The Chicago-based progressive, atmospheric prog-rock band Moon has reference points that include Superchunk, Radiohead, Rush, and even the now Bloomington-based punkers Poster Children.
GLT caught up with drummer Chris Schneberger via Skype and discovered the ardent Rush fan was interviewed for the Netlix documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage” at his first Rush fan convention. Two short clips ended up in the movie.
“I went kind of thinking, ‘Oh this will be a laugh. I like this band … I’m going to see them in their hometown of Toronto … that will be a lot of fun.’ And I didn’t wear a Rush shirt, which I found out was illegal at a Rush convention,” laughed Schneberger.
Mr. "Indie-Rock Cool Guy" realized quickly that instead of going to chuckle at all the Rush geeks, he too was a Rush geek to the core, and ended up having a lot of fun.
“It was kind of like going to a group therapy,” he chuckled again. “I was among my kind that shared the same affliction, and we could share that with each other."
A short listen to Moon’s music quickly reveals their influences. Though vocalist David Azizinamini sings in a high register similar to Geddy Lee of Rush, his sparse lyrics tend to float over and stretch with Moon's music compared to Lee reciting Neal Peart's epic novels. Asked to define what Rush critics are missing, Schneberger declined, instead focusing on the three qualities he admires in the Canadians' music.
"They’re heavy, they’re melodic, and they’re propulsive,” said Schneberger. “They’re incredibly good players at their instruments as well. I like Geddy Lee’s voice. But that’s a definite divider for people. There are people who just can’t stand that high vocal. They’re on this perfect dividing line between rock and prog-rock.”
That sound permeates Moon’s new album “Extinction.” The heavy gurgling groove on "Revolutions" underscores the steady, higher pitched vocals of Azizinamini.
Beauty says no stumble strays
Normal says you must obey
But you were made like tornadoes
And I love the way you keep
Spinning around and around
- from "Revolutions" by Moon
Schneberger said the album name and accompanying stark album cover image of a barren, just harvested crop field recovering from a late fall rain shower foreshadows the bleakness to come.
“Both in terms of the human and political outlook in America,” said Schneberger. "David and I share thoughts about the problems that seem almost insurmountable at this point. But I think there’s also a lot of hope on the record too. The songs kind of alternate between considering bleak outcomes to inspiring the listener to not give up.”
The album artwork is Schneberger’s. By day he’s a professor of photography at both Columbia College in Chicago and the suburban College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. (Sidenote: The Schneberger curated 2018 State of the Art Photography Invitational at Parkland College in Champaign runs through Feb. 5). He has focused on rural Illinois farmscapes for the past few years, with rural Paxton along Interstate 57 just north of Champaign-Urbana of particular interest.
“I have been photographing these extremely flat landscapes in the winter when you can see for miles and miles, even if you’re just standing height off the ground,” said Schneberger. “I like sullen winter skies, so that album cover has a bit of a post-apocalyptic kind of feel to it. The song ‘Siberian’ from the album is the one that most embraces that idea.”
Azizinamini’s vocals are often buried deeply enough into the mix that discerning them is difficult, even for Schneberger.
“And David doesn’t generally make it a habit to write them down for us,” Schneberger laughed.
What if your children
Got blown away
Like Siberian snow
- from "Siberian" by Moon
“I can’t speak for David, but when I hear that lyric, I think of school shootings and other things that seem to be a bleak future for the youngest generation and the possible loss of that innocence,” said Schneberger of the vocals buried in a swirling rock that segues into a crunchy guitar that evokes an almost orchestral warlike anthem.
“There’s Light Here” is probably the most optimistic and melodic of the eight tracks that comprise “Extinction.”
… my darling
It's real as an earthquake
Glorious and magic
Something you can't fake
Cuz there's light here
Bigger than us
- from "There's Light In Here" by Moon
“It’s discovering some kind of luminosity in one’s life, and finding there is hope, there is a light and something to be celebrated,” said Schneberger of the song, before returning to the three qualities he appreciates in the music he loves: heavy, propulsive, and melodic.
“That doesn’t mean it’s going to be like thrash-metal,” said Schneberger. “But I like to have a little crunch in the guitar and some serious volume to things. But if it doesn’t have a melody, it kind of leaves me cold. We’re not writing any bubblegum pop tunes, but if you don’t enjoy listening to it, what’s the point?”
Moon plays Nightshop in downtown Bloomington on Friday, Nov. 16.
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