by Mindie Lind
Back in mid-May, Seattle's city folks headed about 30 miles north to Fisherman's Music Festival for Everett Music Initiative's exceptional (and notably unpretentious) line up. And speaking of unpretentious and exceptional, Everett natives and festival headliners, The Moondoggies rocked their signature Rock-N-Folk set, this time joined by fellow humble heavy weight Tomo Nakayama, closing with a cover of "Breathe," by their collective favorite, Pink Floyd. See more about the band's take on the festival and their history with Pink Floyd below!
A few years back I saw The Moondoggies play a show at The Treehouse in Bainbridge. We shared a 1am ferryboat ride and since have become pretty good buddies. The Moondoggies are as amiable and approachable as their music, with a notably unstyled regular-guy M.O. that comes from growing up together, just an hour north of Seattle, in Everett, Washington.
While my high school friends and I were geeking out on Black Hole Sun, members of the Moondoggies were breaking into the music industry with some prett-y namey icons, like Jack Endino and Kurt Cobain's amp from Bleach. Even as they share stages with national idols today, their humility and WhatEverett attitude is a key part of who they are. These dudes tend to chat more about their hometown love for Everett way more than their boyish experiences with Seattle rock history idols. So, I offered a few Moondoggies, Kevin Murphy and Jon Pontrello some beers in exchange for juicy stories of their early days, their Everett youth, and their actually successful high school band, Familiars.
Guys! I am really excited y’all are playing the Fisherman's Village Music Festival! There are a ton of bands heading up there thanks to the Everett Music Initiative and they all look really great. Do you think that Everett is getting too cool?
Kevin Murphy: Everett will never be too cool. [Jon Pontrello laughs] It should happen there. I remember talking about it in high school… that Everett has a lot of potential.
Jon Pontrello: I think Everett has a lot of potential because it's pretty. It's beautiful, it's got history, it's an old town...
Kevin: It's probably inevitable too, because as it gets more and more expensive here, like how Tacoma is becoming more artist friendly. So, instead of getting three bands, let's drag a bunch of people up there and not be in Seattle, because everyone knows what it's like to be at shows in Seattle.
Jon: It's cool too because last year [the Everett Music Initiative] had a one year anniversary, where we played. It was really cool and now, for their second year anniversary it’s a huge festival, a two-day festival with a lots of people playing and it seems to be growing. Hopefully that momentum keeps going.
What was growing up together in Everett like…?
Kevin: First time I saw Jon he had on a Grateful Dead shirt. He was a freshman, I was a sophomore looking for someone to play the drums. My friend Ben said he knew a drummer. I was like, "Does he know how to play a shuffle beat?". So he came back the next day and he said, "Yeah he knows how to play a shuffle beat!"...And then we ate chips and salsa.
Jon: We ate chips and salsa. And the rest is history…..
Kevin: Every day that I went to Jon's house in high school, he would walk into his room and press play, put on Dark Side of the Moon and walk out of his room to do whatever.…. just as long as the album was playing somewhere in the house.
Jon: I wouldn't call it my religion….but it will be played at my funeral, on vinyl.
What was your band like in high school ?
Kevin: The Familiars!
They go on to describe the lineup: John Parks was the band’s crazy, rambunctious, often naked lead (and only) singer, Kevin was on guitar and Jon Pontrello played the drums.
Did you have a big draw?
Kevin: We started having a weird following.
Jon: It was weird.
Kevin: We'd have these 20 something year old drunk guys that came to our shows. .
Tell me about Familiars biggest show:
Jon: No, I think it was the show that led to that show because that was with Biography of Ferns and The Lights. That show was amazing. It was a packed show and everyone was stoked. Some dude from Sub Pop sat me down…this was at the Sunset ….and was like, we gotta get you guys back here. And they brought us back with The Thermals and Mudhoney.
