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New Groove

Published: 2008/04/24

Mood Doculators

Our latest New Groove of the Month once again was selected by a reader vote. The five members of Portland Oregon’s Mood Doculators have been creating their self-described psychoactive rock since 2003. Rather than focus on a studio recording or live release, the Mood Docs have opted to offer up recordings of all their gigs at their website. The group’s original tunes draw on a variety of genres, evolving from group improvisation, and as the band explains, "The songs are like our kids: each one is
different and requires different guidance to develop. Some go to
college, some go to jail, but we try to love each one and nurture it to
be whatever it is." To hear the Mood Doculators nurture their progeny, visit the group’s website. *Can you talk about the development of the group? How did you meet and
how did the current line-up solidify?*
Corey (guitar/vocals), Eric (guitar/vocals), and James
(engineer/effects) all grew up together in the same town in Pennsylvania
and have been friends since 6th grade. By 2000 we all found ourselves
sharing a one-bedroom apartment in the San Francisco Bay Area and
started germinating the idea of forming a band. We put an ad on
Craigslist and soon met Ryan (bass/vocals), who was originally from
Massachusetts. We gigged around the Bay Area for a while, mostly
house-parties and alternative events. In 2006-2007 events conspired to bring us to Portland, OR where we met
Josh (drums) who had just arrived in town from North Dakota. *What are the challenges you are now facing as you balance the support of
your local fan base while starting to build out and appeal to a national
audience?*
We really try to play the right music at the right time. At live shows
we play based on how the audience feels and how we feel. This obviously
translates well to the local scene, since our local fans can be there at
the shows, and after seeing us live they can better understand why we
might go from a deep psychedelic free-form jam into a rockin’ country
song. We connect with our national fan base via the internet, providing
all our shows as downloads, and it might be harder for people who have
never seen us live to fully get the variety of styles that we play, and
appreciate the emphasis we put on larger moments made up of multiple
songs. *Your website mentions a performance that proved to be your "first
instrumental show" at a particular venue. How often do you perform
all-instrumental gigs and why do you do so? What do you think those gigs
offers the band and its fans?*
Actually that show was all-instrumental due to technical difficulties
rather than by design!
That said, we do have a lot of instrumental material, and we’re very
comfortable playing without singing. Almost all of our vocal songs
started as instrumental jams, and that musical connection is the
foundation of our playing. With instrumental stuff it’s easier to blur
the lines between songs and jams, and less words generally equates to
less boundaries, so we can go to deeper spaces and have more flexibility
to play to the exact moment. At some gigs, it feels right to sing more
than others, and sometimes we end up singing not at all.
How about your name, is there a story behind that?
People have feelings, expressed as moods. Improvisational music has
feelings too, expressed as doculations. ;-) *How often do you rehearse? What do you focus on when you get together
for rehearsal?*
We try to get together a couple times a week for rehearsal sessions.
We record everything at every session, and typically do a mix of
free-form jamming, re-visiting previous jams, and tightening up more
mature songs. We each listen to the session recordings and identify
moments that we want to do again. Sometimes these moments develop into
full songs with lyrics, and sometimes they stay relatively ambiguous.
These session recordings are an awesome tool for turning inspiration
into repertoire, and they also really help with improving existing songs
because it gives us a more detached perspective on the playing and the
sounds than we get while we’re performing the music. *Who writes the band’s music? How it is typically presented to the group
and how does it then come together?*
We all write the music. As mentioned above, almost all of our songs
evolve from group improvisations. We record everything we ever play,
listen to the recordings, and let the songs develop from them as
organically as possible. Some songs we barely discuss beyond
identifying a key and general tempo range, and others we end up laying
out almost to the bar. The songs are like our kids: each one is
different and requires different guidance to develop. Some go to
college, some go to jail, but we try to love each one and nurture it to
be whatever it is. Almost all stages of development are done as a band,
with the exception of lyrics. When one of us hears a jam or song that
we feel inspired to write words to, we usually write them on our own
then sing them to the band. Typically whoever writes the words sings
the song; Corey, Eric, and Ryan all sing songs that they wrote lyrics
to.
How do you approach its original songs in the live setting?
Once we’ve got the general nuts and bolts of song together onstage, we
usually look for ways to improvise with it, or connect it with other
songs. We like to think a song is never really finished and is always
in some form of development. *What about covers, can you talk about what songs you toss in from time
to time? Who selects them?*
Most of our focus is on original material, but we do a few covers.
Typically, whoever suggests the cover spearheads its development, which
usually means being prepared to sing it. We tend to use the original
version as a suggestion more than an exact blueprint, and there are some
covers that we’ve developed without everyone in the band even hearing
the original. There’s not a whole lot of science that goes into the
selection of the covers… every now and then we hear someone else
making a sound that we want to make ourselves, so we try it. *In terms of cover tunes can you talk about any spectacular successes and
failures?*
One of our first covers was the Sade song "Smooth Operator" but we
changed the words to "Smooth Doculator" and wrote verses about the band.
I wouldn’t say it was a complete failure, but on one occasion we
listened to a recording of it and laughed ourselves to tears. Of
course, when we listened to it we were lying on the ground at the base
of Mt Hood, already laughing at a variety of other things, but after
that, "Smooth Doculator" never came up again in a setlist. *Speaking of covers, in your sound, one can hear some of the other bands
that have influenced you. Can you talk a bit about those influences?*
With five music-heads in the band we’ve all absorbed quite a few
influences over the years. We all grew up listening to rock and use
that as a base of operations. We’ve also been influenced heavily by the
sonic possibilities and fresh beats of Electronica, and the baselines
and production of Dub. In general, we love variety and being able to
draw inspiration from a wide range of sources. *Can you talk about some of your performance highlights thus far. Is
there a gig or gigs that stand out? Why?*
One gig that stands out and that happened recently, was a chance to
perform live on Northwest Recycled Music, which gets aired in Portland
on Saturday nights. It was interesting to play in a TV studio, and they
were very supportive us doing our thing. You can even view it on
YouTube.
What about a studio or live release, where do things stand there?
So far, instead of a studio album or single live album we have opted to
record all our gigs and make them available on our website. We are
interested in making a studio album some day, but right now our main
focus is to perform in a live setting. We feel that this best captures
the spirit of the music. *Any final thoughts to folks across the country who may be hearing about
you for the first time from this piece? *
Go doculate yourself!

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