The Rock and Roll Report Band of the Week is Moonshine Orchestra

The city of Montreal is definitely a hotbed of amazing music and Moonshine Orchestra continues that fine tradition. I talked to band principles Jack Nicholls and Claus Frostell to fill us in on what the band is all about.

Rock and Roll Report: I like to use the term Rock and Roll instead of just plain rock since I find it to be more inclusive. What is your definition of rock and roll?

Moonshine Orchestra: I think that “Rock” is just a modern derivative of a relatively old-fashioned term (“Rock and Roll”). “Heavy Metal” became “Metal”, “Punk Rock” became simply “Punk”, etc.. I like “Rock and Roll” because it’s more descriptive and it pays tribute to the pioneers of the genre.

My general definition of Rock and Roll would be music that fits into the framework of organic instruments (drums/bass/guitar) with a singer – combining and trying to capture the power and boundless energy of youth. But you don’t have to be young (or Young) to keep it alive. Wow – that was cheesy – but I’m pretty sure I mean it.

RRR: Tell us a bit about the band, how you got started and who the members are…

MS: Claus Frostell (The Snitches, Rise) and I (Atomic Folk) have been friends since CEGEP. He is a musician and sound engineer/producer (Moist, Creature). He recorded Atomic Folk’s Winterland album. A few years after the band’s dissolution, a mutual friend (my cousin, Ryan MacDonald) suggested we record a CD of some of my songs that had being lying around. Claus picked a cohesive collection (read: depressing) of tunes, then we started recording what became “Hero Stories”.

The band has morphed over the past few years, with many guest recording musicians – too many to list. But things have settled into a very happy groove, with Paul Julius on bass, Jouni Makkonen on guitar, Phil Hornsey on drums, and me singing and playing guitar. Claus plays the knobs and adds guitar if/when he feels like it.

RRR: Moonshine Orchestra can be described as many things but certainly orchestral, sweeping and expansive are what come to mind for me. How would you describe the sound of Moonshine Orchestra and your vision of what the band represents?

MS: The name started out as a bit of a joke, because we were just two guys. We wanted to break the usual band set-up. We had both been in bands, but we have a mutual love for recording in the studio. Rather than have a live-playing band, we thought we would just record in our spare time with many of the musicians we know. We wanted it to be open to any style, instrument, song length. No rules, anything goes. There was a freedom in letting go of trying to make music you hope large amounts of people will like.

That was the original idea – but we also gave ourselves permission to let it turn into something else, which it has, for the upcoming album.

RRR: Some people will argue ’till the cows come home that rock and roll is dead or on its death bed. What do you guys think?

MS: Everything happens in cycles. Rock and Roll is not dead, it just might be a little sleepy and dozing in its death bed. We’re going through an American/Canadian Idol phase right now – but it will just make the real rock and rollers more determined than ever to blow it away. No predictions on when, though.

RRR: How has your reception been of the band? Jack, how has the reception been from fans of Atomic Folk to Moonshine Orchestra?

MS: Surprisingly great. Atomic Folk was pretty heavy and more narrow in scope. I guess some of the things that people liked about Atomic Folk are still there, though. Namely, all the songs were written on an acoustic guitar in one of several apartments in NDG, and sung to a now deceased cat, named Piggy.

RRR: I understand you are in the studio tracking a new album. How is that going?

MS: It’s a very slow labour of love. We are all busy with our lives, but somehow we come together every week or two (or three) to lay down some paint onto the canvas. It has been several years in the making, but I think we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

RRR: What’s the new album sounding like?

MS: A Rock and Roll ode to summer. Bass player Paul calls it “Frisbee Rock”.

RRR: What are your plans for the remainder of the year and going into 2009?

MS: We’re going to try and finish the album by the end of the year – release it and play some shows in 2009.

RRR: How do you feel about the new world of MySpace, podcasting, iPods and Web 2.0? Have you been using any of this stuff to spread the word about Moonshine Orchestra?

MS: I think they’re fun. It certainly beings out the geek in musicians. Our most recent marketing foray into the world web is our Facebook page. My mom likes to listen to the songs in progress.

RRR: Anything you want to add?

MS: Thanks for this!

Download Not The Fish from Hero Stories for free courtesy of Moonshine Orchestra and The Rock and Roll Report.

You can find our more about Moonshine Orchestra as well as listen to their music at www.moonshineorchestra.com

or on their MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/themoonshineorchestra

You can also buy their CD Hero Stories at the excellent online store Sugartune.