Kevin: Yeah but they were called, "Beneath the Valley of the Underdog" because it was a secret show. You were like 16, right Jon? You know, our consistency was way off. We would just be like, "We are gonna just get up on stage and jam on E" ….and we weren’t used to drinking that much…..they'd give us beer. And Jon Parks got naked and pissed some people off.
Jon: He got naked…in the first song.
Kevin: I think his leather button actually broke and his pants were falling down and it was a distraction, so he took em off. I think he just turned 18.
The whole set, naked??
Kevin: I didn't watch it. I just kinda heard about it.
Jon: We kinda turned away…I knew from the first note of that show, that it wasn't gonna come out like I thought it was. We started and I remember coming down on the first beat thinking, "Oh man this is not gonna be as cool as I thought it was gonna be!"
Jon goes on to describe that their set wasn't the right energy for the room: lead singer and loose cannon Jon Parks naked, someone throws a glass at him and misses! The glass gets into some ladies eye, who has to be rushed to the hospital…
Kevin: They basically made us load out and chased us off the lot.
And they both notice Kim Thayill of Soundgarden in the crowd as they were leaving…..
That's incredibly Rock N’ Roll. Do you guys get those moments as adults, where you think, Wow, my 12 year old self would think I am a bad ass?
Kevin: [answers reluctantly, I’m guessing because of the question's braggy nature]: playing with Robbie Robertson….
I don't know who that is
(Kevin points to a picture of The Band, next to him on the wall)
Kevin: He’s the one furthest to the right. And I remember driving with Carl [Dahlen, the Moondoggies’ drummer] after that and just having laughing fits. We were just like, “Holy shit! Holy shit!”.
After some convincing Kevin and Jon go on to tell a story about how Jack Endino gets ahold of The Familiars' poorly recorded demo and invites them to his studio to record. Jack tells the guys, "This is Kurt's amp from Bleach" and they use it to record what Kevin and Jon call The Familiar’s "best demo".
Check out my favorite Familiars song here: https://myspace.com/themoondoggers/music/album/wassleworth-683149
So, let’s switch modes to the Moondoggies, and what you think about the less than flattering stuff that’s been written about you guys in the press since becoming The Moondoggies. What do you guys think about the haters?
Kevin: You know what’s funny is I read some people saying, I hated these songs but liked those songs…..and other folks would say they hated those songs, but these are the good ones...a lot of people who are writing that are putting on the record and basing it off of what they know about the genre. They’re not putting it on for music to enjoy, music just to, you know, think about. They’re just asking: Who are they referencing?
Jon: Some guy said we were ripping off a song from The Cure. I was like, Who? I've never listened to The Cure!
Kevin: Backseat drivers. Like dude….I don't have to give you a ride! You're just complaining about my car, if you don't like my car, get out! Like your lame friend who always needs a ride but then they complain about your shit and its like dude get your own car, learn how to drive, get your driver’s license. That’s the fun part.
I’ll leave you with a few quickfire, silly questions:
If you could trade places with anyone in the band for a week, who would it be?
Kevin: Do we get to experience their personality?
You are living their life, having their thoughts.
Kevin:Mmmm K, I'd be Carl! [lots of laughs]
Kevin: Cause I’d probably laugh the whole time because Carl is really funny. It’s usually about 15 minutes is the longest you can go without cracking up around Carl.
Who in the band is most likely to get arrested on tour?
Kevin: Caleb [Quick, keyboard player and vocalist)
Jon: Caleb actually did get arrested on tour. Liquid littering.
If Moondoggies were a cover band, which band would you cover?
Kevin: 1969-1971 Pink Floyd
Jon: [convincingly] ….‘72!
Kevin: Yea, ‘72.
Jon: Not ‘73 tho…
What would your Behind the Music title be:
Jon: Yea, yea, I dig that.
Don’t forget to listen to The Moondoggies newest album ADIOS I'M A GHOST and all their other albums for that matter-- for those who love classic Americana Rock, with a side of awesome.