The fourth floor of the New School for Jazz serves as a café for New School students, typically during the day. On this particular evening, it is where I sit before the three gentlemen that make up a band known as Moon Hooch. After some time, we eventually get to the interview, but not without interruptions and getting sidetracked with rather entertaining stories.
BY ASHLEY HEFNAWY
“We do music all the time. The set up is really unlike any other band, pretty sure we’re the only band with this kind of setup out there,” Wenzl McGowen says. Wenzl plays one of two tenor saxophones in Moon Hooch. The other saxophonist in the band is Mike Wilbur, a student at the New School for Contemporary Jazz. The rock steady force that is responsible for Moon Hooch’s drums, is James Muschler, another student at the New School for Jazz.
Chances are if you are a New School student, you’ve probably jammed to Moon Hooch’s music at one point or another. Whether it was at Bedford Ave, (where they first originally started playing in the subways) Union Square subway, Washington Square Park, or swanky loft parties, there’s a high possibility you’ve heard about them by now. But for all you non-New Schoolers, Moon Hooch is a growing phenomenon in New York City.
Their music, to me at least, can only be described as jazz house music. As in, the fun and dancey-ness of electro house, minus the electro, but with the same steady beats, thanks to the James’ drum talents. Yeah. You heard right. It’s a strange combination, one that’s hard to imagine unless you hear it. Luckily, we’ve taken care of, because you can listen to their music and download it for free off their website.
The three spent the summer of 2010 playing free jazz together and jamming for fun, but it eventually became more serious. They had a knack for playing together, especially in front of strangers. According to them, the band totally formed on a whim.
“I’ve been playing on the streets since I was about 13. My Dad used to bring me up to Boston, and I’d be playin’ the blues in the Boston gardens. I’ve gotten used to playing fun music in front of random people,” Mike said. “Rhythm plus harmony equals dance.”
The best part about Moon Hooch is that they don’t need a manager. I was totally fascinated by this. According to them, their self-created publicity, (thanks to performances in the subway, and occasional gigs like the New York City Pillow Fight in New York City…) is all the help they need.
“When we play on the street, the people who like us stick around and the people who don’t, get to keep walking. It’s like a filter,” Wenzl said. “We have an unusual way of getting exposure, so management is unnecessary.”
For them, the best part of performing is seeing people react to their music. They have a reputation for starting massive dance parties. “If the audience isn’t into it, the gig is horrible. We just feel awkward,” Wenzl said.
Moon Hooch plans to stay in New York City for a while and build their fan-base. But the prospects of a tour in the states don’t seem too unlikely.
Their advice to other college bands is rather simple: “It depends on what you want. Enjoy playing music always, because the world is coming to a fast end,” Mike said.