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An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.


By Chris Paul

originally published: 04/28/2024

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.

On Thursday, July 4, 2024, moe. will be returning to the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. Joining them will be summer tour collaborators, Daniel Donato's Cosmic Country and Neighbor. To celebrate the return of moe. for the 50th anniversary of the Stone Pony, I was able to catch up with Jim Loughlin (percussionist/Swiss army knife) and relive the glory days of past performances at the Jersey Shore while discussing the current state of the band.

Moe. has been touring nationally and internationally for over 3 decades and it’s loyal fanbase has fueled their amazing journey thus far. Returning to the Pony to celebrate Independence Day this year is a milestone for their musical careers and dedication to live music performance. It was a moe.ron’s treat to hear how the band is and how much the anticipation of the upcoming 4th celebration is mutual.

 

Hi Jim, it’s great to chat today. I was wondering first how you would describe moe. and its music to someone who is not familiar with the band?

In essence, we are a rock n roll band, guitar driven rock music. We tend to add a lot of improve into it so there is a lot of improve between the songs and in the songs themselves. The solos and all that stuff are always improved.



 
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What is your role musically or otherwise in the band?

I’m the percussionist, as well as a muti-instrumentalist, I play a lot of Latin percussion, hand percussion, I play mallet percussion, vibraphone, and marimba, as well as a lot of acoustic guitar and anything else that sorta comes up that will work (laughs). I can either play it or learn how to play it to fill in those little areas.

 

Speaking of improvisation, do you have any other versatile roles with moe. such as song writing and/or composition?

It’s hard to say, we all have a part in the song writing. Definitely, Rob (Derhak, bass) and Al (Schnider, guitar) would be our main song writers. They have probably written the majority of what we play. Everybody sorta writes their own part and we all take parts in the arrangements as well. I have a handful of songs with the band that I wrote, but it’s not as many as the other guys. 90% of all of it is co-written by everyone in the band. Although we do write our own parts and help with arrangements there are some songs that were for lack of a better word, thru composed, where someone came in with a song that was finished and was like you do this, you do this, and we are all good.

 



 
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What songs did you write?

Chromatic Nightmare, Jazz Cigarette, Farmer Ben, Don’t Want to Be, and I Can Never Remember are all songs I wrote with the band.

Besides “Farmer Ben”, are there any other songs you do vocals on?

Well, Chromatic Nightmare and Jazz Cigarette are instrumentals. I sing I Can Never Remember and Don’t Want to Be and I sing a handful of covers we do. Any of the loud screamy stuff is me (laughs).

 

How does improvisation play into your versatility with your roles with moe.?

It forces me to listen to everyone on stage that is playing, it’s a good practice as a musician to get into. For me, personally a lot goes into selection of instruments since I have a bunch of stuff from the studio to choose from. In a lot of the live improve sections I get to pick which instrument to play this time and it definitely helps when a vibraphone fits in, when a marimba fits in, when the congas are the best. What instrument actually slots in with what is going on. That’s just from all those years getting a better ear for that than I did fifteen, twenty years ago.

 

How does that preparation change recording in the studio compared to performing live?

The studio is like using the term looking through a microscope now. There are a lot of songs that we have played for longtime live before we get it into the studio and actually dig into everybody’s parts and our own parts and you come up with like, wow, maybe I shouldn’t have been doing that this whole time. It should have been something more like this. Sometimes you come to the realization that what you have been doing isn’t really working. It just seems to work out because it’s live. Half the part of live is you can be like you know what? This is actually what I think I should be playing and kind of play something different than you usually do as long as it isn’t going to throw off anyone else. You have the opportunity certain nights to reinterpret yourself, whereas in the studio you are aiming for something that is getting preserved forever so you get more nitpicky, you dive deeper into every part of the song.

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.



 
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Is there anything in the studio in the works?

We are heading into the studio in a couple of weeks actually. We have over the past couple of years since Nate joined the band a pretty good list of new material that we’d like to release in a more timely manner before we just played it out. Right now, we don’t have a release date or general time frame because we are just starting to work on it.

 

Something to look forward to! You mentioned Nate Wilson, who is now playing keys with moe. Tell me about how he became part of the band and what it has been like playing with him?

