedelia. We also said each member of the band would write a song for that night and we’d perform them.

Al wrote “Silver Sun” for that show and some of the elements you may hear – like the beginning jam that’s sort of Allman Brothers-esque or the middle part which is very “Wish You Were Here”- or “Echoes”- or whatever-era Pink Floyd. It’s very Floydian. It’s got those elements of psychedelia in it; that was the goal we set for ourselves.

We’ve been performing “Silver Sun” like that since and we finally said, “Let’s get a really good studio version.” We did the same with “Billy Goat” and “Mar De Ma” and a couple of other songs – we just wanted to get really pristinely-recorded-but-slightly-imperfect (laughter) live versions with the whole band playing and try to capture the energy.

Those songs definitely benefit from being played live in front of an audience, but it was very fun to do them in the studio – getting all those elements in there and having it come off as something that was exciting and fun to play. It was pretty much as we’d been playing live, give or take.

”Calyphornya” wouldn’t have been the same song without that acoustic rhythm guitar pushing it.

Yeah, definitely. Al plays acoustic on that when we play it live.

Can you play “Blonde Hair And Blue Eyes” without grinning?

Ahhh … no. Especially when we get to the part where I get to yell, “_Punch out your lights!_” (laughter)

Is “The Pines And The Apple Tree” an example of the approach you might’ve taken for the whole album if you’d ended up in Levon’s Barn?

Yeah … you know, that probably is the closest to what we were proposing to do. And that was the one song out of all 14 where Dave Aron said, “Let’s look at this one in a completely different way.” That was the one time where most of the band didn’t track it at the same time. Dave said, “Start with the acoustic guitar and we’ll build on top of it.”

So I played the acoustic guitar and we layered elements on top of it at specific points in the song. We arranged it as a band, but then we recorded it that way.

It was interesting – definitely a different approach to recording it.

Wow – the give and take of that song feels live.

The elements kind of come in and out of it and lend themselves to that approach. Sometimes the groove of the song benefits from drums, bass and maybe guitar playing together at the same time, all slightly elastic, you know what I mean? Things speed up and slow down just a little bit. On this song, we were just coming at it from a different direction. It keeps things interesting for us.

So here’s probably the very most important question about the album: who’s that speaking at the beginning of “Billy Goat”?

That’s Rob’s father.

What a wonderful little bedtime story. (laughter)

Yeah! Rob recorded his Dad telling a bunch of stories from his childhood and grabbed that little quote to put on the beginning of “Billy Goat.” The song was kind of inspired by his dad.

What’s that great line? “Flatter than …”

“Knocked him out – flatter’n piss on a plate!” (laughter) Rob’s Dad grew up in Canada … and you know what? I think he may have lived up your way – in Maine – for a while.

Ah … this all makes sense now. (laughter)

*****

If Brian Robbins had a billy goat, he’d keep him tied up over at www.brian-robbins.com.

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