Moss Folk is an experimental project coming out from Milwaukee. Improvisation is a very important aspect of their creating and the result is trance like psychedelic music. They are clearly inspired by a lot of European experimental bands, including Amon Düül II, Träd, Gräs & Stenar and also Can. Andrew James Shelp is man behind Moss Folk and he's also responsible for Milwaukee Psych Fest, which is gaining interest because of the great lineup, which in past included The Myrrors, The Warlocks, Ancient River, Holy Wave, Ttotals, Loop and many others (a lot of them were interviewed in the past by us). 2016 lineup is already known. You can check it out below.
Andrew James Shelp answered a few questions regarding philosophy behind Moss Folk and Festival itself.
What's the concept behind Moss Folk?
We are an experimental rock band, through and through. The roots, foundation and basic ideology of Moss Folk has always been about minimalism and repetition though. We incorporate layers of "simple" things, dub-ish bass grooves, Eastern blues guitar riffs, motorik drumming, droning organs and synthesizers as well as chanted vocals to create our "raga rock" sound. It's meditation for us and hopefully it's a transcendental experience for the listener as well. We also encourage participation at our live shows by putting instruments out for audience members to play. Something that really struck a chord with me while I was playing with/in Indian Jewelry back in 2006/07. They (we) would lay instruments out along the stage and people would randomly walk up and grab things and play along. It was so powerful. And that's another very important part of it to us. Community. The commune bands of the 60's and 70's, Amon Düül, Pärson Sound/Träd, Gräs & Stenar and Can. Those bands and their ideologies are very important as well as influential for us. Not only for the amazing music that they made but for their socio-political beliefs as well as their practice of a permaculture lifestyle. Very practical. Very powerful. Very inspiring. Sonically and socially.
Who are/were members of the band and what are their influences?
Moss Folk has always had a rotating cast so naming members is a bit difficult. Right now we play consistently as a four-piece featuring Kevin Dixon on bass, Jen Dixon on electric 12-string, Ryan Bollis on drums and myself on electronics, guitar and vocals. Jen and Kevin have another full time band of their own called Brief Candles. They both come from a dream pop, noise rock, shoegaze background. Ryan, the current longest tenured member besides myself, comes from more of a noise and punk background. We all have such diverse and eclectic tastes in music. I can't speak for the others as to what they've been listening to as of late but I've been listening to a lot of world music, especially the more recent jams coming out of Agadez, Group Doueh, Mdou Moctar, Tissdass as well as some traditional vocal Indian music like Pandit Pran Nath. We all of course love "Krautrock" bands such as Faust, Can, Neu!, Ash Ra Tempel, Agitation Free and especially the aforementioned Amon Düül. I've been jamming to a lot of Magical Power Mako, Far East Family Band and Les Rallizes Dénudés too. Vocokesh have also been played around my house a lot lately. That band is amazing! They are experimental psych rock pioneers. If you don't know that band you should check them out. They've been putting out records since the late 80's, some on Drag City. Great stuff!
Your material is available on bandcamp. What did you release so far and what was released on physical format?
Our bandcamp page is so outdated. I don't have a computer and am terrible with digital/internet type things. I always have to ask friends for help in that area. In the 10 years that Moss Folk has been playing, touring and whatnot, we have released only a handful of cd-r's ("Eco Lips", "March of the Seven Elephants", "May 2012", which is an all improvised tribute to Taj Mahal Travelers and features Vittorio Demarin from the Italian band Father Murphy on percussion) and one "legit" studio album, "Veiled Visions", out on cassette with Eye Vybe Records.
How does your recording process usually look like?
