Thurs. Dec. 8
1977 Maybank Hwy.
Going into their 10th year together, Georgia’s experimental jam-based rock band Moonshine Still have been touring the U.S. — from the Carolinas to the Rockies and back — all year behind their most ambitious recording yet, [R]evolution. Known among local fans for their rambunctious live performances and diverse catalog of complex, guitar’n’organ-based funk-rock, the Stills seem to be expanding into new audiences with a more modernized approach.
The band has recently souped up their light show, adding gear and a full-time lighting director, Michael Smalley. As tripped-out as the visual effects may be, the band’s recent efforts to incorporate a heavy “electronic” element to the rhythm section allow the organic Southern rock style to push ahead with an entirely new groove.
“In the last year, I started working with sequencers on computers,” says longtime drummer Will Robinson, 29. “Midi, controllers, loops, and waves … all sorts of stuff. I’ve been using Ableton Live, which is a great, versatile musical production software, and applied it to our live setting. It beat-matches wavs, mp3s, and other files. You can cut them up and play them as individual tracks, run them through effects, and control them through any kind of interface you like, be it a keyboard or mixing board or whatever.
“It gives me more freedom on the kit as well, because it acts like a metronome,” he adds. “I’m a melodic drummer. I play according to what the melodic phrase is, and base the time signature on that. It’s been cool getting into this new approach.”
To nerd out and quote Neil Peart, all this machinery making modern music can still be open-hearted. Honestly.
“I’m not ignoring the acoustic drums,” Robinson assures. “It’s just adding a whole new element to what we’ve been doing for years. It’s a whole new level. We use this on four or five songs and we rotate those from night to night. It doesn’t sound like anything else out there, for sure.”
For Robinson and his bandmates — guitarist/lead vocalist Scot Baston, lead guitarist David Shore, keyboardist Trippe Wright, bassist Ray Petren, and percussionist Bill Jarrett (who’s adding bits of computerized rhythms of his own) — the heart and soul of Moonshine Still’s groove-oriented music will always stay intact, regardless of the mechanical additions.
“We really try and hold on to Macon [Ga.] as a community, because that’s where the band started,” says Robinson of their home base. “It has an incredible music heritage, which is somewhat forgotten because the scene burned out a while back. It’s not just the Allmans; it’s Percy Sledge, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding. Jimi Hendrix even got a bit of a start there when he was living with his aunt and backing up Percy Sledge in one of his first guitar gigs. There’s just tons of soul music from the area, which we like.”