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Al Schnier: Back to the Mountain with moe.

moe.down kicks off your summer tour. Are you working on any new songs you plan to debut?

I still am not sure what we are playing at moe.down this year. Everything is up for discussion at this point. So we’re going to convene there and see. We’ve been having a lot of talks. We’re discussing a new record right now. So that’s a lot of the conversations.

I’m not sure what the focus is going to be at moe.down and that’s okay. That’s the great thing about moe.down. moe.down is for us and our fans and I feel like we could dig deep and play old songs, we could play long jams, we could do just about anything and it’s okay because it’s moe. and moe.rons at moe.down and that’s all that matters.

Following up on that, is moe.down kind of your musical test kitchen? Where you can try out new things without fear of turning people off?

For me, moe.down is more about a celebration. It’s like fan appreciation weekend. There’s so much love―That’s the thing that’s hard to ignore. Rather than the focus being turned inward and about us and new music or whatever, it seems to be more about our fans and everybody spending that quality time together. The whole idea for moe.down when we put it together was for it to be a family reunion.

I don’t want it to be so much like, “Look at me and look at my new fancy song.” We just want to get together and chill. When we were making the schedule this year, I was trying to take stuff off the schedule so we could just hang out [laughs]. I just want to build time into the schedule where there’s a couple of hours where people can just hang out with each other, because that’s what moe.down ends up being about.

You mentioned a new album. Are there any specifics you can share?

We’re still discussing the process. We’ve been discussing the pros and cons of different recording processes we’ve used in the past. Like the recording methods that we used for Wormwood, for example, where we recorded a bunch of the framework for the album while we were on tour and then took it into the studio. Whereas with The Conch we did something similar but we did it in an empty theater and then brought fans into the theater to sort of round out the recording process. And then when we did Sticks and Stones we just went into an empty church and wrote the whole thing from scratch.

So what we’ve been discussing is kind of picking what worked best from those things. Because clearly there were things about all of those albums that we liked, and really worked for us―What worked best technically and what worked best in terms of providing the best material. We’re going to do something like that, and dive in this fall. It will involve some aspect of recording the album while we’re on tour and in between shows and then also in the studio. I just don’t know what that combination is going to be yet. We want to do something new and different, something we haven’t done yet. And maybe something that really hasn’t been done yet. That notion of finding a unique way to make a record tends to inspire us. That’s where the discussions are all heading right now.

Kind of like a hybrid, live/studio thing?

Exactly, but what that hybrid is, or which portions we use is the question.

Tell us about your connection to the other bands on the moe.down lineup?

Twiddle is a band, for example, that has played with moe. a bunch of times at this point. Going back probably three or four years ago, they opened for us at one of our Saranac [Brewery] shows. They opened for us at New Year’s, or maybe the night before, in Albany a couple of years ago. To see all the success they’ve had and all the progress they’ve been making is awesome. And that’s great. We try to be really supportive of the other bands in the scene.

Both Twiddle and Wild Adriatic played the last moe.down. Hip Abduction, oh my god, I absolutely fell in love with them on Jam Cruise. They were just the most uplifting thing. I saw them twice on Jam Cruise, and I became a huge fan. We had them at Summer Camp, and even had a couple of the guys come and play with us late-night. We are so happy to have them on the bill. They are such a great band. Amazing songs―And, really, they’re doing something different, which I like. They don’t sound like anyone else. They have a great, great sound.

The lineup really is fantastic: Railroad Earth, Fishbone…

Fishbone, those guys are heroes of ours. I remember when we were first getting started in moe. and we were just these stupid little kids in Buffalo, playing in a bar or playing at house parties when we could, but we would go see Fishbone every chance we got. They absolutely inspired us. They were a big influence on us.

And then there’s all these other bands. Hayley Jane is awesome and deserves to be heard more. Her band is great, and she is a force to be reckoned with. That’s the thing, we find stuff out there and some of our fans already know about it. There were a lot of people who said, “You guys should totally get Hayley Jane.” Which was great. It’s nice to see that feedback on Facebook. But you put someone like that on moe.down and there’s going to be 3,000 other people that maybe didn’t know who Hayley Jane was until moe.down and that part of it is kind of awesome.

Wrapping things up, moe. is managing themselves now. What has that taught you about the business-side of music and perhaps your band as a whole?

Yeah. That’s been an interesting process. It wasn’t really our intention to do that, but after several months of self-managing we decided it was working and that with the right balance we might be able to maintain it. It’s certainly taught us a lot. It’s forced all of us to pay a lot more attention to the work that we’re doing, certainly, and learn a lot more which is a good thing. It is our business after all. And for the longest time, we entrusted other people to run it for us, and we were involved heavily in the decision making, but not in the actual understanding or running or operating of that business.

I would advise everybody out there to take the time to learn their business. I think we would have made different decisions along the way had we known some of the things we know now. We’re learning along the way. We’ve been doing this for 9 months at this point, and I have so much more to learn but I enjoy the process. I’ve joked and told the band that if they want to find another guitar player I would gladly manage them at this point [laughs].

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