You may remember these guys as a part our FIVE x FIVE interview series from a few months back, and if you don’t, here’s another chance to check out what Mooner is all about.
Take the melodic guitar rock sound of bands like Television and country it up a bit and you’ve got something that starts to sound like Mooner. On top of being talented rockers, they are pretty incredible songwriters as well. With a new album in the works, a couple of EPs, and a wonderfully irreverent single called “Making Americans” canvasing the internet, I’d say they’re poised to do big things.
In anticipation for their upcoming album, we had the guys send over a playlist of what tracks have inspired their new tunes. Listen below via Spotify and read on to find out exactly why these tracks tickle their creative sides.
Lee’s Picks (guitar/vocals)
Todd Rundgren – Couldn’t I Just Tell You
Todd’s “Something/Anything” is a major album for me. When I first started playing music, I learned how to play instruments by recording myself with a digital video camera, copying the footage onto my computer, stripping away the video and rearranging the audio tracks in some free software until I had a full band playing my songs. Todd’s process for this album wasn’t as convoluted but it was essentially all him in his living room recording every part over and over again into a rudimentary tape machine. Even more inspirational than the process though is the songs, which are untouchable. “Couldn’t I Just Tell You” is mixed in a way that the acoustic guitars sound like electric guitars. I don’t know how that is done but I think I’ll see if our engineer Mike can help make that happen on a couple of tracks.
Warren Zevon – Ain’t That Pretty At All
Last year, Mooner covered eight Zevon songs for a Halloween set at Quenchers and this was the only one that got cut from the setlist. That’s a bummer because it’s one of the best examples of Zevon’s weird, comedic and dark wit. He also captured one of the wildest vocal takes I’ve ever heard on a studio recording. He sounds positively unhinged when he screams the refrain: “So I’m going to hurl myself against the wall /
‘Cause I’d rather feel bad than not feel anything at all.” I really don’t like recording vocals but maybe if I picture Zevon raging drunkenly in the isolation booth I’ll feel less self-conscious.
John’s Picks (guitar)
Neil Young – Barstool Blues
I rarely go a month without listening to Neil Young’s Zuma at least once. When I picked up my Cyclone last December after a setup at Third Coast Guitar Repair in the West Loop, I habitually started playing “Don’t Cry No Tears” to make sure everything felt right. Turns out shop tech/Dirty Pigeons guitarist Brian was playing the record in the back…
Aside from the epic, lumbering “Dangerbird” and “Cortez the Killer”, Zuma’s shorter, poppier songs don’t leave much room for lengthy guitar workouts. Still, Young makes the most of it with inspired and to-the-point solos. The short bursts on “Barstool Blues” propel the song forward and complement the album’s bluesy yet optimistic tone. It’s been a frequent reference point when working out solos for Lee’s songs…
Television – Marquee Moon
Not sure why I put off checking out Television until this winter, but man have I been missing out. This hooky 10 minute jam was my favorite pump up while preparing to shovel, brave the temps for some Boustan, or haul my Ampeg through the tundra (there’s still salt stains on that thing). The high, birdlike guitar noodling during the breakdown around 8:45 is one of my favorite moments.
Steve’s Picks (keyboard/vocals)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – There She Goes, My Beautiful World
For the most part on the new album we’re forgoing synths for good old-fashioned piano. The challenge is being heard when you’re playing piano in a five-piece rock band, and lately I’ve been spending a lot of nights revisiting (and picking apart) one of my favorite albums: Abattoir Blues / Lyre of Orpheus. It’s one of the Bad Seeds’ most rockin’ albums, but the piano makes just as much noise as everybody else. Sometimes it’s pretty, and sometimes it’s really ugly.
Brandy Clark – What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven
I’ve been listening to a hell of a lot of country music over the past year. It’s making me a lot less scared of straightforwardly pretty, even kind of cheesy, piano playing. All the little ornamental flourishes in this song are incredible! A little syrup can be powerful in the right hands, especially in rock music: Lee is not ashamed to admit his love of Amy Grant (“What’ll Keep Me Out Of Heaven” reminds me of some of her co-writes with Vince Gill), and even some of our heroes like Warren Zevon and Randy Newman got away with some pretty cornball shit in their careers.
You’ll have to wait until March 2015 to hear the new Mooner album in it’s entirety but until then, you can catch Mooner on August 22nd at the Burlington in Chicago. Sharing the stage with Mooner is Milwaukee outfit, The Midwestern Charm, as well as Chicago locals The Dirty Pigeons, and The Holy Alimonies. Tickets are $7; doors at 8:00PM; 21+. RSVP here.