JAM-BAND VETS CHUCK GARVEY AND AL SCHNIER OF MOE. DISCUSS
THE ART OF TWIN GUITARS, THEIR LUST-INDUCING GEAR COLLECTIONS,
AND HOW SWITCHING UP THEIR MOS LED TO THE TONAL EXTRAVAGANZA
ON THEIR NEW LP, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LA LAS.
BY SHAWN HAMMOND
Photo by James Paddock
Whether the term “jam band” makes you think fondly of your dresser full of tie-dyed shirts, wool socks, and hacky sacks,
or it conjures painful images of endless/aimless improvs at gigs
swarming with hordes of tripping hippies, 2012 has brought you a
ripping, stereotype-busting new album that’s a master class in the
art of dual guitars. Formed in Buffalo, New York, in 1989, veteran
jammers moe. just released What Happened to the La Las—a catchy
set of 10 rocking tunes that finds guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck
Garvey trading foot-stomping riffs, crystalline harmonic arpeggiations, wailing wah- and rotary-speaker-powered leads, bristling slide
duels, and warm echo excursions.
We recently spoke to Garvey and Schnier—both of whom raved
about being longtime PG fans—about the dos and don’ts of jamming, live vs. studio strategies, and their enviable collections of fine
vintage and boutique gear.
Fair or not, jam bands are kind of stereotyped as having very
long, rambling songs. But What Happened to the La Las keeps
the jam-band vibe but also has concise, catchy tunes. Is that
a stereotype you guys consciously try to avoid, or do you just
think it’s unfair overall?
Garvey: That can definitely be a fair assessment. The whole jam-band thing is a little weird, because there are so many different styles
of bands within the supposed genre. There are a lot of live-music
fans, and for certain parts of the show people want a dance party, so
some bands have very long, danceable tunes. I don’t think we necessarily do that, but we definitely have some sprawling, epic-length
tunes. But we’ve always been very interested in making the core of
the songs very solid: We always want to have a memorable hook and
a memorable lyric, and the core of the song has to really make sense
and be memorable. If we have that, then we find that, live, we can
expand different sections or make segues between songs. And that
makes it more interesting for the band and the audience. But we’re
always very conscious about making songs that work.
Schnier: We do stretch out our stuff live, and that’s why people
keep coming back again and again to see these shows—because it’s
something new and different every time. It’s not going to be the
same show, night after night. I think you can be a jam band and
make a rock album. We’re not necessarily going to play a three-minute version of these songs live, and they’re going to be different when we play them live. We might stretch things out, or goof
around onstage, or Chuck and I might trade the solos back and