An Interview with Jim Loughlin of moe.

Words by Nick Hodgins
Photo by Alexandra Valenti

If you’re familiar with the jam scene, or just quality music in general, chances are you’ve stumbled across the band simply called moe. With a lower case “m” and a period promptly placed at the end, the title is more of a statement than a name.

With 25 years of making music under their belt, moe. has established a solid position in the jam community, they even host their own annual festival, appropriately named moe.down. They just released their 11th studio album No Guts, No Glory which features new material, as well as a few live songs that have yet to find themselves recorded in the studio, that is until now.

No Guts, No Glory is a rhythmic blend of genres which features gritty solos, catchy hooks, and plenty of grooves, sure to keep your head bobbing in a constant state of motion. Part of those delicious jams that moe. so seamlessly creates, can be accredited to Jim Loughlin, who has been playing vibraphone in the band since his return in 1999, after a few years spent pursuing other projects.

Loughlin explained how initially, the idea was to write and record an all-acoustic album in California with their friend and producer Dave Aron (Sublime, Snoop Dogg). But, due to personal issues and logistics, it was easier for them to bring Aron out to Connecticut and record on the East Coast.

“When we got in and started just throwing ideas around, stuff that Al (Schnier, guitar), Rob (Derhak, bass) and Chuck (Garvey, guitar) had, a lot of the new songs, which were all assembled in the studio, played way better as full on electric rock moe. songs, so the [acoustic] idea completely flipped,” Loughlin said.

When it came to the older songs like ‘Billy Goat’, ‘Silver Sun’ and ‘Runaway Overlude’, it was important for the quintet to recreate the best live performances in the studio that they could, thus creating a very genuine representation of what it is they do. Did they accomplish that?

“Definitely yeah,” Loughlin said with confidence, “this was definitely the easiest record we ever recorded and it’s very genuine, very much us playing.”

With past studio records like What Happened to the La La’s (2012), Dither (2001), or Conch (2007), there were times Loughlin felt they got too over analytical or ‘studio-y’; and while he doesn’t think those albums came out bad, he sees No Guts, No Glory as a more organic sounding album.

Infamous for their live performances and extended improv sessions, moe. is very much a live band, which Loughlin admits isn’t always an easy thing to capture in the studio.

“There’s a drastic difference between playing live and playing in the studio, it’s always difficult to bring the full live sound into a studio because it’s closed mic, smaller room, there’s no crowd… to actually get the sound of a live show in the studio is really really hard.”

Loughlin began his musical career at a young age playing the bass, he got into jazz when he was 17 and later went on to study it in college; he didn’t start playing the vibraphone until 2000.

Unlike the wooden xylophone or the marimba, a vibraphone is crafted with metal or aluminum bars, which feature resonator tubes and a fan on top, creating a tremolo or ‘wah’ effect; and while the vibes are mostly used as a jazz instrument, Loughlin is one of the few musicians playing it in a rock and roll setting.

“It’s a good break, it gives you a breath from always hearing guitar, bass and drums,” Loughlin said. “I like to try to set things up for the soloists and not step on whoever else is comping the solo. If I’m soloing, I try to listen to everybody I can, because everybody in this band has a distinct voice. Everybody can lend a lot to solo sections and open improv sections.”

With a rigorous tour schedule ahead of them, Loughlin is looking forward to one stop in particular this summer– the Fuji Rock Festival, a 3-day festival located on Mount Niigata, Japan, featuring upwards of 8 different stages and a ridiculous number of bands, moe. included.

“It’s incredible,” Loughlin said, “they set it up so well and it’s bands from all around the world. You get to see huge names play and tons of bands you’ve never heard of. There’s a lot of really original music.”

For those on the East Coast looking for something slightly more local than Mount Niigata, you can find moe. hosting their 15th annual moe.down festival this August, at the Snow Ridge Ski Resort in Turin, NY.

“We get good numbers but it’s not this overcrowded fiasco,” Loughlin said. “We’ve been doing it for 15 years and it’s a really good, mellow festival”, he concludes. | No Guts, No Glory