Today’s Feature – August 3-4: John Moen and Perhapst

August 3, 2008 at 1:07 pm (Today's Feature)

There’s a good chance that when you hear the name John Moen, that no immediate flags pop up in your mind pertaining to the name’s impact and involvement on the music scene you know today. Actually, I’m pretty confident John Moen himself is unaware of the impact he’s had on the music we hear out there. Either that or the guy is just far too modest.

Moen has played with over 20 bands – sometimes singing, sometimes drumming, sometimes on the guitar, or sometimes some crazy combination. And these aren’t your little neighborhood acts; I’m talking about Elliott Smith, The Jicks, Cavemanish Boys, The Dharma Bums, The Minus 5, Boston Spaceships and of course, The Decemberists. And even as he continues his work as an active member of the Decemberists, he’s released a solo record under the name Perhapst, and the self-titled debut is as fantastic as you’d expect from a musician with so much experience.

Don’t ask Moen what he thinks of the album – first off, he doesn’t want to influence your take on the tunes, and secondly, like I said, the guy is far too modest. He says the album is full of what he considers “good music,” sticking with the Americana and folk genres that he has found such a great connection with over the years. This is truly Moen’s baby, singing and playing most of the instruments on the record, showcasing “his sweet, lullaby-esque vocals, dreamy melodies, and ability to create laid-back, sophisticated pop hooks with cloud-like softness, ensuring that anyone that listens will walk away relaxed, at ease, and humming a song or two.” Check it out as soon as you can and get to know John Moen. He’s done a lot. Jump into the XXQ’s to learn more.

XXQs: John Moen (PEV): Tell us, how did you first jump into the music industry? Was music always an instant passion for you?

JM: Yes, I started playing saxophone in fifth grade. I started drums in seventh grade. I completed high school in 1986 and moved with the band at the time to the big city (Portland) at 18 years of age. My first touring band (Dharma Bums) put out a record by the next year. I don’t think we thought of it as an industry at that time; we were just pretty eager to go rock-out whenever and wherever anyone would let us.

PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a career for you?

JM: I have never really counted on it to be a “career”, so I have learned other trades along the way. I do make my living with it now, but I still try and keep low expectations so that I am not too disappointed when a plan doesn’t work out.

PEV: Born in Brainerd, Minnesota and raised in Salem, Oregon, what kind of music were you listening to growing up?

JM: Bluegrass, classical and metal. Some new-age crap, too.

PEV: Living in Oregon, you have been an integral part of the music scene in and around Portland, Oregon since the 1980’s. How does the Portland music scene compare to the other major US cities?

JM: There has always been a diverse and talented bunch of musicians here; I haven’t lived anywhere else.

PEV: Tell us about your creative process. Which kind of environment do you have to be in to write music? Is there a certain “method” or “science” to your writing?

JM: I usually start by sitting and picking at the guitar. Sometimes that yields the start of a song and sometimes it doesn’t. The moment has to be right, I guess. Once I have the skeleton of a song worked out, I can apply a bit of basic problem solving to get it finished.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live John Moen and/or Perhapst performance?

JM: Well, we have only played a few shows together, so I reckon we are still trying to figure that out ourselves. I can tell you that a lot of jumping around and high-kicks are out of the question for me, as playing the guitar and singing at the same time require too much concentration. I do attempt to be funny in between songs, but I think the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this lighthearted banter. In reading the above, I have come to the conclusion that you should not come see us live because we are boring. Ha.

PEV: Tell us about your first live performance. How have you changed since that first show to where you are now?

JM: The first show was a talent contest. Our band (Drifter U.K.) played in the middle of the gymnasium floor at Amity high school in Amity Oregon. We were nervous and we probably looked and sounded ridiculous. We played Judas Priest songs with too many bandanas tied to us. I still am a very nervous performer. That hasn’t changed. PEV: What can fans expect from Perhapst and the “Perhapst” album?

JM: Oh, jeez. I don’t know. Whatever I come up with as an answer will most likely not seem right to someone listening from their perspective. You can expect it NOT to be Ska, Nu-metal or Electronica. It’s my idea of “good” music.

PEV: How is “Perhapst” different from other albums out right now?

JM: Oh Jeez! I really don’t know. I don’t pay enough attention. Have you gone looking around on Myspace lately? Everybody has a band. Whew!

PEV: You’ve played with over 20 bands including Elliott Smith, The Jicks, Cavemanish Boys, The Dharma Bums, The Minus 5 (sometimes) and Robert Pollard’s new band, Boston Spaceships. How has your musical styling changed over the years with working with so many variety of bands?

JM: Playing as a drummer with folks, you always pick up some new things when working with different song writers.

PEV: Being so close to Elliott Smith, one of the most famous and inspirational singer/songwriters of our time, what was your time with him like? What kind of person do you want us all to know that Elliott Smith was? What is one major misconception of Elliot that you know to be not true?

JM: Elliott was great and he was a super funny fellow. I didn’t really know him all that well.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about John Moen?

JM: John likes hippies. PEV: What one word best describes The Decemberists and John Moen?

JM: Purple.

PEV: How is life on the road for you? Best and worst parts? Any favorite spots along the way?

JM: It is hard to get good sleep on “the road.�

PEV: In all your travels, which has been your favorite city to play (US or International)? Why?

JM: Chicago. Old-style.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your success?

JM: They are sweet people. Very understanding.

PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music � and taking time off to write an entire new album?

JM: Taking care of my daughter and taking my crusty old pets to the vet. I like to cook, too.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for?

JM: I like Hazelwood Motel and The Bright Channel

PEV: Ten years down the road, where will you be?

JM: I will be on heart medicine. Still trying unsuccessfully to avoid stress.

PEV: So, what is next for John Moen?

JM: I am going upstairs to start dinner. We are having our version of Philly cheese-steak sandwiches.

For more information on John Moen and the Perhapst, check out


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