It's an incredibly simple process typically. Since I am the sole constant member of Moss Folk, I do all of the main songwriting myself. I write all of the parts, then record them onto a 4-track cassette recorder and then those recordings become the cd-r's that we sometimes sell at shows. We also use those as demos for the other members to learn from and to expand on, putting their own twists on things in live settings and then eventually in the studio. I've only taken the band into the studio twice. Once in 2007 (as a three piece) and again in 2015 with just Ryan and I. The 2007 album was scrapped because I didn't like it but those songs are starting to resurface as of late. A couple of them are on the latest album actually. I don't typically like studios though. I would much rather prefer we just record our live shows and use those as album recordings. It's more pure, more organic and captures the true essence of the band. However, all of that being said, I really dig how the last album, "Veiled Visions", recorded with Andrew Foys (of the Milwaukee band Tapebenders) turned out. That was a relatively quick process that was drawn out by the birth of my amazing daughter. I love that little woman and her mother so much it's impossible to even try to put into words. I love being a father! Sorry, anyways, the recording process for the last album was quick and simple. It took just a handful of days because we knew the songs. I laid the foundation, Ryan came in and did his drums. Then I did the bass tracks, synths and organs, guitars, vocals and then auxiliary percussion and other sounds. Songs changed a little bit while being in the studio of course but for the most part they stayed true to how they were originally written. I'm hoping to do more studio experimentation with the next album hopefully coming out later this year.
Improvisation must play a big part in your project…
Absolutely! That was how it all started. We played nothing but improvised jams. I later wrote two or three songs for us to fall back on just in case we weren't feeling the improv. Improvisation was the main focus though. Over the years we've somewhat strayed away from that but recently we have started to incorporate it more again. It's when I feel that I'm truly at my most comfortable though. Someone once told me in regards to playing improvised music, "If you play it once, you have to play it again. Otherwise it's a mistake". Or something like that...
You are also organizing a psychedelic festival. Can you tell our readers more about it?
Yes! I am the founder, curator and organizer of the Milwaukee Psych Fest going on it's fifth year! I started the festival when I moved back home to Milwaukee after having lived in Western Michigan for a few years. It had always been a dream of mine to bring all of my talented friends together in a single place and play together. Milwaukee isn't really a psychedelic minded town as their hasn't been too many psych bands that have come out of here (Vocokesh, Feck and maybe one or two more over the years) to garner any attention or popularity to the genre but surprisingly, people have really been coming out to support the festival. Some of the notable acts that have played the fest are Loop, The Warlocks, Holywave, The Holydrug Couple, The Paperhead, L.A. Witch, Verma, Magic Castles, Woodsman, Jovontaes, Ancient River, Nest Egg, Has A Shadow, The Blind Shake, Ttotals, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate, Running, Vocokesh, Feck and a ton of other great bands and friends! It's always such a great time!
It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine is sponsoring Milwaukee Psych Fest.
MILWAUKEE PSYCH FEST IV (2016) (Facebook event)
FULL FESTIVAL LINEUP:
Friday May 6th -
WHITE HILLS (NYC)
MOSS FOLK (MKE)
Saturday May 7th early show (1-6pm) -
LAKE OF FIRE (ATX)
SLOW WALKER (MKE)
YOUNG REVELATORS (MKE)
BLACK THUMB (FOX VALLEY)
THE 45's (MKE)
Saturday May 7th late show (6pm-2am) -
RYLEY WALKER (IL)
KLAUS JOHANN GROBE (SWITZERLAND)
SUGAR CANDY MOUNTAIN (OAKLAND)
LEVITATION ROOM (LA)
PAINTED CAVES (MKE)
Sunday May 8th (early start 3pm) -
NEST EGG (NC)
FLAVOR CRYSTALS (MPLS)
CULT OF LIP (MPLS)
IDPYRAMID (IOWA CITY)
BLUE UNIT (MKE)
Live visuals by BREAD MOTHERS and A. BILL MILLER
Also, please don't miss the Pfemmes of Psychedelia (an evening showcasing some of the incredible WOMYN of psych) show March 31st at Cactus Club featuring Summer Twins, Moving Panoramas, Thelma and the Sleaze and Apollo Vermouth!!!
Interview by Klemen Breznikar/2016
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