It’s a quiet Sunday evening in New York City, and many of its residents are away for the April holidays. But it’s anything but calm in a chic Brooklyn industrial loft at an invite-only secret show, where Moving Mountains is creating a spectacle with its ambient-infused rock. A giant video screen serves as the backdrop, with reels of loose 8-track tape sprawled all over the floor, and ’70s–era mini televisions are strategically planted atop the band’s amps. The scenery oozes every art school student’s fantasy come to life—fitting, considering it was at SUNY Purchase, a music and art school in Westchester, New York, where the band met and formed. The Purchase scene has also provided the likes of Regina Spektor and NYC’s “anti-folk” artists such as Kimya Dawson and the Moldy Peaches.
Greg Dunn was a music production major at SUNY Purchase (still is) and had a studio project with drummer Nick Pizzolato in 2007 that evolved into Pneuma, a full-length independently released record. Soon after, guitarist Frank Graniero and bassist Mitch Lee joined the fray, and the studio project turned into a four-piece rock band. Moving Mountains quickly generated an underground buzz, and through grassroots promotional efforts, their songs soon hit the mainstream. Though the band’s songs have appeared on MTV shows like 16 and Pregnant, College Life, and Teen Mom, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re destined to become yet another corporate shill of a band. The band members personally manage their social networking sites, and through the band’s online forum—in true indie-style—they strategize places to crash while on the road. “Families are the best because they’ll cook you breakfast in the morning,” reveals Dunn. Yes, they have a wealth of stalker stories, but Dunn explains that “it's never really a good idea to talk about it.”
Waves, the band’s first full-length collaborative effort, debuts on May 10th. Coinciding with the album’s release, Moving Mountains will embark on a national tour along with dates on the Warped tour. We caught up with Greg Dunn and Frank Graniero on the campus of SUNY Purchase to get the details.
You guys still go to college even though the band is a full-time gig. How do you manage to do that?
Frank: Um, badly—we manage it very badly. It's a really weird balancing act and each semester and each tour is a different situation. The two of us graduated high school in 2007 and came here right after. Mitch was done with school, and that was really nice, but he was working full-time. And that was just as hard to balance.
Greg: It's horrible but we're almost there.
Since you guys are “famous,” do people bother you on campus?
Greg: Not really. SUNY Purchase is a very introverted and quiet school.
Bernie Williams used to be a student at Purchase.
Greg: Yeah, I had a digital audio class with him. I’d also see Joe Girardi hanging out at the Starbucks on campus. At a place like SUNY Purchase, not too many people are that into sports, so nobody really knew who Joe and Bernie were. Bernie Williams was a musician first—he just realized that he was really good at baseball too, and went with that.
Tell us about your gear.
Greg: Mitch and I are both endorsed by Fender. I play Telecasters and use a ’90s American Thinline and a Mexican-made Blackout through a Fender Twin Reverb reissue. They're all stock, at least I think they are. I wish I knew more about my guitar stuff—I'm just more of a recording gear dude.
Frank: I play two Gibsons including a 339—I love that guitar. I was searching for my perfect guitar and the 339 came out. I also play a Les Paul Studio Plus that I’ve had forever. I use a Mesa/Boogie Express 5:50 amp that has some great clean tones.