It was hard to conduct an interview with Moths & Locusts that was less than an hour long. As they say, some of their songs are longer than that. During our chat, their minds drifted between my questions, and science fiction, space, electricity, and philosophical ideas. The way they describe one another reveals their spiritual commitment to the psychedelic influences in their music.
Drummer Dave Bean is the obsessive hardworker in the band. He is also a biologist, and electrocutes fish for a living. Guitarist Angus Barter who works as a cook (“almost a chef”) is the spiritual glue and the ethereal aspect of the band. Guitarist Mike Breen is the storytelling guitar collector and a mail man, while Dave Read is the “overly hirsute volume dealer” and a vinyl record guru of Nanaimo.
After playing together for five years, the seasoned psych warriors of Moths & Locusts show the young ones in this town how progressive instrumental rock is done.
Navigator: What exactly brought you together as a band?
Dave Bean: Dave and I met at the most rock’n’roll circumstances at a kids’ birthday party. We both were there with our kids, and our mutual friend Bernard introduced us and that was it. Kids played, we talked…
Dave Read: It took us another three years to actually get together and play music. At the same time, I played and jammed with Angus and also with Mike in a band called The Happys.
N: Do you still remember your first jam?
DB: Oh yes, I remember, because that was when I first met Dave. We played a couple of tunes and I thought, ‘where the hell have you been?’ It was such a perfect fit.
DR: When Dave and I finally got in contact, he sent me an email: “Ok. I wanna jam Friday night… I’m serious. Period.” He sounded like he was serious. Then the two of us just jammed. We instantly wrote a tune and right away I knew we needed another guitar player, so Angus came down the next week, and Mike joined us a while later and fit like a glove. Instead of him learning our songs, we learned some of The Happys’ tunes. We also had a singer for a little while, but that was brief and inconsequential. He wasn’t into it as much as he was into different things and our jam night conflicted with his knitting night. He chose the knitting over the band.
N: Did your previous bands play the same or similar style of music?
Angus Barter: The previous band I was in was pretty similar; we played instrumental indie rock with a little bit of singing.
DR: I played in heavy-type bands, but also did electronic music, so this is pretty similar. But always loud music.
Mike Breen: This is my first band without a female singer since the early ‘90s, so that’s different. It’s nice; it feels like a boys’ night out.
N: You meet and rehearse at Dave Read’s house every Wednesday night no matter what. What motivates you to do that?
DR: It’s the musical freedom. I’ve been in bands where there was this negative vibe—somebody doesn’t wanna be there, somebody wishes the band had a different hairstyle… There’s definitely none of that here.
AB: It’s practice but also creation.
DR: But every time we play we get better, and we always come up with something new, whether it’s a new song or sound. Everybody brings something new to the table; it’s not a one man show. Mike writes all the tunes, and documents what we’re doing and what gear we use.
DB: And even if we didn’t have any success as a band, we’d still get together every Wednesday night, because playing music feels great. Plus, we spend about two thirds of our time in the studio and a third in Dave’s room, hatching plans, chatting, and bullshitting with each other… It’s always a hang.
N: How often do you do shows?
DR: We play a fair amount of shows—about 12 to 16 a year. We’ve played a bunch of gigs in Victoria and Vancouver—we just did a back-to-back before the holiday. The crowd was small but enthusiastic, and they bought a lot of shirts and records. We had a concert on Quadra Island on Labour Day and decided to do more summer gigs at festivals. No more indoor gigs in the summer. And even here in Nanaimo we have different crowds. For example, we had a gig at the Globe on January 17, and it was an artsy space rock type of thing, and then we play at the Cambie at the end of February and that’s going to be just pure rock’n’roll. People go crazy at the Cambie.
We all know we’re not going to be able to tour around the world, as much as we’d like to take the time machine back and all be 22. We still make the best out of it. In the spring or summer, we’re going to Kamloops, where our record inexplicably went #1 on their chart. They asked us to come and play, and we said “sure, when the weather’s nice.” We’ll bring our families in caravans and make it a cool week -long trip.