We’ve known Nate for over 20 years. Percy Hill that he played with was one of the first bands that we played with when we started touring outside of Buffalo, NY. So we’ve known him for a really long time. He sat in with us a lot. Just like when we were in the area where he lives, he would sit in with us, when Al was having problems with his hands and his wrists, Nate came and helped us get through a couple of shows. Obviously when Chuck (Garvey, guitar) had his stroke we needed to do something so we got another friend of ours, Suke Cerulo, a phenomenal guitar player and Nate to fill Chuck’s spot. We needed 2 people to make up for losing Chuck for a while. Just because Chuck does everything, sings, plays guitar, and all the stuff he does, it’s hard to just get one guy to do all of it. When Chuck came back into the band, he’s still working on the whole speech thing and slowly getting all his songs back vocally which was the hardest part. We basically kept Nate on because he can sing. It’s not the only reason, but it just worked out where he fit in so well musically on the keys and he’s a good singer. He can do backgrounds great and obviously he sings lead great so it just made sense to keep him on.

 

I have been listening to recent live shows and every time I hear Nate I feel like he has been playing notes that have always been there, but I’ve never actually heard them before (Jim laughs). There is such a new dynamic to the music!

Yeah, he was so familiar with the stuff, not just familiar with the material, but familiar with us as people and sorta how we do things. He’s been hearing and seeing us play for so long, he just slotted in really, really, really well and very quickly. He really worked out for us and is a huge benefit.

 

How much of the new material is Nate bringing to the table specifically?

2 songs that he wrote on his own, All In Stride and Yellow Tigers. He also co-wrote 2 of the songs that are on, Back Country and one other song he co-wrote with Al that should be on the record.

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.

I’ve noticed that as a percussionist, your job is to fill in holes musically. How do the keys factor into that equation?

It really only affected the vibraphone. The conga stuff, the drums, and all the hand percussions all stayed the same. There were a lot of songs where I used to play an accompaniment part during a solo or something like that, that I don’t do anymore because to have so many pans, like when you have a guitar, keys and a vibraphone accompanying a guitar solo it’s too much for the soloist. It’s a lot going on, so I just stay out of those. That’s really the only major difference, any time I was playing straight melody lines on the vibraphone or marimba, he either lays out or he doubles the line, so none of that stuff changed for me. It was really just a lot of the accompaniment stuff on solos that changed.

 

What are some of your musical influences?

When I was younger, I was always a big metal head. AC/DC was one of the first bands that I really latched on and then it just spiraled and got heavier from there. As I got older in high school I listened to a lot of classical music and jazz music. That all continued, honestly there are so many. It’s a hard question because I could give you 10 players for every instrument I play.

 

What are you listening to currently?

Most recently, I just got the new Judist Priest album, which is awesome! A lot Coheed and Cambria, when I fly it’s always Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, that kind of stuff. I don’t listen to one type of thing, it’s situational maybe. If I am recording or mixing stuff that is all I listen too for weeks at a time. I need to hear how a mix sounds on my speakers, on my earbuds, in my truck, on a stereo, so I just listen to whatever I am working on.

 

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.



 
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How has performing live with moe. remained fresh for you and the band for over 30 years? How does the band play a song like it is the first time played over every time?

A big part of it is we have a great fanbase. Crowd reactions at shows are a large part of what keeps the older stuff new because you can tell they love these songs. Who am I to not… I doesn’t matter how many times I played it, these people have probably heard it that many times as well and they still want to hear it live. A lot of people ask that question, how do you play the same song over and over and over? They never think about the fact, I guarantee everybody has songs they listen to over and over. It’s the same thing, there’s an energy when we play older songs like Rebubula or Moth, Timmy Tucker… Stuff from the first or second record we recorded. Go back and take Spine of a Dog, which is off our first album, and it gets played and fans just love the song. The room we are playing to goes crazy, they love the song, they sing along that whole thing. When you are playing the song, you don’t think, oh my God this is the whatever time I’ve played this song. It not a thought in my head, it’s just play the song, do the best job playing the song and you can tell from the crowd reaction that everyone wants to hear this song so there’s no reason for us not to play it.

 

So, the enthusiasm of the crowd fuels and provides the vibe for you to play a song like it is the first time?

Absolutely, yeah.

 

I love that exchange, especially as a photographer, I love to witness that exchange, that’s really the fuel for the fire, right?

I will never get tired of hearing the crowd sing-along with Spine of a Dog. Those guys can stop singing and the part will be filled. The quiet part in Rebubula, the different parts have stuff that they do. Bearsong is super old, it never got recorded, but we have been playing it since I used to be a drummer in the band, the 90’s and I don’t get tired playing it because every time we get to the part the crowd goes Whooo! It’s hilarious!

(Both laugh) I was just hearing it in my head. What are some of the highlights for you and the band so far from 2024?

