The Black Moods: "The Cover Band Thing Is Almost Like An Epidemic"
Somewhere outside of Phoenix, in the blistering desert, towering rock and roll legends of the past buried a time capsule containing the key to a long lost sound. Through perseverance, talent and brilliance, The Black Moods from Tempe, AZ seem to have uncovered that capsule and tapped into the secrets of stripped down, in-your-face rock and roll excellence.
Coming off their self-titled debut album, The Black Moods--Joshua Kennedy on guitar and vocals, Ryan Prier on bass and backing vocals, and Danny "Chico" Diaz on drums--are proving their worth to the musical community by injecting their style into the vein of rock and roll. Their influences are clear, from their groovy logo, Kennedy's Robert Plant-esque hairdo, their name--derived from the legend of Jim Morrison--and their infectious guitar work and catching lyrics.
Up on the Sun was able to step inside the mind of singer Kennedy before The Black Moods perform this Saturday at Rockbar in Old Town Scottsdale to get his perspective on the local music scene in Phoenix, his ultimate guitar god, and the story of The Black Moods.
How are you doing? Great. Our record is out, we're working on our third video and I just got done doing the Circus Mexicus thing with Roger and the guys in Mexico, which was cool.
Yeah, you killed it up on stage there in Mexico. Thanks. It was the first time not playing with just Chico, Ryan and I. It was neat to hear the song played back with Roger singing harmony and all those guys. It's nice to get that kind of feedback from a guy you look up to.
Where does the name The Black Moods come from? I was reading a Jim Morrison biography and they referred to his melancholy moods as black moods and I thought that was an interesting way of phrasing that kind of a vibe. We wrote a song called The Black Moods first and once we started tossing that around it kept coming [back] so we just ended up going for it.
Wow, I was not expecting that. That's cool. Yeah, and then later on I sat down and watched all eight hours of The Beatles anthology and Paul McCartney used the phrase the black moods as well.
I want you to just tell me about The Black Moods. Anything you would want a new listener to know about yourself and the band? We just have a good time playing music, and that's the thing--we're friends, and we've been through a lot of stuff together, so it's about having a good time for us, and being able to play the songs we feel good about. We would do it even if nobody was there to listen [laughs]. We hang out with each other and do this anyway; it's about having the good times and the good vibes that come along with what we do.
What can an audience expect to experience and see at one of your live performances? It's just high energy rock and roll. It's definitely a spectacle and it's a good time. I'm lucky enough to get to play with Chico and Ryan who are two of the best musicians I know. If nothing else, you can come out and watch me have a good time, because I always have fun [laughs].
Let's dive into the record. You recently released your debut album, correct? Yeah, that's been a work in progress since 2010. We really just started buckling down and writing; it was a good two years in the making, and we're really proud of it. I have to say, I listened all the way through it today and really enjoyed it.
We haven't had any bad feedback on it. Really, if there is negative stuff, I don't think it would hurt me that bad, because I'm very proud of it. Everybody involved with it gave it their best. It's only like 35 minutes long, and I'm okay with that. It's our first record and I want it to be a punch-to-the-face type of thing where you're like, "What the hell?" and want to play it again [laughs].
I was intrigued by the song and the music video for "Hey You." We wanted to make a video for one of the tunes, and we felt like "Hey You" would be a good first single. It's about dealing with feeling like you've let somebody down or you just can't cope. I definitely want it to be a positive thing.
Our good friend, who is actually in the video, was in Iraq, and he had to deal with all that stuff. The song was already written about a different friend of mine who I missed and I feel kind of let me down a bit and then we started tossing video ideas around.
We all support the troops, and it's an important subject. It's sad what happens after the fact sometimes. I don't like seeing these guys sitting in wheelchairs on the side of the road with a sign saying 'Veteran, anything helps, God bless.' We just wanted to deal with that in the open a bit.
Who influenced the Black Moods? I grew up on [musicians] like Eric Clapton. That was the first cassette tape I remember playing over and over in my house. As far as songwriting, the Gin Blossoms were a big influence, and The Refreshments. Then we really got into Zeppelin and the level of energy they brought to the table. Then from Zeppelin to The Doors and The Beatles. It kind of went backwards for me by starting with the Gin Blossoms and then having Jimmy Page work his way in there.
Ryan and I are the same way, and feel like there is something to be said about guys who get up there and just make the music themselves. We definitely get off on the fact of hearing a good record like Zeppelin and then seeing that translate live, and seeing how three or four guys pull that monstrous of a sound off. That influence comes from The Doors, or Zeppelin, or Sabbath or anything like that.
How long have you played guitar? I grew up around it, but I started taking it seriously when I was about 12. My dad had a band since I was born. In fact, my mom went into labor while my dad's band was on stage.
So I was always around it. [There is] some old footage back when I was about two years old with a Scooby Doo guitar and I would stand up on stage with my dad's band. My mom never had to worry about me while all the other kids were running around because she knew I was up on stage.
Ryan and I Grew up in Wheaton, Missouri and there were only 28 people in my graduating class and 22 in his. So, there was nothing to do except get into trouble or sit at my house and play guitar and cover Gin Blossom songs.
Who is your ultimate guitar god, and why? Jimmy Page. Growing up where I did, I hung out with older guys and they were all into the hair bands that were doing these amazing finger tapping techniques. Then, I started paying attention to Zeppelin's stuff. It wasn't just that [Page] was technically on it, but more about the feeling and the vibe he got across. It could be sloppy and still you'd be like, "man, that was cool."
You don't have to always be technically amazing. If you can put the vibe and the feeling to it--that makes the difference in all of it.
When did you move to Tempe from Missouri? I moved to Tempe in 2001 to go to the Conservatory Recording Arts and Sciences.
How do you feel about the local music scene? Has it influenced you at all? I get influenced by everything--what you like and also what not to do [are influences] for me. I guess it's a learning thing.
With the music scene, everybody's friendly and fun and likes to have a good time. I've met a lot of good friends and great musicians [in Phoenix] who work hard and play hard, and I wish there was more support for local music. If the same people come out every time it doesn't grow like it would [otherwise]. I know times are tough right now for everybody, but some shows aren't that much to go out and support a band.
I've heard that from a lot of local musicians. [In Tempe] I've gotten the privilege to hang out with a lot of my heroes who I grew up on, from the Blossoms and The Pistoleros to The Refreshments and Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.
All those guys are so supportive of me, and it's really nice, but with the town it seems like we've kind [come to a] plateau. I love our fans in Phoenix. They are super good to us and they are super hardcore, and they support us any way they can, and we want to grow even more.
The cover band thing is almost like an epidemic [laughs]. Nothing against cover bands, I have a lot of friends and family that play in cover bands and I've done it myself, but there are clubs that will pay a cover band but won't even book a local band.
You can't expect anything to blossom and grow if they're not giving it a chance to. I think there should be clubs that really push the local bands and original projects.
That's an interesting point. I don't want to come across like I'm talking shit about the cover bands, because I'm not. Some of my best friends are making a killing at it and I've done it too.
Right, but I agree with you. There's so much more that goes into being a musician who is writing original music. With Chico, Ryan, me and our team that is behind us, everything that we make and do goes right back into our business, which is what it is because we want it to grow. We want people to hear our stuff in North Carolina or Montana or Germany or China.
Are you working on any new projects? We're shooting a video for the song "Can't Sleep at Night" and then I think we're going to do a video for "Don't Let Them Get You Down." We have our show on the 15th [in Scottsdale] and then we leave for tour.
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