N: What was the craziest Moths & Locusts show you’ve ever done?
MB: Probably at the Cambie when Lance [a friend] sprayed us with beer.
DR: He came up to me afterwards and said “I purposely didn’t spray you, just so you know.”
MB: That was an intense crowd. The Cambie is a crazy place. It’s got that rock’n’roll edge. The Globe is kind of warm and fuzzy, but at the Cambie, anything can happen anytime.
DR: A fight could break out, even on stage.
DB: I was thinking of Quadrapalooza, where people were doing firedancing and there were Chinese lanterns falling down from the sky. It was a big outdoor stage, and the audience was all dark except for the fire.
DR: For me, it was Angus’ 40th birthday celebration up in Parksville. We were playing on an outside deck. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I brought my huge amp, and in a very quick succession, I ate some pot brownies, plugged in, touched the lamp we had on stage while I had all my gear on, and mildly electrocuted myself. Then we went on to play, and I must have been cranked up to 100 and started playing super loud. And maybe because of the electric shock, the power on Mike’s and mine side of the stage went off three times during the first song. And by the end of the song, the police showed up because they received enough noise complaints. They made us regroup and play our songs more subtly, which was actually really nice.
AB: My favorite crazy show was when we played with Damo Suziki at the Globe as part of his sound carriers. We improvised with him for two hours and felt so in the moment it transcended the moment.
DR: We had three drummers, two guitar players, a bass player, two synthesizers, one guy doing electronics, Will [Hills] and Ian [James] from Colliding Canyons on stage… And you don’t rehearse with Damo. You just play and he responds to you and you respond to him; it’s very symbiotic.
N: I also saw you guys perform at Vancouver Island Psych Fest at the Vault back in November…
AB: The cops came to that one too!
DR: That wasn’t because of the volume but because of overcapacity and overall success of the event.
N: You were wearing these weird white safety suit costumes…
DR: Every once in a while we put on uniforms, usually orange like in our promo picture, but we wore white on that fest to have art projections shown on them. The orange jumpsuits on our album cover are from our “The Escape from Sector C” show at the end of 2012, when we released our first 12-inch record. We bought them from Marks Work Warehouse for our photo session in the backyard, and then took them back and got our money back. We now have used ones that were much cheaper, but those were brand new.
N: What inspired the sun design on your album cover?
DR: Valentina did a drawing of two suns—orange and blue—with a spaceman, and it snowballed from there. We discovered that NASA allows you to use their high resolution astronomical photographs as long as you credit them properly, so we found an orange sun and one with a blue filter and put it on the cover instead of a boring picture of four dudes. And it gives people something to think about, too.
DB: There is also a deep appreciation for the sci-fi aesthetic in this band.
AB: We draw inspiration from books, and mainly documentaries. It’s so mind-blowing when you consider the infinite distances in the space and how small we are in it—
DR: Hey, get the joint going and let’s keep on talking (laughs). It’s all about math—space is math, so is music.
N: How do Moths & Locusts envision the future? Where do you want to take your music from here?
DB: I envision rolling up to rehearsals in my wheelchair, popping a bunch of pills, and just jamming. But seriously, more shows, more music, more videos, and more collaborations.
DR: We have a split-single in the works with Coal Moon. They’re going to cover one of our songs and we’re going to cover one of theirs, and nobody’s telling anybody what they’re doing, which is exciting. I’m super stoked to hear what they come up with. I want to keep writing songs and putting out records continually to stake our claim. Once the music is out there, nobody can ever take it away.
MB: My goal is to have one year where it’s just music. All is paid for by music, all the work you do is music. At least one year.
Moths & Locusts will play at The Cambie on February 28. Meanwhile, explore their music at mothsandlocusts.bandcamp.com