Moviola is an Americana band, but they won’t likely be coming to your town in the next few months. As all five members (soon to be four, but more on that later) are married, hold down day jobs and raise families, there are instead mouths to feed and diapers to change.
With the release earlier this year of the quintet’s sixth LP, East Of Eager (California Recordings), gigs are purposely sporadic in deference to domestic obligations: The band’s brood stands at eleven children, ranging in age from six months to 12 years. “We all have families we don’t want to leave for weeks at a time to tour, and playing a reasonable number of shows keeps it fun and manageable,” says drummer Greg Bonnell. “Plus, the country doesn’t seem to be clamoring for us enough yet. We can wait.”
While that modesty is by no means false — these are polite midwestern boys, after all — it’s not particularly necessary. East Of Eager continues the band’s fine evolution from a dreamy, Luna-esque outfit to a collective equally adept at folk and country (and even traditional bluegrass). Along the way, guitarist/founder Jake Housh, guitarist Jerry Dannemiller, bassist Ted Hattemer and guitarist/keyboardist Scotty Tabachnick have often switched instruments in the studio and onstage. Hattemer, for example, began his Moviola stint on drums, switching when Bonnell joined after 2001′s Rumors Of The Faithful, and Dannemiller used to play bass.
“Whatever sound we have really comes more from the instruments people in the band decide to grab than any forethought of being more country and less rock,” Hattemer says. “When a guy brings a nylon string guitar into the mix, you naturally play quieter drums, less-booming bass lines and prettier piano parts. Same goes for the mandolin or pedal steel.”
Everyone in Moviola also now writes and sings (Housh was the primary songwriter and vocalist initially). The effect on East Of Eager is cohesive instead of scattershot, which was a minor problem with some of the band’s earlier output. The process produces quality songs and a seamless sound; not surprisingly, befitting the band’s brotherly bonds, it doesn’t happen without a few arguments.
“[Having five songwriters] is a great position to be in, as we’re always stocked with good material,” Dannemiller says. “All in all, we try to be pretty hard on each other, really making songs pass a certain ‘crit’ like anybody who’s gone to art school can remember. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that we fight. A lot.”
Though the band’s music is firmly rooted in the midwest — “Fare thee well, boys, it’s back to Ohio/To see the brightest pair of eyes in town,” sings Dannemiller on the folkish East Of Eager highlight “Half Life” — Moviola will lose a member of its clan soon, as Tabachnick is moving to Vermont.
“I’d be lying if I said the chemistry of the band would be the same [without Scotty],” Dannemiller says. “He’s a true force of nature, one of the most sincere, freakish and kind persons you’d be lucky enough to meet. Finding another long-haired hippie Jew in overalls from Akron with a Rhodes piano and a mean jazz collection will be a struggle, but I’m sure we’ll come across one.”
For his part, Tabachnick says he thinks his cohorts will bear the loss just fine. “With five songwriters, the loss of one should not stop the thing dead,” he reasons. “Jake is a better piano player than me, and even Greg is a better guitarist than me, so I don’t expect they would necessarily need to replace me.
“But if they do,” he adds, “I hope they’ll consider Jonathan Edwards.”