Noise rock. Math rock. Instrumental ambience. Textural sludge. You can dream up a hundred different and accurate ways to describe local trio moyamoya’s sonic mélange. Instead of focusing on what they sound like, however, let’s focus on what Richard Dudley, Scott Madgett and Brennan Hamill have achieved. They bring a collective five decades of experience playing in bands on every point of the genre spectrum to the table — but they threw that experience out the window upon forming moyamoya in 2009 by switching all of their instruments (Dudley went from bass to guitar, Madgett from guitar to drums, and Hamill from guitar to keys and bass).
They took five years to polish six songs for their debut self-titled 12-inch, released in 2014 on Fort Lowell Records. When they perform around town at regular venues like 1904 Music Hall and Rain Dogs, they’re just as likely to play with fellow indie rockers like Twelve Hour Turn as they are to lay down break beats for MCs like Willie Evans Jr. and Paten Locke. When moyamoya aren’t playing club shows, they’re headlining benefits for organizations like the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality. They even opted from the very start to follow a fully instrumental path, eschewing vocals in service of sublimating their riffs to the highest possible pedestal.
“Instrumental music depends heavily on what the listener brings to it,” the band said in an email interview with Folio Weekly. “The context in which it’s heard can influence that experience. This interests us."
Folio Weekly: We tried at the beginning of this story, but we’ll throw this one your way: How would you describe moyamoya’s sound?
moyamoya: Since words aren’t our thing, we’d like to quote a write-up from Hans Werkman with Here Comes The Flood: “Exquisite noise from Florida.”
How has that noise shifted since the three of you started collaborating in 2009?
When we started, we didn’t really know what our sound was. The first couple years were mostly experimenting. Some of the parts we wrote made the cut and are still played today, but most did not. We learned our strengths and weaknesses — and we’re still learning. Whether it’s composition, performance or recording, we like to think it’s the best we have to offer at that moment. Hopefully we’ll have better things to offer in the future.
Your self-titled 12-inch came out in 2014. Do you have more releases planned for the future?
Yep! We’ve written most of it and have already started demoing. A couple of songs are currently in our live set: “Don’t Blow Out My Fun Candle” and “Enter: Pallbearer.” But the album will be a few months out, so in the interim, we have two more singles scheduled for release that are similar to the “Dedmel25” digital 45 we put out with Fort Lowell Records earlier this year, featuring a remix by Navigateur, an awesome musician and rad dude, Carlos Andujar. The first new single will be “Baracus,” featuring a remix by Keith William of WakeATL, followed by “I Heart Jet Noise” after that.
What’s different about the new material?
The self-titled was the final product of many years of writing, discarding and revising as we found our process. This round, we know what our process is, so it makes writing much easier. We’ve also improved as musicians: The writing on the first album was done while we were getting comfortable after switching instruments. Knowing how to actually play makes the process much easier and more productive. But I think the major distinction between the first album and the singles or the next full length is our recording process. The first album was pretty much a live album; recorded straight with few second takes and mixed down. Now we take a lot more time, which ultimately makes for a better experience for the listener.
Let’s talk influences. Who do you guys cite?
Similar instrumental bands like Mogwai, Battles, Don Cab and Tortoise. But we also pull from other musical interests: a hip-hop-esque break beat, a soul-inspired bass riff or a shimmery guitar tone that feels like shoegaze. If it sounds good to us, we go with it.
One review compared you to Polvo, a criminally underrated indie rock band. And you guys recently shared the stage with reunited Jacksonville legends Twelve Hour Turn.
We are fans — and we agree, [Polvo is] very underrated. Quiet/hard, angular changes and drone are prominent in both Polvo’s and our style. They’re definitely part of our indie music vernacular. We love Twelve Hour Turn, and true love lasts forever. They were a huge influence on the local music scene back in their day, and it was a blast sharing the stage with them.
How big of a deal is it for moyamoya to represent that Duval/Jacksonville indie rock history?
We’re all Jax natives and we’ve all been musicians here for years, so we feel very rooted in the local music scene. This city has put out great artists for generations and we’ve had the pleasure of playing with many of our favorites. There’s also context and how that can shape the musical experience. For the audience at a hip-hop show, a break beat might stick out, whereas for the punk or indie audience, a sludgy guitar riff might be more memorable.
How much touring has the band done in the past, and how much do you plan on doing in the future?
We did two Southeast tours in 2016, and two shows in particular were memorable for us. We played Slim’s in Raleigh, North Carolina, with our friends and label mates, Band & The Beat. A rad hip-hop artist, FKB$, was on the bill, too. The other show we all loved was at Grantski Records in Augusta, Georgia. It was a last-minute addition to the tour, but the owner was so great about getting us in and getting people out. He even ordered pizza! There were only 20 people there, but in the tiny shop, it felt like 100. And everyone was into the music. Tons of praise and we sold a record to everyone there. It was one of those shows where you leave floating. The plan right now is to tour a couple of times in 2017, ideally once we release the three digital 45s we want to put out as a cassette in spring and again in the fall, after we get the album finished.
Final question: What local artists would you recommend?
Our local hip-hop scene is worth paying attention to: Willie Evans Jr., Dillon, Paten Locke’s new Stono Echo project. Then FULL PLATE!, Seacycles, Birthday Pony, Wise River and Fjord Explorer. I’m sure we’re leaving someone out. There really are so many great bands here.