MOORE THAN A FEELING Moore Brothers

For the sibling rockers,
it’s “the beyondness” that makes them make music.

 

BY
BRIAN STAKER

 

Brothers
are notorious for quarreling, sibling rivalries, even physically fighting each
other in some families. According to the Bible, the first male sibling
relationship ended with murder. Harmony is about the last word you associate
with the sometimes competitive nature of brothers of the same mothers, and
fathers. But Greg and Thom Moore of the not-so-curiously titled Moore Brothers
have made harmony the staple, trademark and backbone of their musical affinity.

 

Growing
up in LA in the ‘80s, their close-knit family helped shield them from that
city’s rock scene in the period, for which they were grateful. They were into
bands like the Cocteau Twins and Robyn Hitchcock. “Also Jonathan Richman, from
whom melodically we get a lot,” offers Thom. Prince has influenced Greg:
“especially his latest; he’s a great pop songwriter.”

 

“We
just happen to sound like Simon & Garfunkel; two guys playing acoustic
guitar with high-pitched harmonies,” he tosses off, as though the feat was
easy. These are some tight harmonies,
also evoking Beach Boys at times, and every sixties wacked-out compositional
wizard who threw a wild chord change in to feed the head starved for musical
variety, but in the eloquently mannered Simon & Garfunkel restraint. It
makes for incredibly beautiful music, something to put on when wanting to charm
a member of the opposite sex.

 

Three
years older, the 38-year-old Greg started writing songs a full decade before
Thom, but it didn’t take long for the younger to catch up. “We always had a
strong personal connection to our record collections growing up,” Thom said,
but I didn’t realize I could make music for a while. They are so anti-rivalry
that they split the songwriting on their sixth album Aptos (American
Dust), alternating every other song.

 

The
songs are full of lyrical as well as melodic surprises, as Thom describes his
song “Iraq.”
“I was trying not to write a typical love song,” he explains. “I wrote it just
days after the attack, almost trying to make a connection between a depressed
state, which that country is in, and a girl in the same state. The similarity
is that she feels like she doesn’t have communication with the rest of the
world.”

 

Although
they split songwriting duties, they are each dictators of the sound of their
own compositions. They say this is greatly aided by their rhythm section of
Neal Morgan on drums and Jun Ohnuki on bass. Instead of rivalry, that certain
energy that brothers have around each other made them push each other to write
more songs. “We aren’t like the Everly Brothers, or Oasis,” they joke.

 

They
have honed their recording process from their debut, 2001’s Colossal Small,
which they say was “rushed,” to Aptos which has such perfect sound you’d
swear Phil Spector broke out of jail to produce it. A big push in popularity
beyond their Northern California regional
following is added by harpist/singer Joanna Newsom, who guests on “Good Heart,
Money and Rain.” “She heard us play and became a fan,” they recall. She asked
them to open for her European tour, which they say was a thrill, and with
typical self-effacement, “it’d thrill anyone. We just made the best of an
opportunity that came along.”

 

Growing
up in the land of opportunity, they also had the good fortune of having noted underground
artist William Stout design their album cover’s R. Crumb-like desert cartoons.
“I used to babysit his kids next door while he was painting,” explains Greg.
“It’s neat to have a classic-looking album cover, but we’re not trying to use
it for success.”

 

All
the lyrics aren’t as light as the harmonies, however. Thom’s “You, Me and Razor
Dan” he says is about a pregnancy. “Razor Dan is an unborn child, and it’s
about the fear of giving birth to a monster,” Thom notes. “Like Biff Rose’s
‘Mother of Hitler.’ ‘What’ll he make of our world?’ it’s an eternal question.”
And their imaginative energy is such that Greg didn’t have to experience the
travails of parenthood to come up with it.

 

Of
the evocatively-titled “Bed, Bath & Beyond,” Greg says “the song is just a
list of words. I see it like an E.E. Cummings poem but with more words on the
page, with a nice ‘bath’ of chords.” Someone had to write a song with that
title, but instead of some cheesy pop-country twanger, we are lucky it was the Moores. “I think the
tuning we use might be the one Joni Mitchell uses on Hejira.” Another
touchstone of their youthful listening.

 

Greg
Moore says it has to do with creature comforts, but also what lies beyond the
physical trappings; ‘the void of what could potentially be.‘ Like E.E.
Cummings, their word stream somehow coalesces into deeper meanings: “The
beyondness is why I make music.”

 

 

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