Local acts are ready to connect at Moogfest
A major goal of this year’s retooled five-day festival, say organizers, is to synthesize innovative artistic expression and economic success. And the local musicians involved seem to be embracing those aspirations with open arms. Headliners such as German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and pop star M.I.A. are drawing music lovers from across the globe. In the process, hometown acts hope visitors will also tune into local sounds.
“Just getting onto the festival website or the poster alone, there’s going to be people from all over the world, just clicking on each act they’ve never heard of and going to their website,” says Javi Bolea of local electro-pop duo RBTS WIN. “I don’t know what else would give us that kind of exposure, really. It’s unlike anything else in the world, as far as I know, in terms of bringing all these people together.”
RBTS WIN was also one of the few local acts to play at previous incarnations of Moogfest in 2010 and 2012. But Bolea says this year’s focus on attracting industry insiders as well as more intellectual and tech-savvy attendees presents new opportunities. Representatives from renowned record labels such as Warp and booking companies like The Wyndish Agency will be seeking out new talent. So will journalists from more than 100 national outlets, including The Associated Press and National Public Radio. And TV powerhouses like “Futurama” producer David X. Cohen will also be wondering the streets with open ears and eyes.
“A chance meeting there with who knows who could really change the path of what we’re doing,” says Bolea. “We are very open to collaboration, meeting people, that’s what it’s all about.”
Rosser Douglas of local instrumental rock group Hello Hugo says his band is also preparing for unprecedented exposure. “I think the main goal is new fans,” he says, noting that’s the strongest foundation for any financial success. “There are avenues in which we think we can thrive, and exposure is the only way we can get them. … People who live in California who are huge Kraftwerk fans can come here and stumble into us, and they never would’ve found us in any other way.”
Now’s the time
Douglas says it’s a happy coincidence that Hello Hugo’s new album, Motorcycle Milkman, should be ready to release online just in time for the band’s Moogfest set, which he calls its “biggest show to date.”
After working on the album for almost a year, “it’s coming at the right time for us,” says Douglas. “It just kind of happened that way.” Douglas promises the new music is the best the band’s made in the three years it’s been together, fusing ambient sounds with electronica, jazz and rock. “It took a while for all of our styles to gel,” he says. “We’re very excited about getting that out into the world.”
To complement the new songs, Hello Hugo’s set will likely feature a visual component Douglas helped create called “The Bass Projector,” which involves laser lights being reflected off a mirrored speaker that vibrates to the band’s sounds.
RBTS WIN also has special plans for Moogfest that the duo hope will win over new fans. They’re going to bring special guests onstage for collaborations, and will debut at least a couple of new songs such as the intriguingly titled “Live From the End of the World.” That song and more will be featured on a new deluxe version of Palm Sunday, RBTS WIN’s lauded album originally released last July.
Aiming to build off the Moogfest attention, the revised CDs and a corresponding marketing campaign will be geared for a national audience, says Bolea. In addition to playing the new tracks during their set, he says the duo are “going to do a lot more live experimentation with some of the Moog instruments … to feature some of the crazy sounds that Bob Moog brought to music.”
The Moog spirit
Electronic music pioneer Robert Moog died in 2005, but his work continues to shape his namesake festival and touch the lives of local musicians in powerful ways. Like RBTS WIN, Hello Hugo plans to feature the synthesizers Moog invented prominently in its show. It’s a big change for the quartet, which started out a few years ago focusing on more traditional instrumentation. “Broadening to this idea of adding synthesizers has brought a whole new element,” says Douglas. “We’ve started to embrace textures and atmospheres that are not generable by acoustic instruments.”
More personally, Douglas says Moog’s influence on him as an individual has been “pretty profound.” Moog Music, the company founded by the inventor and longtime Asheville resident, hired Douglas nearly six years ago after he graduated from UNC Asheville with a bachelor’s degree in music technology. “It changed the direction my life was going,” Douglas says. He continues to work at the local company as an engineering technician, although his Hello Hugo performance will fall outside of his official work duties.
Bolea also says Moog’s innovations continue to make an impact. Instruments like the Minimoog Voyager have helped give voice to his artistic ideas for over a decade and are a key part of RBTS WIN’s sound, he says. Growing up in Miami, he was familiar with the instruments before he learned about the man behind them. “He pretty much changed my life even before I knew who he was, and I think that says a lot. It probably is the same for a lot of people,” Bolea says. “That just shows the power of what he’s done. … I’m still learning what Bob’s brought to the world.”
And although Bolea admits global fame would be nice, ultimately it’s the inherent creative instinct he feels he shares with Moog that inspires him to keep playing music. “He never did it for the money. … He wanted to teach people and share his inventions with the world, ” says Bolea. “He just did it because that’s what he was here to do. … That’s how we approach our music: If people dig it, or if it can help inspire someone, that’s great, but we’re just doing it because we just kind of have to.”
Regardless of what comes of it, Bolea says, “It’s a dream come true to play this festival, especially this incarnation of it.”