[slideshow]Stumbing upon Georgia’s Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters was akin to stepping out of the realm of consciousness and becoming briefly captured within a mesmerizing altered state of reality, where stunning melody above an amalgamation of noise-infused, psychedelic folk rock has its way with you. Like a drug, it’s addictive and powerful – never provoking the same experience twice.
This listening experience was inspired by Moon’s vivid dreams, the fulfilling yet taxing time spent in various places on the road and the Atlanta-based band’s dynamic lineup, which has “haphazardly” switched-up on multiple occasions. Currently, the band includes Damon Moon on electric and acoustic guitar, Jacob Smith playing lap steel and bass, Charlie Bennett on bass and keys, Chris Cooke handling electric guitar duties and Shawn Jacoby on drums. According to Moon, “The different lineups have definitely translated a bit into the tunes. Some of the things we’re doing now, I can’t see ever being able to do with older lineups. I’m definitely not afraid of change.”
Moon puts emphasis on art and creativity in his performances and recordings, one of the reasons he doesn’t fear an overhaul of his lineup. He interprets change as an opportunity “to let the songs kind of reinvent themselves, letting the songs breathe a little and evolve – or devolve for that matter.” Moon’s philosophy on songwriting also helps to instill magic in the music. “I just think it’s selfish, as an artist, to ‘finish’ a song and place those limitations around it,” he says. “After all, who am I to say when something is in its final form of creativity? Ultimately, I just want to respect the song and let it use me as a form of expression, rather than the other way around. I know that I’ve definitely had lineups and done tours where ‘tightness’ was the goal. That’s fine, but after doing it night after night, it gets to be an act and eventually I think you become a bit more of a performer than an artist. It’s all about finding balance between the two, and that’s different for everyone.”
DMATWD’s first album – the self-produced Meridian Road – was recorded in a home studio in Flowery Branch, Ga, mastered by the illustrious Rodney Mills and released in 2009. Tracking began soon after Moon’s departure from Atlanta band Ocha La Rocha and much of it was recorded as the songs were being written, or conversely, written as the recording ensued.
Moon recently licensed the sludgy, melancholy “Dream Forty-One” to a movie called Person of Interest, which has been through a few rounds of film festivals this year, but as of now it’s unclear when it will hit the big screen. Success like this again proves the exquisite intensity and kaleidoscopic atmosphere in the band’s folk-inspired rock, along with its melodic vocal drones, is working. The group is currently busy on their sophomore effort, which Moon describes as a departure from Meridian Road, though the new content is still in its infancy. The band is taking the new songs on tour this spring. The road has become a familiar friend and foe to DMATWD, as this will be their third completely DIY U.S. tour. Their first proved to be a valuable learning experience, in terms of triumphs and failures. Though the tour ended midway through, “due to a blowout, some shows falling through in middle-America and all around financial woes,” Moon views the entire experience as a success – especially considering it was his first shot at booking a tour, for which he admittedly didn’t know whether what he was doing was right or wrong until they were out there in the thick of it. He sums up his adventures as, “liberating, frustrating, dirty and taxing” and believes the most fulfilling aspect is “definitely the 30-45 minutes I spend every night just creating.” He continues, “On tour, there’s so much to think about throughout the day, like wondering when will be the next time you’ll have a warm shower, a clean pair of socks or the Holy Grail – a bed! But for those 30 minutes, it’s amazingly fulfilling to let all of that go, stop thinking and just do what you’re there to do. Also, being on the road with a band, some serious bonds get made and you figure a lot out about yourself.”
Damon Moon and the Whispering Drifters is an example of a band beautifully functioning independent of the support of management, agents or a label. “Honestly, I’ve been completely DIY thus far for a few reasons,” he says. “Mostly, I like being in control of my art and how it’s represented. Also, the actual work that goes into something like booking a tour, though it gets extremely taxing, is quite rewarding when you try and fail a time or two, and then get better and succeed. A lot of bands pay big money for someone to book them a tour. That’s awesome, and those agents are definitely worth their weight in gold, but anything they can do, you can do as well. You’ll be really bad at it for a time, and that can cost a lot of money over time, but a completely DIY band like mine doesn’t have the money upfront to pay someone like that, so really it’s the only option right now. It’s starting to pay off ?and it’s really rewarding.”
Moon doesn’t knock the music industry that exists, though he does observe an indefinable shift occurring. “The model for a successful band these days is all messed up,” he says. “The industry is in shambles, but I think anyone can tell you that. The truth is that no one knows what to do right now. Everyone is kind of shrugging their shoulders, waiting to see who’s going to make the next big move. I’m not at all opposed to signing to a label or contracts in general, but whoever is on the other end of that contract is going to need a pretty convincing argument that they know a path to higher grounds – one that I couldn’t reach on my own. Until someone approaches me with something I can’t do on my own, I feel like I need to keep recording, keep releasing and keep touring as much as possible on my own. I don’t see that model ever not paying off, at least on a personal level, and ultimately, if I’m not in it for that reason, what am I really doing?”
Photographer: Dave Greer
By: Nadia Lelutiu