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What do you use for dirt?
Greg: I use the [Boss] DS-1 distortion pedal, a thirty-dollar pedal I found in the basement, and a Tube Screamer overdrive. A lot of kids at shows will run up and start taking snap shots, and when they look at our pedals they’re probably like, “that’s it?!"
Frank: I use the Danelectro Daddy-O overdrive. I used to use the Mesa amp distortion but it didn’t switch channels perfectly. It had a weird delay when I changed channels where I would hear silence for a second. For the past couple of shows, I’ve been keeping the amp on the crunch setting, and then using the overdrive for an extra little distortion kick.
Do you route the delays into the Mesa’s effects loop?
Tell us about the new album.
Greg: Waves is the first full-length album that the four of us have made together. To me, it's like our first record. It's the best representation of what Moving Mountains has been trying to be and what we are now. It was recorded in the basement of our old house using Pro Tools, the same way we did Pneuma and Foreword.
What was the songwriting process?
Greg: We do it a little bit differently than other bands—wait, I don't know how other bands do it. Many of our songs aren't jammed out. Since we’re all into recording and computers, we usually demo stuff on our own and then bring it to practice.
Frank: It's mostly Greg's stuff and then we'll take it with us and write, but not in practice. That's how I write my parts—having demos and taking them home. Every song was different too. Sometimes it would be a last minute thing in the studio, while other parts would be really old.
What about something like the harmonics in the intro of “Always Only For Me?” Did you come up with that part or the chords first?
Greg: That was a guitar part that Frank brought in. He was like, "I have this section of the song."
Frank: Then Greg came back later with the end part. It's not a lot of jamming. For us, practice is really thinking about the songs when we’re on our own.
Greg: It's all about what sounds best. It's cool when we go into the studio, because we really just have the skeletons down—just these ideas. Then when we start recording, we're actually still writing. A lot those textures and what we're writing is really how it sounds. This is cool because other bands will write parts, but then get to the studio and think it doesn't sound very good. At that point, they don't have a lot of time to try other things out. Luckily with us, since we record all this stuff ourselves, we just try new things until we like it.
Your sound is greatly influenced by bands of the 2000s. What bands in particular would you cite as influences?
Greg: The ones we resort to the most are Thursday and Further Seems Forever.
Frank: Appleseed Cast. Recently, we've all been into newest album from The National and their other stuff. I know Greg's listening to a lot of Underoath right now. It changes as we go along, but the main stuff is bands like Thursday.
On the album there are synth and string parts.
Greg: A lot of the synth stuff was done in studio. I had string parts written and I did it in MIDI first. For this record the strings were done live by Caitlin Bailey, one of our friends from Purchase, who used to play in the Austin-based ambient rock band Pompeii. She is one of the most talented people I've ever gotten to work with.
How are you going to reproduce this live?
Frank: I'll play piano and parts on guitar. Like on our new song “Tired Tiger,” I was playing the guitar part that I played on the record, but Greg said "Nah, play the piano line."
Greg: That was sort of a goal with this new CD—not having so much of that stuff going on—because it doesn't really represent what we're trying to do live anymore. Though I don't think it sounds empty when we do it. Maybe down the road, if we ever have the space and the money to hire some people, I'd love to have a string section and a piano player.
Greg, I understand that you also produce other bands?
Greg: I went to school here for production, and I do a lot on the side when we’re not on the road. We tour so much and meet a lot of bands that have a similar style, so we usually end up working with them. Recently I did this band called Athletics, which Deep Elm put out. Right now I'm mixing an album by a band called the, another friend of ours.
How do you find time to do that?
Greg: Whenever we have a few months off. Frank and I can't come home with three months off and go out and get a simple job, so I do this.
Frank: By the time you get done with your job training and you get comfortable working somewhere, you've gotta put in your two weeks.
How about the origin of the band's name?
Greg: We get asked that question a lot, and every time I tell myself I'm gonna come up with a good answer to give. The honest answer is it just sounded cool.
Any problems from Usher with his song “Moving Mountains?”
Greg: Usher has ruined our Google image, Google search, and YouTube search. You type in “Moving Mountains” and you've gotta fish through that Usher song for about twenty pages. We were joking about writing an album called “Usher” just in spite.
Greg Dunn’s Gearbox
Fender ’90s American Thinline Tele, Fender Mexican-made Blackout Tele
Fender Twin Reverb
Boss DS-1 distortion, Ibanez Tube Screamer overdrive, Line 6 DL4 stompbox modeler.
Frank Graniero’s Gearbox
Gibson ES-339, Gibson Les Paul Studio Plus
Mesa/Boogie Express 5:50
Ernie Ball volume pedal, Danelectro Daddy-O overdrive, Line 6 DL4 stompbox modeler.