In his collection of journalistic pursuits titled “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures,” author Malcolm Gladwell dissects the assumption that genius comes to fruition in youth. He goes on to challenge that with the idea of late bloomers, people who reach genius over a stretch of time after experimenting with their craft, developing their instincts and slowly chiseling away their masterpiece. This idea of struggling with one’s craft until they have found what they are looking for comes to mind when thinking of “Carry Me, Rosie,” the sophomore album by Reno’s Moondog Matinee.
Tahoe Onstage had the chance to talk to the band’s Adam Carpenter over the phone as the first snow of the season began to fall around the lake. The cold hush of the evening was the direct opposite of the scorching desert-boogie world that “Carry Me, Rosie” lives in.
Pumping 1970s-inspired rock and roll carved out of boulders is the vibe the band gets on its latest release and it improves upon the sound it started on its first album, “Vacancy At The Wonder Lodge.” Carpenter mentioned the band has a lot of different influences but they find a strong connection to ’70s-era rock and soul, which he believes definitely comes out in their music. Describing how he wanted people to feel about their music, he said he wanted people to think, “It sounds like something I’ve heard but in a completely fresh and revamped way.”
Moondog Matinee couldn’t have made “Carry Me, Rosie” work without a revamping process of its own during recording of the album. Carpenter explained many of the new songs had been in differing stages of order for the past two years as the band worked them out in concert. Though they came with most of the material to the studio, the musicians found that some songs still didn’t sound the way they heard it in their heads.
To solve this, they had a couple of friends come in and add some new textures and instrumentation to songs. “Western Sea” got splashes of organ and additional guitar whistles through “Mexico,” while “Put Me Right” got a whole horn section to lather it in soul. Carpenter was happy the songs received the additional attention they deserved and was thrilled by the complete makeover on “Put Me Right,” which is now a whole new beast after the studio.
“It wasn’t as soulful as we wanted and we put some keys on it and some horns and rearranged the structure of it a little bit. It really started to feel the way we had always envisioned it. That’s great because when we go out and play it, now we can play more along the lines we had it on the record. Sometimes you find that the way you record a song is better than the way you had initially written it and that inspires how you play it live,” Carpenter said.
One important aspect of late bloomers is that their mastery is sculpted by their experiences in life rather than a clearly defined vision. This rings true for Moondog Matinee, as Carpenter explained that there was no real vision behind “Carry Me, Rosie” beyond capturing the life of the band over the past two years. He believed the band had been through its host of trials and tribulations and saw the songwriting process as a sort of coping mechanism.
“Things we had dealt with, things we had seen family and friends deal with. … Everything from having a crazy wild night of debauchery to the stresses of daily life. Just the basic struggle to survive. Most of us have been working pretty hard at different jobs, paycheck to paycheck. Some of the stresses of being in your mid-to-late-20s and not having everything figured out and where your life is going,” Carpenter said.
With the album behind and the road ahead, Carpenter was very proud of what Moondog Matinee has accomplished with the album. “I think that this one in particular, as opposed to the first one, really sounded the way we wanted it to sound,” Carpenter said. Finding that sound certainly was not an easy process for the band, but it was a necessary one. They planted those initial seeds of inspiration and cultivated them until they had finally bloomed into the glorious collection of songs that is “Carry Me, Rosie.”
Moondog Matinee will be playing Thursday night in Reno at Cargo as the opening band at Reno’s Off Beat Music Festival at 7 p.m. and Friday night at 9 p.m. in Stateline at Hard Rock Lake Tahoe.