Upcoming concert will feature hardcore, danceable music

“I got out my guitar last week for the first time since our last show and I was like, ‘There’s something on there,’” DJ Crabtree says casually. Then, with a smile, he adds, “I scraped it off and it was dried blood. I was like, ‘That’s so metal.’”

Sitting next to his partner in Moothart, guitarist/keyboardist Johnee Kemper, Crabtree peppers his comments with the term “metal” so frequently that one would think the group to be a direct descendent of Black Sabbath. But the duo’s sound is more of a second cousin by marriage, at most.

Certainly there are traces of heavy metal within the group’s sound, but Moothart seems more akin to industrial bands than those found at Ozzfest. Even that classification, however, doesn’t seem to truly encompass the group.

Where the group should be placed is a bit of a question. The band’s Texas-based distribution label, Awthum Records, has taken to calling the band “techno-core,” since it seems to exist somewhere between techno and hardcore. Kemper would rather define it as “screaming-pound-your-fist-into-the-dance-floor hypercore.” When pressed further, the pair attempt to explain through reference points.

“Take Dillinger Escape Plan’s music and just make a dance remix of it,” Kemper said.

“Or you take Mindless Self Indulgence and put them on steroids,” counters Crabtree.

Even if its fingerprints are hard to find in the current-day version of the band, heavy metal did play a part in the early stages of the group. Crabtree used his stint in a death metal band as the inspiration for his new group and colored the sound by adding dance elements.
Moothart was dealt an early setback when Crabtree’s initial partner decided to exit the group. Kemper begrudgingly agreed to sub for a few shows but, coming from a background of pop-punk, he says that he didn’t care for the music at first. Over time, though, he grew fascinated by the sound and decided to sign on permanently.

With the line-up set, the pair worked on developing the sound but admit that they “were really bad for a long time.” Those early efforts resulted in the band’s debut release, “Thoughts Of Villainy.” Looking back, however, Crabtree and Kemper say the album doesn’t reflect the band they are today and that neither of them care for it.

Since that release, Moothart’s metal elements have been reduced and more emphasis has been placed on dance sounds. This new direction has shaped the duo’s sophomore disc, “The Worst Vice Is Advice,” which is gaining attention. Up until now, the duo admit that it’s been difficult finding a following because audiences are often unsure what to make of  the pair and there aren’t any similar bands with which to do shows.

“It’s taken us a long time to build up a fan base,” Kemper said. “When we came at it, we just knew we had to get on shows with more popular hard core bands or danceable bands or any popular band that was willing to put us on the bill.”

“Advice,” which was recorded over a two-month period earlier this year, uses quotes from various movies as song titles and links the tracks together through a “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon”-styled concept. From one track to the next, the movies referenced are connected thanks to a shared actor that both feature. Movie buff Kemper came up with the idea and presented it to Crabtree, who unenthusiastically agreed.

“As long as the song titles sounded good, I didn’t care,” he said. “I just find it cheesy when song titles match up with the chorus.”

When the song titles have been predetermined going in, it can either make the writing process easier because there’s a starting point for each song or it could make it difficult because it forces the songwriter to work within certain confines. In this case, however, the pair worked on the songs independent of the song titles and placed them in their appropriate spot afterwards.

“We just went for whatever idea we had in our head for programming and when it was done, we’d listen to it and say, ‘That’s really what this track is,’” Kemper explains. “We didn’t go in picking the name of a song and working on making that song.”

To promote the album, they are launching a tour that will take them through California, over to Texas and back through Colorado, Utah and Nevada. For a band that has only played one show outside of Oregon — and that was in Washington — the trek is a new experience but one that each of the members is excited to take on.

At Moothart’s level, booking a tour of this size is a major undertaking and the guys say that for every 12 hours they spend online trying to organize shows they get one show booked. Shows they do book are often for little money and it’s clear that this tour will not likely pay for itself. For that reason, the pair have been saving up and they say that they’re well aware of what is in store for them.

Without the faintest hint of remorse, Crabtree smiles and says, “I know that we’re going to come back poor.”