So far all of 2024 has been really, really good. Our initial west coast run all the way on the coast was fantastic. The ski tour (in CO) went off great, some of the shows were just so fun and we had great crowds. I can’t think of anything that stands out head shoulders above the rest. We just started touring again heavily in 2023. Just to be back out on the road playing and having the band be solid again, and having our crew be solid, it’s all been fantastic. Since coming back on the road, we have had a lot of switches. We lost a lot of guys to Covid, who had to go out a work somewhere else. All the crew we know have assembled; everything has been clicking. So, when everything is the organization is clicking it’s fantastic. That’s the best part of the last two years, really how the organization has been working and we are back PLAYING again. That’s the best!

 

How does the contribution of the technical staff, both sound and lights, fuel what you do on stage?

It’s huge, it really is. If there are problems with the crew it makes the whole entire day difficult. They have to do so much work. We only have a six-person crew, six in the band, six in the crew. We actually are lucky enough to have two merch sellers who have been working for us for the last year and a half.  They are fantastic, they don’t travel with us on the bus or stuff like that, but they have helped so much it’s crazy. The crew is just an intricate part of any band and if there are problems or glitches within that part of it, that makes everything difficult. It’s the whole day, it’s the majority of the day, 8 hours to 10 hours before we play so if there are problems with that it's not a good place to start from.

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.

How do the lights add to experience that is moe.?

For us, it’s honestly hard to notice from the stage. We don’t get to see the show. It’s funny because our new light guy, Sonny Lagrassa, he’d had worked with us for eight months before I actually got to see posts that had pictures and videos of what he has been doing. Then I get to see it from the crowd point of view, and I am just blown away. It’s happened with a lot of light guys, it takes a long time before I see outside perspective, for me it’s just a bunch of colors washing on the stage and flashing things. I don’t get to see the presentation of it. Anytime I see the crowd perspective for the light show it blows me away. Going to shows, it’s a huge part of the show.

 

As an East Coast band, what is the difference performing on the home side of the country compared to the West Coast?

The biggest difference is travel times. On the East Coast we can play ten shows all within two hours of each other. An hour and a half even, hit major markets, college towns or big cities. The far West Coast is not the same, so the crowds change way more on the West Coast than on the East Coast. On the West Coast you have to bring a different crowd each night. You have San Diego and LA, those are close, so if we do those 2 nights back-to-back people will travel for those shows. Then you get up to San Francisco and that’s way further away and there is not a lot nearby. San Jose, there is a couple of cities in between those two that are good music markets, but they are all closer to San Francisco than LA. So you have that big gap, then San Francisco to Portland (OR) and Portland to Seattle (WA). Those drives are crazy so the crowd will actually change over almost on a nightly basis. Whereas when we play on the East Coast, especially since it’s some of our longest running fanbase, when you play New York (NY), Boston (MA), Portland (ME) , Burlington (VT), Buffalo (NY) 50-60% of those crowds are coming to 3 or more of those shows.

 

How does crowd enthusiasm differ West Coast verses just another show on the East Coast? Is there a change from fans who don’t see as many shows out west compared to fans who attend just another night in the east?



 
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There is a level of change, but the fans on the East Coast are some of our oldest fans so thankfully a majority of our fans in the east are not jaded yet. I don’t know how that is possible, so they come out, they have been seeing us for a long time and they don’t act like they are taking it for granted at all. They know all the songs, all the older songs, it’s a different kind of excitement when you are seeing a band you love that you’ve seen for decades versus when you see a band that you love, but you haven’t seen them in a year. The energy level is the same, but it's the way that they get there that’s a completely different type of excitement.

 

How does anticipated crowd reaction factor into set list composition?

Honestly it doesn’t, set list, you’re really trying to build a roadmap for people. You are trying to take them through a show that has highs and lows, some intense points, some tension and release, and all that stuff. You can’t at that point in the day anticipate the crowd’s reaction, If you project things onto a crowd you are going to be disappointed. It’s the same thing with general fans and releasing and recording a record and writing songs, the second you try to project anything onto your fanbase you are doomed. You go about it the way that you do, the way that you’ve done it because that is what got them in the seats in the first place.

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.

Well put, what are some of the things you are looking forward to this summer?

July is going to really good, we have so many great shows lined up, so many great venues and we will be working with Daniel Donato for a good chunk of the summer. I finally met him on Jam Cruise and it’s just gonna be fun. We have a lot of great markets we will be working in and a lot of top tier musicians and bands so it’s going to be an awesome summer. Plus, we will be coming off a bunch of studio time, then we do Summer Camp (now Solshine Reverie in Chillicothe, IL) then smash into July. We are going to be on the road pretty much the whole month so it will get good (laughs)!

