Although the Decemberists are currently on hiatus, it’s not stopping drummer John Moen from pursuing other musical endeavors. His new solo album, “Revise Your Maps,” under the name Perhapst is due out June 25, 2013. He recently stopped by to talk about the new album as well as the future of The Decemberists.
Q – Most people know you from the band, The Decemberists, where you’ve been drummer since 2006’s “The Crane Wife.” Your second solo album, “Revise Your Maps,” is set for release June 25, 2013. How does this solo album compare musically to The Decemberists’ previous albums?
A - I'm not sure that it has much to do with The Decemberists musically, other than the fact that Colin and I might be enamored of the same kind of music in general. There is also the fact that I am able to spend time and resources on Perhapst because I am lucky enough to be in The Decemberists. But, I think for the most part that I have been on the same path as a songwriter for a good deal longer than I have been in The Decemberists. I had a band in the ‘90s called the Maroons; if you managed to track down a copy of one of those two albums, I think you would see the same basic songwriting style at work that you hear on my latest effort. Hopefully it's not TOO redundant! Ha!
Q – I’ve listened to “Revise Your Maps” a few times. There seems to be a lot of influences surrounding the tracks, very early psychedelic. Which musicians inspired you musically for not only this album but as a musician in general?
A - I admit to being very partial to most psychedelia. Style-wise, I think it is a nice platform for powerful sounds, but it also takes to melody so well. I also really like country, folk music, and classic rock, to name a few other genres. There are so many amazing performers out there; past and present... Clive Palmer, Wizz Jones, David Crosby, Roky Erickson, Old Light (PDX), Parson Redheads (also PDX), Jeff Lynne, Stephen Malkmus, Espers... Right now I'm listening to Nina Simone. There is too much great music!
Q – I particularly love the songs “Ramble Scramble,” “True Sparrow,” and “Revise Your Maps.” The three really contribute to a summer-type album just lounging around, spending time with family or driving cross country with friends. What do you want fans to take away from the album?
A - Great question. I think that whatever "picture" I think I'm "painting"- it ultimately isn't up to me as to how it gets interpreted. I would appreciate anyone enjoying it for almost any reason, whether or not they are seeing the same thing in their head as I was, when writing the song.
Q – You play most of the instruments on “Revise Your Maps.” What challenges do you find when you’ve got more of the musical responsibility versus having guest musicians on the album?
A - I am not the world's greatest guitar player, but I LOVE to play the guitar. Same with bass and piano, etc. So, it is sometimes a bit of a challenge to execute the thing I hear in my head. Over-all, it is just a blast to be able to get the chance to dabble with these instruments! There are some lovely guest performances on the album, too. Jenny from The Decemberists plays organ on “Ramble Scramble” and piano on “Sorrow and Shame,” for instance.
Q – Aside from your solo work and The Decemberists, you’ve been a part of other projects like Black Prairie. How do you keep each project separate and do you approach each band differently in terms of writing and recording music?
A - They all have their own flavor and I have differing responsibilities with each project. Playing drums is fun but of course, you have to be open to a songwriter’s vision of their song; maybe set your own ego to the side a little more. I think one has to listen and observe, and then apply whatever is appropriate as a side musician or collaborator. That is why it's so fulfilling for me to be able to make my own albums once in a while.
Q – Forgive me for asking about The Decemberists. The band announced a multi-year hiatus after 2011’s “The King is Dead.” What is the current status of any new material from the band? Any news to report?
A - The band is excited to get back into the studio and work on a new album. I don't know what the timeline will look like, but something is definitely brewing.
Q – I wish you luck with the album. Is there anything you wanted to add?
A - Thanks for listening!
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.