Interview: Moonsville Collective

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Photo by Martin Vielma

Southern California string band Moonsville Collective has decided to do something different in 2017—while most bands release a record every other year, our favorite crafters of “California Goodtime” have decided to release four. This year. That’s right, four.

“We’ve had a bunch of songs stored up, so we decided to stay home and put 20 songs out this year, five songs out every three months,” declares co-vocalist Ryan Welch. The group released the first installment, appropriately titled Vol. I, in January; composed of five stunning tracks, Vol. I is a potent distillation of their influences—The Grateful Dead, The Band,  and old time jug band and roots music—with an added flavor that is uniquely Moonsville Collective. Not only do the songs bear their signature stringed skillfullness, the lyrics are, unsurprisingly, clever and poignant. Album track “America,” written in  2013, couldn’t be more timely; “The sentiment behind it is that there’s always going to be shit going on, especially now when the dirt’s been turned and things are kind of insane,” says Welch, who penned the lyrics.  “I feel like the simple stuff—your lover’s eyes, or helping people, or being kind—those are things that haven’t changed. We help each other.” It sticks to your gut the first time you hear it,” adds co-vocalist Corey Adams. “It’s a special song.”

Moonsville Collective is also known for hosting hootenannies to bring local musicians together to play and foster a sense of community, an occurrence which gave birth to and caused the band’s path to cross with other roots outfits —groups like The Show Ponies, Dustbowl Revival, and Eagle Rock Gospel Singers. As their free time has become sparse, the hootenannies have been put on hold, but there’s talk of reprisal. “Instead of going on four small tours, we decided to put out four records, play in the area, and create a buzz with four release shows,” explains Adams. “It kind of replaces the hootenanny as things get busier and people have less time.” “With the four shows, we’re spreading it out,” says Welch. “There’s a place we play a lot here in Orange County, a spot in L.A., and at Pappy & Harriet’s, which is a desert joint out in Joshua Tree.” “Playing at Pappy’s has kind of taken the place of the hootenanny,” interjects Adams. “When we first started out, we were freewheeling, staying up all night, hanging out and spending quality time with the people in our community and the fans. Playing at Pappy’s is the perfect setting, and it gives us the chance to do that now, people stay the night, and we pull out a lot of the old time string band songs and go for broke. It’s a more updated version of the hootenanny.”

“It’s been a challenge to stay on the timeline,” adds Welch of the band’s 2017 ambitions. “It’s stretched us, but it’s been really fun. We’ve tried not to put any limitations on ourselves. We’ve been pushing our sound, adding some organ to things, some baritone guitar,” he explains. “These four EPs are a quest to satisfy what we hear in our heads—with these songs, if we have the chance to make them bigger, we will. If we have a song that rocks out, we’ll just go for it. A lot of our other songs are rooted in that old time feel too,” he continues. “We’re saying yes to whatever comes through.”

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Susan Hubbard

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