Moon Hooch out of the box, landing in Reno

Tahoe Onstage

Mike Wilbur and Moon Hooch return to Reno on Sunday, March 25.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Brooklyn jazz-punk groovesters Moon Hooch returned to The Saint on March 25, along with The Accidentals, a jazzy folk band from Traverse City, Michigan. Wenzl McGowen and Mike Wilbur attack each number primarily with saxophones, playing both support and lead roles, but they also add a bit of synth, clarinet, the occasional vocal, and interesting elements such as an electronic wind instrument “EWI” that responds to both breath and touch. They’re also able to create some amazing tonal sensations with a little bit of processing from their onstage laptop rig, resulting in a wide array of melodic textures. Meanwhile the slight, yet sinewy strong and shirtless James Muschler backs the whole thing with air-tight percussion mixed with frenetic riff outbursts from behind a kit whose bent cymbals bear the evidence of the nightly beating they take, appearing as if a brass-eating robot with bad teeth had given them a satisfying chomp. After finishing college, the members started out in 2010 busking on the streets of New York. Wilbur spoke with Tahoe Onstage before the trio started its latest tour.

Tahoe Onstage: Thanks for taking time out from the studio to speak with me today. What are you working on?

Mike Wilbur: I’m hanging with a sax player named David Mitton and we’re just we’re just writing some combiners. … This track that we came up with is pretty cool, actually, and I’ll probably put it on my next solo record, which should be coming out next April or May.

Tell me about the new solo album.

It will be the most easily digestible release I’ve done. My others have been experimental, avant-garde, dissonant, angry, destructive. This is a little more mellow. A little more fun.

What’s going on with your reeds?

Oh man, my situation with reeds? An aggravating one, pretty much always. Unless I find a good one that lasts a good four days. I’m not very meticulous about it. I just go through the box hastily, until I find one I like. And then I use it until it dies. It’s usually just one reed a box.

No one can put Moon Hooch in a box. It is unlike anything I’ve heard.

Thank you. Yeah, it’s a very weird group.

You have a long European trip coming up with several of the shows in France. Can you tell me about it?

Going overseas it is exciting because you’re in a different place and the buildings look different everybody speaks different language and the customs are different. But it’s really not that different than playing in the States because we drive to the venue, we set up, we play the show, we talk to some fans afterwards and then we drive to the next place.

I understand meditation is a big part of your life. It must help you after playing such intense shows.

Wenzel, he meditates more than anyone I know. He’ll wake up and meditate an hour every morning, first thing. For me, I use it as like a medicine just like I would use marijuana or anything like that. If I’m getting caught in thoughts that I can’t control, I’ll close my eyes and focus on my breath and let all my thoughts just pass through me. It works like a charm pretty much every time. I come out of it with a new perspective feeling refreshed and before and after a show that’s really great to do for me.

As a vegan, is it difficult to eat on the road?

Not at all, for me at this point, meat and cheese are like plastic. We travel with our own pantry, with our own spices and James is an incredible cook. He has a cooking blog. We bring the conventional oven with us on the road and he cooks us ridiculous meals pretty much every night. We’ll stop at farmers’ markets or co-ops and buy some nice fresh local veggies and just make feasts all the time. Its super low cost too because we’re not in the restaurants.

Moon Hooch has gone further than 99 percent of bands and the popularity is still rising. That’s great!

I’m so grateful for it, man, because going into music school I was it felt to me like a death sentence. I don’t come from money or anything so I had to take out student loans and all that and then you’re coming out of school and feel like shit. What am I gonna do with the jazz performance degree? Right

How did you do it?

Meeting these guys and playing on the subways every day. Just doing that, taking it to the street and just taking action. Screw getting gigs, let’s just go make the gig on the street every single day. We played eight hours a day and you know we made our living doing that. It kind of opened my eyes, the New York thing. So if you just put yourself out there and believe in what you’re doing, you’ll make money with it. This band has been a blessing.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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