[When I called, it was Thom that I found at home; Greg was en route.]
Puremusic: Imagine my surprise, if you will, just having gotten a note one day from a publicist friend about the Moore Brothers, which said that it was his favorite release of the year. And knowing this fellow, Howard, to be a real muso and a rather brainy eccentric person, that kind of endorsement I took seriously. I thought, well, I know how evolved his musical taste is, and how many records he deals with every year, and so this must be pretty good. And indeed, I was really stunned by the latest record, Murdered by the Moore Brothers.
Thom Moore: All right. Thanks.
PM: That's a real piece of work. And then I went back and heard several others--Now is the Time for Love, and Bee, and a little of the Sandycoates stuff. [Sandycoates is a nom de plume for Greg's solo work.] It's an amazing body of work for a pair of youngish brothers who are so good and so artistically full-blown to be as under the radar as the group must be, nationally speaking. Is that not so?
TM: Yeah, we are just about as under the radar as you could be, I suppose. Well, that's good, because it's always good to be underground. And to be the underdog, I should say.
PM: Yeah, you're actually coming from that place, you're not somebody who's underdeveloped and twenty-one, being shoved down the masses' throats by a drowning conglomerate.
TM: Yeah, that wouldn't work.
PM: It's like the opposite of that.
TM: Yeah, the opposite. Which means we'll probably be around for a long time, but maybe won't sell very much.
PM: [laughs] Well, that calls to mind a question. I mean, it's very unusual, certainly in my experience but also stereotypically, for brothers to share a room for 15 years, as the story goes, but beyond that to have survived that and become a duo that seems to be shooting at longevity.
PM: Have you guys little trouble a brothers, for instance?
TM: We have little trouble. We're not really much of fighter types, so we don't really fight each other. The obvious way we keep from having artistic fights is that we just split everything down the middle. So you'll notice that each of us sings the same amount of songs that we've written on each album. And when we play live, we take turns.
PM: Ah, you not only take turns on the records, but even live.
TM: Even live. So it's almost like we have two different acts that we join, when we join up with the Moore Brothers. But it seems to work that way, and then we don't really worry about one of us taking over the project. We don't get too, I don't know, we don't get our egos involved too much.
PM: Right. I think it really does come down to that. So as a big fan of the group, Thom, part of my intention in this conversation is to bring to light as much of the story, and who you guys are, as I can, because I really want our readers to get turned onto your amazing music.
PM: Is it in '91, then, that the brothers kind of formed as a duo?
TM: '91, no. Let's think. Greg moved up to Berkeley to go to school when he turned of age to go to college.
PM: So you guys are that young.
TM: No, we're not that young at all. I'm thirty-two, Greg is thirty-five.
TM: So in 1988, Greg came up to go to Berkeley. I followed him up--1990, that's right, 1990. And I followed him up. I came up a couple years later. So by '95, we were playing in the band together. It was a full-blown electric act.
PM: What was that called?
TM: Thumb of the Maid.
PM: And it comes from a Joni Mitchell lyric, I read.
PM: What tune is that?
TM: The tune "Trouble Child" on Court and Spark.
PM: Okay, thank you. And so that was the first incarnation, was Thumb of the Maid.
TM: Yeah. That was the first incarnation. Although we did stuff separately for many years before that. And there are a couple Sandycoates releases before that. And a Thom Moore solo album, actually.
PM: And what is that called?
TM: Spitting Songs.
PM: Oh, it's Spitting Songs, not Spitting Songs.
TM: Yeah. And then we did Thumb of the Maid, and that didn't work out, because--I don't know why. We went on tour, and nobody came. Why does any band break up? Probably the same reason. Frustration.
PM: Sure. It's very, very hard. Now, did the kind of full band construct serve the brothers' vocal sound well?
TM: I think it did. I think it sounded more like--it was upbeat. Now if I hear it, it might be more like Prog Rock Squeeze, or something. We just had a reunion a couple weeks ago.
TM: Yeah, the first time we played in eight years, and it was great. It was really fun.
PM: Where did you gig?
TM: The Ivy Room in Albany. That was a lot of fun.
PM: So where did the other guys in Thumb of the Maid end up?
TM: One of them, the bass player, Robert, is a lawyer in L.A. And the drummer is teaching music lessons in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
PM: I see.
TM: Then we were playing a lot of gigs together, like Thom Moore and Sandycoates. That's what Greg calls himself.
PM: Right. So it was each brother's solo show, basically?
TM: Yeah. We'd be on a same bill a lot. And so people would start referring to it as "Are you going to go see the Moore brothers tonight?"
TM: And one time the Bay Guardian--a writer for the Guardian was actually a friend of ours, and she was writing up a live show of ours and was going to do a little review. And she needed a name, and that's the first time we really had to decide on The Moore Brothers.
TM: That was about 1999, I think.
PM: Interesting, that she helped you make that turn, just needing a name in a big paper. Now, the papers in the Bay Area have been very good to the Moore Brothers, have they not?
TM: Yeah, sure. I definitely feel like we exist.
PM: Yeah. And why shouldn't they be? I mean, the group is damn good. But is it safe to say, then, that in the Bay Area, at least, the group has a profile, that people come to the shows, that it's known by people who like that kind of music, et cetera?
TM: It's hit and miss. But I would say that it keeps improving, and I feel like we do have a name for ourselves in the local music scene, sure.
PM: Do you gig more in the East Bay, or in the city?
TM: Used to be the East Bay, and now it's about half and half, maybe even more the city now.
PM: Where are the cool places for you guys to play in the city these days?
TM: Our favorites are the Make Out Room--
PM: Right. What a fantastic name.
TM: Yeah, right. I've never made out there, but I'm still looking forward to it.
TM: That's actually our favorite place. We play at Cafe Noir frequently. Now I'm just blanking. Sometimes The Hemlock.
PM: Oh, it's nice to know that some of those clubs are still around. I haven't been out to the Bay Area in some time.
TM: Where are you at?
PM: I live in Nashville.
TM: Oh, cool.
PM: And so we songwriters down here get dreadfully narrative. It's very refreshing to hear a group like the Moore Brothers who--
TM: Stream of consciousness.
PM: Yeah! It's like, wow! I mean, I've listened to the records a number of times now, and it's like, "No, I couldn't tell you what any of those songs are about."
TM: We couldn't either.
PM: Yeah. [laughs] And I don't care. You know?
PM: They sound good, and I put them on because I'm looking for this sound that these fellows make. So I think your discs, on the other hand, rather than being dreadfully narrative or to a specific point, are really jewels of originality. Have they, as one might bet, ended up on some top ten lists out there, Bay Area, or otherwise?
TM: Well, the year hasn't ended yet, so I'm hoping it'll end up on some sort of list. Now is the Time for Love, I saw on a couple of things. Amoeba Records are nice to us. I used to work there, so they better be.
PM: Yeah, they ought to be.
TM: Occasionally I admit, I Google the album title to see what people are writing. And I saw that we were on one "best of" list, top fifteen of the year.
PM: That's beautiful.
TM: Yeah, I'm hoping.
PM: Yeah. We're certainly going to be talking about it in that light. We are not in the habit of making such lists, but we're going to be talking as if, if we were list makers, it would certainly be there.
TM: Thanks. continue