MOVIOLA (2004)

Originally published on (March 30, 2004)

This Friday night, April 2, Moviola will hold a CD release party for their latest CD, East of Eager (Anyway Records), at Used Kids. The party begins at 8pm (no cover; BYOB) and Moviola will play a short set staring at 9pm. DJ Salinger will spin tunes before and after the band’s set.

There has been a lot of discussion late of the quality of local band releases. Let it be said that Moviola’s East of Eager is one of the best sounding releases — local or national — that I’ve heard in 2004. If you aren’t a fan of the country music that Moviola plays, you have to at least admire the quality of sound they were able to get. Jake Housh (voice/instruments) did a fantastic job of tweaking and remastering the album, giving it a timeless feel. And special guest Barry Hensley adds flavor to the music through his pedal steel guitar playing.

New daddy Jerry Dannemiller (voice/instruments) answered some questions that I sent him.

Nearly every band that I’ve ever read an interview with says, “We’re really proud of our new album. We think it’s our best work to date.” Why is it that bands are so quick to disown their past work? Do you think “East of Eager” is the best Moviola album to date? Why or why not?

I think it just has to do with growth, Chip. It’s human nature to say that what you’re doing now is better, because you’ve learned more, your tastes are more refined, etc. etc. Who likes to say, “man, I topped out at 22, and I’ve only gotten worse.” Do you think you’re a better writer now than when you were doing The Columbus Edge? Probably so. That said, I’ll leave it to other people to rank our albums, we do the best we can with the tools we have at the time, and we’re all very happy with East of Eager. I can’t tell you how different this record is than say, Glen Echo Autoharp. In terms of everything–writing, arranging, recording. We record as a group now where in the past we used to do everything somewhat piecemeal. That said, we’re not so quick to dismiss our past albums, ‘cause taken in context, I think they still stand up. I’m just glad for the progression we’ve made.

You’ve come full circle as a band, returning to Anyway Records. Anyway itself is currently experiencing a rebirth of sorts, adding Moviola, The Whiles, and the Catalpa Boys to its roster. What can you tell me about your relationship with Anyway and do you think Anyway is poised to make a strong comeback or is Bela just releasing stuff by his friends?

I think Bela releases music and then people become his friends, in that order. His taste is too picky to do anything different. We knew him back when he used to get drunk at shows, pull his pants down at shows and order pizza at 4 in the morning, not in that order. Bela moved away for a while because his wife took a job in Florida. They didn’t like it that much. But Bela got sober during this time. He hasn’t had a drink in almost two years. Hooray for him, he was a bad drunk. He came back here and wanted to start the label up again, and it coincided with the label in San Francisco that was going to put out our record going belly-up (we were notified via e-mail). Bela offered to put it out because he liked the record, and was doing a few other records, so we figured what the hell. That Whiles’ upcoming record is great, and, I’m partial because it’s my bandmate, but I think the Catalpa Boys stuff is awesome, too. I know he’s got a few more in the works, and not solely bands/people from around Columbus.

The round robin approach to songwriting continues to work, and work well, for Moviola. How many songs did each member write for this album and are you conscious of balancing everything out so that not one member gets 5 or 6 songs on the final CD while the others get 1 or 2?

We wrote a bunch more than are on the album, surely, but it really just depends what we all think are the strongest songs. There’s no quota. We tried to have honest and open “crits” (people who majored in English, Art, or Design know about these) of each others work, with the overall goal of making the strongest overall album. We were pretty harsh on each other to make songs sound the best they could be. You’ve got to be pretty thick-skinned to withstand all that. The final tally for this one is Greg (3), Scotty (3), Jake (2), Jerry (2), Ted (1). Also—while we’ve been known to do a lot of instrument swapping in the past, we’re doing almost none of that anymore. It was fun and it worked for the songs we were playing for a while, but we’re all hunkering down on our instruments now, only Jake and Scotty swap Rhodes and guitar.

Let’s face it, you guys are kids anymore. If a label like SubPop approached you about signing a deal under the condition that you had to play 100 live dates a year to support the record and help them recoup their investment in you, would you do it?

I think you asked us that last interview. What is it with you and these pipe dreams of major-indie label success? I think in reality that sort of thing happens about as often as a kid from east Columbus making it to the NBA. We don’t really think about it. We’re good pals with the Fruitbats on SubPop, and let’s just say it’s not always peaches and herb. That said, we are trying to work something out to play a lot more shows after East of Eager comes out. It may not always be the same five of us, it may just be three of us, or four of us with somebody else, but the bottom line is to be a little more visible than we’ve been in the past. We’ve been a little too uptight about all that, I’ll admit. Our songs aren’t fucking concertos—they’re usually four or five chords with a bridge. As long as the spirit, confidence and attitude are there, it’s Moviola.

Coming from a rock critic background, are you conscious of the fact that people may be more critical of your work because of who you are? If a writer trashes your album, does it hurt or do you brush it off and say, “Well, maybe Moviola doesn’t play the type of music that he/she is into”?

We don’t get trashed that much, and if somebody would, I would take it in stride. If you’re creating something for public consumption, asking people to fork over their money, then I think anybody’s entitled to their opinion. But really, these days, if a writer doesn’t like a record, they usually just don’t write about it. I think the fact that I write about music occasionally helps keep us in the loop for hearing great sounding new stuff (M. WardDevendra BanhartIron and Wine), beyond that, it doesn’t have much effect among the five of us, beyond that I don’t really care.

Rather than throwing a traditional CD release party at a place like Little Brothers you’re holding an intimate CD release party at Used Kids. Will there be a “proper” CD release “concert” at a club or is this it? And, if this it, why did you choose to take this route rather than the traditional concert route?

No, this is the only release party. DJ Salinger (Rich Housh, Jake’s younger brother back from school in England) is gonna spin some records beginning when the store closes at 8. We’re going to play the whole record straight through. It’s just where we’re at now—playing quieter shows, with everybody gathered around a mic or two (quasi-bluegrass style). After playing around Columbus for 10 years, if you don’t keep doing different things, you’ll drive yourself crazy and the few people who are into you will get bored with the same thing. That’s why we only play a handful of shows in Columbus each year, that’s why we used to do shows at BLD, and why we’re gonna try a byob party at Used Kids. Gotta keep doing something different.

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