Moon Hooch: The Start of a Movement

By Kaleb Nielsen on November 25, 2017

Photo by Jon Tresko

Starting out in the subway system of New York City, musicians Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen of Moon Hooch scream in to their weapons of choice — saxophones — all while being driven by the intricate licks of James Muschler on the drums.

Moon Hooch was once identified as the pioneers of Cave Music but, now, according to Muschler “is hard to classify it as anything.”  Taking many different influences — such as; jazz, funk, rock, and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) — Moon Hooch creates a sound full of life and energy as they blow in to their horns that would now be considered “dance music”.

The trio met while attending The New School for Jazz and has used their knowledge of music theory and composition to create an exciting and captivating experience for audiences world wide.  Moon Hooch ebbs and flows falling into a free-form jazz sound and feel, but, primarily due to the metronome constantly pulsing in their earbuds, manages to maintain the strictness of classical music that would make music teachers happy.

The transitions between songs are extremely subtle, each new song is a continuation of the last — it’s as if they don’t even stop to take a breath.

Going back to their residency days at The Knitting Factory in New York City, Moon Hooch desired to create a show “stimulating and appropriate for that environment.”  That’s when the use of synthesizers become one of Moon Hooch’s defining features.  Similar to EDM — a computerized form of music — Moon Hooch ceased the opportunity to incorporate synthesizers in to their tracks and live sets.

McGowen’s previous experience with the synthesizing program Abelton, as Muschler says, “planted the seed” for their seamless transition into the world of EDM.  Having “the effects pre-automated, the pre-recorded tracks, and also a metronome” has contributed to Moon Hooch’s evolution in the predominantly computerized world of EDM.

Photo By Kenneth Kearney

Tapping into the world of EDM, Moon Hooch has incorporated synthesizers to reverse engineer the sounds coming out of their acoustic instruments. The idea of reverse engineering is different than your typical DJ — who has pre-recorded music then layers sounds on top of the different tracks. Moon Hooch has live music accompanied by pre-recorded sounds.

To master this unique style of music, as Muschler explains, “each set is pre-composed, effects have been designed to turn on and off at very specific times.”  Moon Hooch has a similar set-list from night to night. To create a new experience every night the band makes sure “the sounds that are happening are different every night.”

Wilbur’s voice adds the missing key.

Moon Hooch uses Wilbur’s voice “like another instrument.” The incorporation of Wilbur’s voice is a relatively new feature of Moon Hooch considering the fact that they were not able to use their voices in the subway system of New York. Currently, Moon Hooch has fewer than 10 songs that incorporate Wilbur’s voice, however, according to Muschler, “[it] is something that we will keep doing.”

Moon Hooch has found their niche in the dance music scene — somewhere between acoustic and electronic — and have capitalized on it and in a way, started a new movement.

The band is currently in the process of creating new music, booking studio time at the end of the year where they plan to have an “intensive week” of recording time with end goal of putting out a new album by early 2018.

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