With a band name like Moontucky Risin, you might expect to hear Southern-fried or Cajun-cooked rock, perhaps with a side of bluegrass or a pinch of rockabilly. And that’s what listeners got, back when cofounders Jason Wiley (guitar/vocals) and Aaron Luke (drums) were still based in Lafayette, Indiana.
“We were called elliotness then,” says Jason, “named after the federal agent who went after all the moonshine bootleggers. We played kind of swampy, barroom, foot-stomping music, and we wore stuff like overalls onstage. But then, as we evolved into more of a jam band, we’d do things like wear psychedelic hippie shirts under the [overall] bibs.”
After the name change and a move to California, Jason says, the group’s sound became “organic groove rock. With jam bands, there’s so much going on musically that there’s never an opportunity to get bored. Nothing’s ever the same twice, from classic rock riffs to intricate psychedelic jams, from bluegrass to fusion, to songs that run 45 minutes or an hour. Whatever the situation and the day and the mood calls for.”
Drummer Aaron Luke says newer jam bands on the so-called “tie-dye circuit” have had more influence on Moontucky Risin than evergreens like the Grateful Dead and New Riders of the Purple Sage.
“Take a group like Umphrey’s McGee,” says Aaron. “They’re the epitome of a present-day jam band. Their music pushes several boundaries and genres, and to top it off the musicianship is incredible, all six players. A lot of older bands weren’t technically that precise or trained.”
Moontucky Risin performs at Canes on Thursday, August 21. Jason and Aaron answered our queries along with lead guitarist Dana Spaulding (originally the band’s keyboardist) and bassist Jay Lauterwasser.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
Pink Floyd, Dark Side Of The Moon. “David Gilmour is one of my favorite guitarists, and every time I listen to this I hear something new. The simplicity of the songs, yet with such feeling and emotion, has never been duplicated.”
Phish, A Live One. “The pinnacle of jam bands playing complicated, orchestrated music with mind-blowing jams that only God-gifted musicians could pull off.”
The Derek Trucks Band, Songlines. “Derek is one of those rare guitarists that, when you hear him play, you instantly know it’s him, and that’s something I strive for in my own music. This album is blues-meets-jazz fusion — it’s intense, it’s grooving, and it’s interesting the whole way through.”
Bob Dylan Live, 1966 — The Royal Albert Hall Concert. “His insights are still relevant today, and this show takes you from the fragileness of him singing alone with guitar and harmonica to playing with his full band.”
Thievery Corporation, The Richest Man In Babylon. “I’ve been getting more and more into electronica dance music lately.”
Phish, Slip, Stitch & Pass. “I’ve had this album since it was released in 1997, and yet it’s still a mainstay in my rotation.”
Umphrey’s McGee, Live at the Murat. “Their music always gives me a release from the daily grind, plus it’s recorded in Indianapolis, Indiana — my home state.”
The Derek Trucks Band, Soul Serenade. “The man can play a slide guitar in a way that makes it sound easy, like you could do it yourself.”
Traffic, The Last Great Traffic Jam. “Until recently I hadn’t given an honest effort to listen to Traffic, one of the original jam bands, but after getting this album I’m sold.”
The Raconteurs, Consolers Of The Lonely. “I really dig Jack White’s guitar work in a real band setting. I can’t stand the White Stripes because the drumming is awful at best.”
Wilco, Sky Blue Sky. “Some of the best lead guitar work ever.”
Frank Zappa, Buffalo. “This was the touring band comprised mostly of the same players on Zappa’s album Joe’s Garage, which was one of my favorite Zappa bands.”
The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow. “I love all things by the Shins, but lately this is the disc I most identify with.”
Steely Dan, Aja. “Usually my favorite Steely Dan album, although that’s a hard decision to make.”
The Beatles, self-titled [a.k.a. The White Album]. “You can never go wrong with the Beatles.”
Anchorman. (Favorite quote: “In German, ‘San Diego’ means ‘Whale’s Vagina.’ ”)
The Matrix. “I totally resonate with the message that mass amounts of people go through life unaware of things as they really are instead focusing on things that really don’t matter.”
The Big Lebowski. “Because the Coen Brothers are geniuses.”
Tombstone. “Lawlessness at its finest.”
