|Bee vs. Moth. Photo Credit Will Branch|
Far-out Austin instrumental rock/jazz ensemble Bee vs. Moth play the Thunderbird in Lawrenceville as part of VIA Festival. The band's press kit describes them as having “one foot in the world of jazz and creative improvisation, and the other firmly planted on a distortion pedal.”
The band is a three-piece at its core – Sarah Norris (percussion), Philip Moody (bass), and James Fidlon (guitar) – but their studio albums feature a number of guest musicians, who bring along horn and sax appeal.
Sarah and Philip were kind enough to answer some questions for us before their show Friday
Pittsburgh Music Report: The Austin Sound said your music "falls somewhere between jazz and Zappa." Is that a fair assessment?
Bee vs. Moth: Maybe not fair to Zappa, but this description does help convey what we're doing. We're not a rock/pop band, but we're not a jazz band either.
PMR: Do you play many jazz venues? How do the crowds react to your unconventional style and makeup?
BvM: We mostly play rock clubs and alternative venues like theaters and galleries. Crowd reactions run from wildly enthusiastic to politely confused. Many people are very excited that we are trying to do something a little different. Some people just don't have experience interacting with a band that has no vocals.
PMR: The core of the band is a three-piece, but your albums have a lot more instrumentation than that. How many other musicians accompany you on tour?
BvM: We almost always play as a five-piece, with guitar, bass, drums, and two horns. We sometimes play with just one horn player, and we just did a local show with a great sounding three-piece horn line. The changes keeps things fresh. Whether we have a trumpet or sax or trombone will guide what songs we pick and how we play them.
PMR: How much space do you leave for improvisation when you perform live?
BvM: There is a fair amount. The arrangements we tend to leave alone. The songs though have sections for individual solos and for group improvised sections. Also, people in the band will ad lib a lot of their arranged parts rather than play note-for-note the same thing every time.
PMR: Do you ever feel like its harder for you to find venues to play or bills to share since your sound is not so easily classifiable?
BvM: Sometimes yes, but we also get treated really well at places that embrace unusual music.
PMR: What type of music do you listen to in your free time? Any up-and-coming Austin groups we should be aware of?
BvM: We are into lots of kinds of music, and in our free time we are usually trying to catch up on whatever we picked up most recently. Lately, we've been listening to new Nels Cline, Red Fang, and a giant early Ellington box set from Mosaic. We've played recent Austin shows with Peter Stopschinski, Foot Patrol, Poon, and Stop Motion Orchestra - they're all great and worth a listen.
PMR: Had you heard of VIA before? It seems like you're a good match for their sort of avant-garde ethos.
BvM: Somehow no we had not heard of VIA. We were planning a tour to play Sonic Circuits in DC, and we wound up contacting a venue that is part of VIA. The fit is great, and we're so glad to be a part of all this.
PMR: Besides VIA, is there anything in particular that you're looking forward to during your brief stay in Pittsburgh?
BvM: We're just looking forward to seeing the city and getting a feel for what's going on there. We've been told it's a really nice place that people in other parts of the country don't always hear a lot about.
The band's albums are available through their website. We also have a copy of their latest, Shelter in Place, to giveaway. To enter, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “Bee vs. Moth” in the subject line. We'll announce a winner sometime this weekend.
– B. Conway