PACIFIC talks to the eight-piece band about Talk Boxes, its native status and ‘feeding the funk’ to San Diego
Though MOANS won’t make you scream, it sure will make you want to dance.
MOANS is an eight-member, San Diego-based live funk band, and if you’re surprised to hear about a funk band surviving (and thriving) in the local music scene, well, MOANS kind of is, too.
It all started with Moses Constable, the undisputed leader of the group. After playing in multiple, short-lived bands over the years, the North Park resident began MOANS as a bedroom recording project back in 2017, with no plans to expand it into an actual band.
“Because of past scenarios having it hard to get people together, I kind of gave up (forming a band) a little bit at a certain point,” Constable said. “(I thought) we’ll just have people come in and we’ll fake a band … but without ever playing live.”
Instead of booking gigs and recording a full album, he produced a few tracks and gathered some friends to film creative music videos for the singles. The obscure approach actually earned MOANS a first place award at the San Diego Music Video Extravaganza in 2017.
“We did everything kind of backwards as a band,” Constable said.
Eventually, some of his friends posed the question: “What are you waiting for?” When Constable finally reached out to fellow local musicians to form a live version of the group, they enthusiastically hopped on board. With a dedicated garage to practice in, the group came together to make a San Diego funk band happen.
The current group members connected naturally; many are co-workers in the food and beer industry (like at Tiger!Tiger! Tavern and Modern Times Beer) and others knew each other from previous bands. And some of them actually grew up together in North County.
Turns out all eight members are San Diego natives. “We’re unicorns,” vocalist Michael Lakis said, referring to the rareness of folks in the city who aren’t transplants. And those unicorns never plan on leaving San Diego, especially with the rate of MOANS’ local success.
Like Constable, drummer Mike Martinez was initially unsure if a funk band would be able to survive locally.
“I got into a rut for a while where I thought to play the music I wanted to play, I was going to have to move to Los Angeles or San Francisco or Brooklyn,” Martinez said. “I never thought a band like this would happen in San Diego, let alone (with) people that I’ve known for decades … I’m just so happy on this, and that it’s happening here.”
Unlike some indie music groups, MOANS isn’t afraid to commit to a genre. The full-on funk band describes itself as “boogie-fun,” with a strong Zapp & Roger influence. (And MOANS’ quirky music videos also lend themselves to a strong Flight of the Conchords comparison.)
If funk music is off your radar, MOANS believes that even if you don’t think you’re a fan, you probably are.
“Funk is just this totally universal genre, it’s really dance music,” bassist Alex Bravo said. “We all love to dance and we just like to move … even though we may not always listen to it explicitly, if we hear funk music we’re like ‘Oh yeah that’s funky, that’s cool.’”
MOANS may have started backwards, but the band is moving forward in 2020 with big plans. In addition to two shows in January, the band is halfway done with its debut eight-track album, titled Luxury, which is being recording at producer James Page’s home studio in Vista. MOANS also hopes to release some 45s, as well as a new music video.
Talk funky to me: A unique element to MOANS is Constable’s talk box, an uncommon effects instrument (think Stronger, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk). While watching Friday at age 7, Constable heard a “deep, weird robot voice” — courtesy of Zapp & Roger — and convinced his mom to buy him the CD soundtrack. Though his childhood obsession was short-lived, it resurged later in life. Now he’s been honing the craft for about four years.
Not so horny: Surprisingly, the funk band doesn’t have any horn players, though they aren’t opposed to the idea. “Let’s get this straight, we’re all really horny. We’re down for that stuff,” Bravo joked. But at the moment, MOANS is content with its unique makeup of eight members and a talk box, drawing its funk inspiration from groups like Prince and The Revolution.
Sticking to San Diego: The San Diego natives jokingly call their musician friends who moved out of the city “quitters.” While MOANS is open to playing more shows in L.A., the band members remain rooted in their hometown. “We spent so long building this community of people that it just feels so right being here,” guitarist Phillip Macnitt said.
Room to grow: Still, the band agrees that San Diego does lack in venues. “Once you circulate, there’s not a whole lot left to go,” Constable said. But MOANS makes the most of the situation, just like it will at Soda Bar this month, which is “like the intimate show, the friends show, the dance party — everyone is there to have a good time,” Lakis said.
Getting the word out: MOANS relies on social media to stay plugged into the music scene. Macnitt creates funny memes for its Instagram feed, and Constable often connects with bands he wants to play shows with through the platform. “It’s a powerful tool if you use it correctly,” Constable said.
Escaping reality: If you want to get away from the real world, a night with MOANS might be just what you need. “I feel with our music, when you come to our show, it’s like a mini escape. You’re on this one-hour journey of having fun and experiencing something different — but familiar enough too,” Martinez said.
Where to see MOANS this month
1.10: MOANS with Aviator Stash, Parker Meridian
@ Soda Bar, sodabarmusic.com
1.30: MOANS with Belladon, Fistfights with Wolves
@ Music Box, musicboxsd.com