Santa Cruz's Moon Eater could definitely take the Black Keys in a fight.
At a recent house show, Moon Eater’s heavy-blues punk rock kept getting interrupted by power outages during their performance. When the third one hit, drummer Dustin Roth just decided to keep playing, and vocalist-guitarist Pat Crowley followed along, continuing to sing the verse. The power came back on right at the chorus. Without missing a beat, everyone jumped back in perfectly—as though it were planned.
“There’s no way you could reproduce that,” Roth says. “When you play house shows, or a skate park, and you’re on the floor with the audience, there’s this connection. It’s way more intimate. You’re just sitting there in somebody’s living room and playing your heart out. The whole crowd’s into it.”
The raw intensity of Moon Eater’s sound was inspired by the immediacy of the backyard and basement hardcore shows they went to growing up in the ’90s. It’s an element they try to recapture whenever they are standing in front of an audience.
“We just want to be pure energy on stage. That’s what it’s always been about for me from being in bands since I was younger,” says guitarist Pat Crowley.
Yet one listen to their debut self-titled album, which was released in November 2012, reveals more than just a full-throttle assault; there is sophistication to their sonic arrangements. It was recorded at Audio Design Studio in San Diego with a level of detail paid to every nuance of the sound, which actually brings out their intensity rather than hampering it. Engineer Ben Moore, and producer John Reis captured their thick, meaty riffs in a way that is unique for standard hardcore, rock or even metal groups, and gives it punch.
“As a band, we’re really into having good tone. We have good-sounding amps, good-sounding drums,” bassist Scott Tarasco points out.
While the two guitarists play bare bones ’70s garage-rock power riffs, the way they interact with one another is complex, and creates a full, consuming sound—which is in part a byproduct of the fact that they both play slightly different parts, and that they use two different brands of amps, with different sound palettes. Crowley plays on a Marshall, which has that signature, heavy “crunch” sound, while guitarist Josh White plays on an Orange amp, which is known for its bright, punchy tone. Backed by Tarasco on bass and Dustin Roth on drums, their music, while loud and heavy, is actually much denser than most punk bands, and has greater power than other modern blues-inspired alternative rock bands like the Black Keys or the White Stripes.
Yet, with all that fine-tuning on their album, the band still insists that the place they truly shine is still at their live shows.
“I feel like you don’t get us until you see us live, then you see the energy and everything we put into it,” says White.
What makes that energy so potent is how direct and honest it is. There is nothing between the audience and the feelings the band is communicating.
They aren’t married to the house show setting. They like nice clubs just as much because of how well they can showcase their tone and tight musicianship. In either setting, their music is always built around simple, basic rock n roll songwriting, which is a much more subtle craft than complex technical music.
“If a band can sit down and play the same riff for three minutes and still make it interesting, and you still want to listen to that track again, that’s amazing music,” says Roth. “You can play the most simple G blues song sped up, and it’s so good. As long as you have that great vocal hook over it, nice little lead somewhere, guitar solo, it doesn’t need to be more.”
Crepe Place, Jan. 13, 2013