Olin and the Moon returns to Seattle this Tuesday, August 2nd to play the High Dive. The Los Angeles-based band (Silver Lake to be exact) creates gorgeous country rock that will absolutely move you. Every song of theirs is just perfect. Footsteps, their latest release, includes the exquisite “Waking Up,” “Repeat,” “Last Song,” and I can’t wait to see the group live. I talked with drummer Marshall Vore about the band’s move from Idaho to California, why they’re so appealing for Seattle audiences and the challenges of finding musical comrades.
Olin and the Moon
The cover artwork for Footsteps is fantastic. Who did it?
Marshall Vore: Actually two friends of ours. One of them is really good at sketching stuff [Andy Sheppard] and the other one likes to color and use watercolors [Jens Petersen]. He ended up taking over and making it into an actual usable template.
I like it! It’s really nice. I also like the video for “Waking Up.” Where did you film that?
MV: That was on a rooftop on this old building. It used to be a clinic and they converted it into art spaces. There were people painting, there was a yoga room, in the front was a vintage store. There was one other location where we were on a grassy knoll. We had to hike up with all of our gear to the top of this hill. I thought I was going to die. It was 100 degrees outside. It ended up being a cool video.
It is. What made you decide to move to Silver Lake?
MV: It’s a community of younger-spirited people. It’s a creative neighborhood where people are musicians, and more specifically musicians in our genre. The two or three main music venues [in their genre] are in Silver Lake. You can walk outside on to the street and there’s a cluster of stores and restaurants everyone hangs out at. You get the small town community where you can see the same people everyday in the middle of a big city.
Is it difficult to find other musicians making your type of music?
MV: It used to not be. I feel like bands rise in circles, or they break up in circles. A few years ago when we were first getting going in LA there were really great bands here we used to play with and hang out with. And they either went on to become nationally or internationally successful bands and they don’t play in the neighborhood, or they’re always on tour. Or they broke up or moved away. There was a really great band that moved away to Portland called The Parson Red Heads. They were really radical people, really great friends of ours and they had a good scene going. If they played a show it would be packed. We’re in this weird in between place where we want to play really great shows and keep our momentum going, but it’s hard to find people to play with. We’ve got to the point now where people come see us without as much as a struggle. We don’t have to fight for shows anymore. We can afford to be a little more choosy. Before it was a lot of convincing, begging and pleading.
I am so disappointed I missed your show here in March.
MV: That was such a fun show, I wish you would have come to that one. It sold out, which doesn’t happen to us.
I think in Seattle you’d definitely be popular.
MV: It’s funny, the insights for our website and YouTube and all that it tells me where the majority of where people are checking us out. The highest percentage of people in any city that check out our band are in Seattle. Higher than Los Angeles. I had never been to Seattle before in my life.
Did you get to record the album near home?
MV: The new record was recorded, produced and mastered by my singer. He wrote the record, recorded it, mixed it and mastered it. That’s one thing that’s really positive about our band is that there’s no outside influence on it. It’s all us. But that’s also a downside. I’d like to do a record where we could just be the band and focus on making a great record instead of focusing on editing and getting good signal, getting a good tone and where the mic placement is . . . and see how we sound as a band with a producer that’s doing all the work. We’ve never done that. I’d be curious to see what that record would sound like. Would it sound better or worse? I don’t know. Since we produce ourselves we’ve never had a producer come in and mess around with song arrangements, lyrics or chords or anything like that. But that’s a good thing because having a set of ears that isn’t biased, someone you really respect, can come in with suggestions. Would our sound change? I don’t know. I think we might do that next.
Who did those beautiful backing vocals?
MV: Leslie Stevens does backing vocals on two songs. The rest of the backing vocals are David’s (LaBrel) brother, Travis (LaBrel), who’s the guitar player.
I came across your YouTube page. You write songs and play mandolin?
MV: They’re purely recreational. I used to sell vintage instruments and that was the shop that I ran. I had a mandolin, so I googled mandolin chords. I started picking chords and after 40 minutes I had a melody and recorded it.
Also you’ve worked with Ryan Adams?
MV: I was playing with him for a time. We recorded an album together. We did a show; we’re buds. I was in one of the incarnations of a band called the Ryan Adams Band. He is my biggest influence ever. He’s my Elvis. Whatever he does, with or without me, I think he’s the best songwriter ever.
What in particular do you like about him?
MV: There’s something about his voice. He can sing in perfect key. The chords that he uses are really creative. They sound really great. I feel something really genuine about his music. He doesn’t sound like anyone else I’ve ever heard. As a person he is one of the most interesting, high energy people. He is himself; he’s crazy in a great way.
What music do you listen to?
MV: I grew up on punk rock. I like some metal bands. I’ve been listening to Corinne Bailey Rae. I think she’s fantastic. As time goes on I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff that’s not necessarily in the genre that I play. I’m going through a neo soul phase right now.
How did you start drumming?
MV: I got into it through the school programs. In my high school it was called pep band. Basically you play drums with the band at the basketball games and stuff. I started a bunch of punk rock bands when I was a snotty nosed little bastard in my garage. My punk rock bands played in a couple heavy kind of hardcore metal bands. Out of that is where my singer, David and I met. We started a folk project because we both grew up on Neil Young. He started writing songs and we moved here when we were 18 in 2005. A year and a half later we decided to cut a record.
Who came up with the name, Olin and the Moon?
MV: The real explanation is, when David was 17 and he was writing songs, and it wasn’t a band yet – it was David writing songs and me playing drums. He was going to call it David LaBrel but he liked the name Olin. So he ended up just saying Olin and the Moon. He says it was because he was staying up really late a lot.
How did your parents pick the name Marshall? I’ve only met one other Marshall.
MV: They were going to name me Kevin, but my dad has a curse. He has a curse we all have – he’s a musician. He liked the name Marshall because it’s an amplifier company. So he named me after the guitar amps. When I was born I had a little 30-watt amp from 1987, which was the year I was born. It ended up that I became a drummer and I sold the amp. I’ve been digging on guitars a lot lately – probably too much.
How do you spend your free time?
MV: I practice drums in the sense that it’s very methodical. I have a routine. I have books and all this fancy stuff. But guitar, I never practice guitar. When I see other people playing it and I see them do something cool, I sit by myself in my house – maybe a little stoned, maybe not – and I’ll try to do what I saw. Over time I keep getting better by accident.
The song “Burro Blanco” is totally different from the other songs on Footsteps. Who wrote that one?
MV: That was written by David’s brother. He listens to Drive-By Truckers. It’s pretty obvious when he collaborates on a song or writes a song because it’s a rock song. It’s about a guy we met in Copper Canyon Mexico. He was a coyote. You couldn’t really tell if he was homeless or not. He was a real cowboy. He was a wild character. We met all these intense people in this border town in Texas we broke down in. The song is about him, because he was a white guy (white donkey).
interview by Dagmar