MS: You mentioned playing with Buddy Cage and touring with those guys, and I know you also got to tour in the fall with one of your really big influences, Martin Sexton. What was that experience like?
RM: Yeah, it was surreal at first. I mean… I just try to explain to people… I mean, for me, that guy is, like, there is none higher. You know what I mean? It's like Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon and stuff, but for me, for all kinds of reasons, Martin Sexton is almost higher in my book. He just really hits close to home for me, his music and what he's done and where he comes from. It's just like a really personal thing for me. The first couple days I was freaked out just to talk to him, but I had met him before. He was totally cool. I was just like, you know... It's a little weird. I've been listening to this person for so long; I consider him this like legend, you know? We did nine dates with him that could not have gone better. It was like a dream. It was just like sticking my hand up through the floor to some level I had never been to, and just kind of peering around, being able to see this whole other level of things, you know? It was just amazing. By the end of the weekend, I was sleeping on the bus and he was like, "Man, I'm gonna miss you guys. We should get together again and do more shows." So we're trying to line up more shows for the spring.
MS: Oh, that's exciting. Kind of like your own little rock 'n' roll fantasy camp.
RM: It was, man. There are a lot of legends to me, but that was a big one. That was a guy that really hit close to home for me. So, yeah, that was amazing. It was so cool. And we got to play with him. We got to come out onstage and sing a Johnny Cash tune with him a few times, and that was surreal.
MS: It doesn't get much better than that.
RM: No. And the best part about it was this is something I would have been thinking about years ago, but I felt like I was supposed to be there, you know? It felt comfortable. You know, I got a little nervous, but for the most part I just felt really comfortable, really trying to be in the moment, especially playing with him. And I really enjoyed being able to be somewhat a part of this man's show. The whole thing just felt really comfortable and great.
MS: And that's great. It's always good, too, when you meet someone you look up to and they treat you not only with respect but treat you like a colleague, and they're good people. I mean, that must have been…
RM: That's like the best feeling in the world, you know?
MS: Yeah. So you kind of mentioned the influences in there. Stevie Wonder is often brought up when people describe you. You mentioned Paul Simon and obviously Martin Sexton. But how do you describe your sound?
RM: I still have trouble with it, you know? I would say vocally I'm influenced by soul stuff, and then, lyrically, that element is like a folk side of things. I would say our band has everything from kind of like a rootsy Americana kind of two-step thing, everything from that to like a funk thing, and a lot of stuff in between. I don't know - I think we cover a lot of ground, so I have trouble describing it simply.
MS: What's more impressive than the amount of ground you cover is how you tie the styles all together very cohesively, which I think is even harder. I mean, even listening to the album, the songs will shift a little bit from song to song, but you still have that cohesive nature. It doesn't seem like, "Oh, this is out of left field, this is out of right field," even though one song may differ radically from one a few tracks before. For instance, on [your previous album] One Fine Color, you open it with "Stretch," which is a pop-y, clean sounding modern tune, and you immediately follow that with "Quickie," a dirty, swampy throwback to the New Orleans sound of 75 years ago. Yet they are able to fit comfortably next to each other. How have you been able to maintain that cohesiveness?
RM: Well, that's cool to hear. That's what we're trying to do. We're not trying to force ourselves into a style that we're not comfortable with or anything like that. We're just trying to play the best music we can, and a lot of it falls into a few different genres. In the end, it's just us. It's just what we do. It's just us doing everything we can do and feel comfortable doing. The five of us, we have different influences, but we find this middle ground on a lot of different stuff and with the different types of styles, and, for whatever reason, it's just kind of all us.
We try not to force it out, and I think that's why in the end, hopefully, it sounds kind of cohesive. And I've been having fun lately at the shows. It's hard calling a set; I never make a set list, so I just call it on the fly and just try and read the room, and try and give the people what I think they want. It's fun. Usually I try to really mix it up. I try to not do too many of the same sounding songs and stuff like that, but lately I've been trying get into different vibes of the night and create these longer vibes that we can sort of keep switching up.
MS: What's interesting, too, especially when you're talking about playing live, is how you can stretch out into a different direction. Where I think in the studio, there's, I don't want to say more of a conciseness, but in live settings, you can really stretch it out more, do more of the dance-y stuff. It's interesting to see you guys play a late-night set. For instance, I remember seeing you at snoe.down in Lake Placid a couple years ago where it was a late-night set, and I was like, "I don't know if this is a band I can picture doing a late-night set." And then you come out there, totally funked-out and keeping the room dancing. It was perfect. It was great.
RM: Thanks, man. Like what you said, we do all kinds of different shows, and sometimes on a night like that I feel like we're almost at the point where we have to play every song we know. You know? You always want to make the repertoire bigger and bigger so you feel more comfortable. But, yeah, I recognize a lot of people want to get down, and we definitely have the ability to make them dance. You know, that counts for something, too, saying not just funkin' it out all the time, but also doing what we want to do.
Yeah, on the record, it's specific because so far we've just tried to take the best written songs that we have and try to treat them the best way we can in the record. So I think it's made the records a little more mellow than many of our live shows. But it's still us. I just think there are different things. And we can still have a record and a really upbeat band thing. And with the record, I'm, again, not trying to force in like eight songs on the record to be like, "Let's show this side of us too." I just make it an enjoyable listening experience for that piece of music and not try and throw in every single thing that we do just for the sake of doing it and showcasing our band. The CDs aren't about that. They're about people enjoying that piece of music.
MS: Definitely. What's interesting is the kind of covers you put in. That's always impressed me. I know bands don't really enjoy talking about covers, but you really do make a lot of the covers your own. I remember seeing you do "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" with the viola and stuff, and it was great. Or the other night how you treated the Tom Petty song ["You Got Lucky"]; You kind of reggaed it up a little bit. Can you talk about how you choose covers in that vein and make them your own?