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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011

Moon Curse Gets Heavy

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With music that is simple and to the point, yet as raging as a werewolf, Milwaukee's doom/heavy rockers Moon Curse have quickly made a name for themselves. Though the band has only played a few shows together, the trio shares a long history. Guitarist and vocalist Matt Leece played with bassist Rochelle Nason in the heavy psych-rock band Mother Orchis, and Leece has known drummer and Hammond organist Keith Stendler since high school, having played in bands with him off and on.

Over many Saturdays hanging out in their practice space in the Third Ward, playing music over food and beer and camping under the stars this summer, that chemistry has only grown stronger. Mixing past influences like early-'70s Black Sabbath with modern doom and heavy rock, the band's sound might not try to be revolutionary, but it's pure rock 'n' roll done with precision.

If there's one thing that might differentiate it from the members' past bands and doom rock bands in general, it's the short and concise manner of the songs. The bulk of the band's songs, Leece explains, are "based on finding a groove early in the song, something simple and pretty formulaic. It's pretty much based on how catchy of a groove we can make, and make a good song out of that, as opposed to a really long, psychedelic, drawn-out thing."

Leece's growling, Ozzy Osbourne-like vocals slide over the band's thick guitar riffs. He's found new ways to experiment with vocal delivery, including using a Leslie tone cabinet connected to his microphone, something common on Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin songs.

"We didn't use it at the last show because it's really heavy," Leece says. "But it's really great for recording, and we use it in the studio. It's really cool for vocals; you'll hear the effects and you'll hear it in some old Zeppelin songs and definitely Sabbath songs, where Ozzy used it. It's a speaker that throws the sound in a circular motion."

While he's best known recently for adding the Hammond organ-punch of Father Phoenix's later works, Stendler primarily plays the drums in Moon Curse. He's a force behind the kit, the result of touring the world with Temper Temper and being a drum tech. On occasion, though, he still pulls out the Hammond organ. During a late night of recording for the band's debut album, Stendler's work on the keys helped to flesh out the songs even more.

"It was eerie because he was just sitting in the booth and playing these crazy songs on the Hammond," Leece says. "Our friend set up a microphone and got it. After that we thought it would be a good idea to put some more Hammond on the album. It's really subtle, the stuff he put down."

Leece describes the recording sessions for the group's debut album as being relaxed and organic. Many of the songs the band brought in were new, so the band was able to fine-tune them in the studio. They also used that environment to help write new songs.

"We recorded everything on analog tape, which we always wanted to do, and we did that live," Leece says. "We just jammed in a room like we do in practice. As nice as it was to do live initially, we're still working on doing the mixing and stuff."

The band hopes to eventually release their album online, along with a vinyl release if things go well. Until then, the band hopes to make an impact with each show they play.

"Heavy music should get you excited. For us, it puts a smile on our face," Leece says. "I hope people dig it and it puts a smile on their face. Or if they don't like it, put a frown on their face. It's cool to get any reaction—because if you're not, you're not really doing it right."

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