Dumb and Dumber. “Something about the line ‘That John Denver guy’s full of shit’ gets me every time.”
Rocky, numbers 1 through 4. “The other Rockys suck.”
Top Secret! “Best underwater barroom fight scene ever.”
Ghostbusters. “I can almost quote this entire movie from beginning to end.”
Garden State. “Great soundtrack.”
The Empire Strikes Back. “The best of the original three movies.”
Monty Python's Life Of Brian. “I can watch it over and over again and still laugh.”
FAVORITE PERFORMER OF ALL TIME?
Jason: “This question is like asking a nympho what their favorite position is…”
Aaron: “Umphrey’s McGee really takes the audience to another place when you watch them.”
Jay: “Frank Zappa is kind of like comfort food for my ears. He was an amazing musician and composer, and he had a knack for putting together some of the best groups of musicians.”
Dana: “Earthdog from Massachusetts always plays good, pure rock and roll.”
BRUSH WITH FAME?
Jason: “I once ate salmon pasta right next to José Canseco up in L.A.…he seemed like a douchebag.”
Aaron: “I was in L.A. at the Roxy watching a friend’s band play, and Jay of ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ was outside hitting on a couple of girls. I heard one of the girls say, ‘Why would I go anywhere with you? You aren’t even famous.’ ”
SEXIEST LOCAL PERFORMER?
Jason: “There’s this girl Karin Carson who sings old-school jazz at a bunch of local places. I had a chance to hang with her a while back, and she sung Stevie Wonder’s ‘My Cherie Amour’ softly to me over drinks after one of her shows.”
Jay: “Anya Marina, because there’s something about her singing voice that’s just, well, you know.”
LAST BOOK READ?
Jason: Killing Yourself to Live, Chuck Klosterman. “The book is about how the greatest career move any musician can make is to die early and what this means to and about all of us regular folk. [The author] takes a road trip to all the spots famous musicians have died, from Kurt Cobain’s house to the swamplands where Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed.”
Aaron: The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini. “The book is told from the perspective of a boy growing up in Afghanistan and the many different tragedies that have taken place there — from the monarchy tumbling to the Soviet invasion to refugees escaping to the U.S. and into the reign of the Taliban regime.”
Jay: Soul Music, Terry Pratchett. “It happens in a different universe, where the world is a great big disc being carried by four elephants on top of a flying cosmic turtle, and a band has to learn how to rock and roll with trolls and dwarves in this odd world.”
Dana: Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer. “The true story of a Mount Everest expedition that was caught in a massive storm.”
Jason: Men’s Health. “It’s great turd-room reading, chock full of pointers on working out, eating healthy, dressing classy, and impressing the chicks. It’s like having a dad who actually knows the answers on how to be cool and successful but who doesn’t nag you to get a job.”
Aaron: Creativity. “I’m a video-game designer, and this magazine has a lot of good tips about the industry.”
Jay: Paste. “It’s a well-written music magazine that doesn’t just focus on the flavor of the month.”
MOST VISITED WEBSITE?
Jason: craigslist.com. “I seriously think I’ve got an addiction to searching for that used guitar or amp or pedal at a steal.”
Aaron: MLB.com. “All things baseball.”
Jay: wikipedia.com. “They know everything, and it’s all true!”
Dana: ebay.com. “Musical instruments galore.”
Jason: “Cigarettes, Burger King french fries, and of course midget porn.”
Aaron: “Cigarettes (I smoke them like it’s my job), burgers (I eat too damn many of them), and beer (I can’t ever seem to throw in the towel before it’s too late).”
Jay: “Las Vegas, multiplayer online role-playing games, Wild Cherry Pepsi, speeding in my car, and eating veal.”
WHERE DO YOU HANG OUT?
Jason: “Cowles Mountain, Torrey Pines, Sunset Cliffs, Red Fox Room, and Borders. I love the outdoors, old people, and catching up on my Britney Spears gossip.”
Aaron: “Hamilton’s Tavern [South Park], because it’s a beer drinker’s paradise. They have so many good beers, and there’s never enough time in a day to drink them all.”
Jay: “Our practice space, because that’s where I get to play music with my friends.”
Dana: “Ocean Beach. Just because.”