 

How was it decided to have Daniel Donato and Neighbor in support this summer?

Something we wanted to do was a summer tour with other acts. We had a great time when we did the Blues Traveler shows, so were trying to put together a really good package and when we talked to Daniel, he was psyched about it! He really wanted to do the same thing, it worked out, he wanted to work with us, we wanted to work with him. And then Neighbor, I don’t want to call them an up-and-coming band because they have established themselves now, but we watched them come up. We played a bunch of shows with them as they were building a name for themselves, and they are just great guys! They do really well in the Northeast and they’re really fun guys and just cool to hang out with. We get along with them and right there that’s just the best. If you are going to tour with other bands and spend time with them, it’s the same thing when you are forming a band. If you don’t get along with them (laughs), it’s just going to be a miserable experience. They said they were interested in doing it as well, so we got to put together a package for the summer.

 

It sounds like a great line-up; I am really excited to see you at the Stone Pony. What does it mean to be returning to Stone Pony (Asbury Park, NJ) for the 4th of July?

(Laughs) It’s going to be awesome, hopefully we don’t get fined this time. The last time we played there was a little crazy. The outdoor stage at the Stone Pony is just awesome. It’s really cool because up on the stage you are looking out over the boardwalk and then they do the fireworks show on the 4th of July which is really cool because it’s down the whole beach! You see like six displays. The crowd is just great, the club is just legendary, you are just like on hallowed grounds.

An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.

It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stone Pony being celebrated this summer.

That’s crazy, (laughs) that’s amazing, it’s not a huge place, know what I mean, it’s just known from when it started 50 years ago, none of those clubs are still around anymore. None of the clubs in New York City are around anymore. Just the fact that it is still there is amazing to me and it’s awesome. I mean, we have been playing there for a long time now and I have played on the inside stage with side projects, and we’ve done the outside many times now.

 

Do you have a favorite Stone Pony memory?

It was one of the summer shows outside, the producer for our album, No Guts No Glory, Dave Aron, was a really good friend of ours and unfortunately since then passed away way too young, but it was pouring rain, I mean absolutely pouring rain and for the time it was completely raining, me and Dave and one of his friends Demetrie and Dave’s mom, who this amazing older woman, 70’s maybe who still does trapeze and stuff like that, acrobatic stuff. Just hanging out in the bus, talking with Dave and his mom and his childhood friend was just hilarious. The stories his mom would tell about the two of them growing up was fantastic. It’s actually one of my favorite memories from playing at the Stone Pony.

 

That was the Bamboozle Music Festival, with the monsoon.

Right the Bamboozle. The most amazing part was actually we had a backstage area inside and our bus there, so we went inside, and when we came back out, when the stage was actually ready. They had to squeegee it off there was so much water on the stage. Everybody was still there, the crowd was soaking wet because not everybody could fit inside the club. A bunch of people, a good portion of the crowd just hung out in a freakin monsoon waiting for us to come back on. I could not believe it; I was expecting to step back out on stage to see an empty parking lot in front of us.



 
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Who doesn’t love a summer rain (both laugh)? You mentioned not getting fined this time. Did the fine happen the first time moe. played the 4th of July during the fireworks because you rocked the theme song from the movie, Team America, America F#*k Yeah?!

Yeah, we got a call from the mayor’s office the next day and they were basically like, look normally we wouldn’t be issuing this, but you picked the day that the entire boardwalk was filled with children and families and that is all they heard.

 

Very patriotic, but not the best lyric choice. 

We honestly didn’t even think about it, it was a funny song and we had fun learning it, playing it and we didn’t even think about the whole fact that we were outside and everybody on the beach could hear us.

 

Not PG rated (laughs)

Exactly, not one of our brightest moves in our career, but it’s a good story.

 

It’s an amazing memoe.ry for me, I laughed so hard when I heard you got complaint phone calls the next day, I didn’t realize you got fined too. 

Yup, we sure were.

 

To wrap up, is there any special you want to say to the fans Asbury Park fanbase in anticipation to the upcoming Stone Pony celebration?

Just thank you, thank you so much for coming out for all these years! From our Stone Pony gigs to our New Year’s show that we did. We have been in the area for a long time and it’s always been a great crowd and just thank you so much for coming out and supporting us.

 

Thank you for your time today. I am going to be in Asbury Park all weekend for the 4th of July and I eagerly await the celebration! It was great to chat with you.

Tickets and more information about moe. at the Stone Pony is available here. More information about moe. and their upcoming tour dates is available at https://moe.org.

ALL PHOTOS BY CHRIS PAUL


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