By Michael Lello
There is a certain mysterious, amorphous quality to the music of The Moondoggies. You can hear it in the Seattle band’s gently strummed acoustic guitars, the washes of electric guitar and organ — and especially in the ethereal harmony vocals.
“You kind of can go to that spooky place sometimes and get that ghostliness,” main Moondoggie Kevin Murphy said during a recent interview, calling from a rest stop in the middle of Idaho on the way to a show in Wyoming.
Fitting, then, that the band has titled its recently released third album “Adios I’m A Ghost.”
While building swirling, dark moods is nothing new for The Moondoggies, the record represents a few changes, including the addition of Murphy’s longtime friend and multi-instrumentalist Jon Pontrello as a full-time member. In addition to Murphy on lead vocals and guitar and Pontrello, the band includes bassist Bobby Terreberry, drummer Carl Dahlen and organ player Caleb Quick.
“I think we wanted it to be a little more fully formed, musically, lyrically and sonically,” Murphy said. “We wanted to try some different things with writing and recording, do it more live. Also try to open it up for a lot of different types of songs. I just think it’s kind of like covering more of the things that we listen to and engaging a broader idea of sound that we like to challenge ourselves on.”
“It kind of depends. Sometimes I’ll write something and have an idea,” said Murphy. “Other times it might be Caleb, or it could just be trial and error, sitting around singing and sometimes stripping it and building it and realizing that we don’t need to do as much, which I think is another different thing from the past; instead of building something, we could also take away from it.”
Those vocals were initially inspired by some classic rock artists.
“I guess obviously The Beatles and then Crosby Stills and Nash, those kinds of things were an introduction to that,” Murphy shared. “Pink Floyd had a lot of that. The use of them rather than having them on every song and bombarding you.”
The Moondoggies have an expansive sound that can be likened to fellow Pacific Northwesterners like Band Of Horses, Fleet Foxes and Built To Spill, but Murphy feels that the area is too musically diverse to have an identifiable sonic fingerprint.
“Well, it’s hard to say that there’s a regional sound. Seattle is a huge music city, but I wouldn’t say it’s a Pacific Northwest sound,” he said, but added that his locale does have an impact on the music he writes, which he said is “more of a rainy kind of music than a drive through Joshua Tree.”
The Moondoggies perform Friday, Oct. 18 at Milk Boy Philadelphia (1100 Chestnut St.)