In-depth Biography Rising from dingy college bars in upstate New York, moe. carved a niche for themselves with a distinct blend of Americana, playful melodic turns, exceptional songwriting, and diverse arrangements. While their improvisations were never as experimental as some of their contemporaries, they still managed to earn a devoted following through endless touring. Though all members of the band were born and raised in and around Utica, it took matriculation at the University of Buffalo for moe. finally to coalesce. Founded by bassist/vocalist Rob Derhak and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Garvey along with original drummer Ray Schwartz in 1990, the band played the party circuit under the name Five Guys Named Moe with several rotating members, covering both contemporary pop and classic rock songs and recording two demo tapes, Codename: Weaselshark and Spine of a Dog in 1991. Guitarist Al Schnier was also added in 1991.
At Buffalo bars like Broadway Joe's, they refined their cartoonishly offbeat sound, a slaphappy mix of Primus-like dementia and more focused rhythms. By the time of Fatboy (1992), improvisation had begun to creep into the band's sets. Schwartz was soon replaced by Jim Loughlin. As Schnier began to develop his trademark psychedelic oscillating guitar sound, the quartet recorded HeadSeed in Buffalo just before migrating east to Albany, where they would be based for the next three years. In early 1995, the band began to tour nationally. By mid-July, Loughlin had left to join Yolk and was replaced by Mike Strazza, a meticulously precise player. The band recorded Loaf over a two-night stand at New York City's Wetlands Preserve. By December, Strazza, too, was gone, replaced by Chris Mazur.
Mazur's playing, infinitely looser than Strazza's, opened the band up to wider improvisation, though it was a step back in terms of musical maturity. In the spring of 1996, moe. signed to Sony/550 Music, for whom they recorded No Doy in the summer. For their first single release, they chose a 46-minute cut of "Meat," recorded in the studio over the summer. In November, Mazur was fired, replaced by Vinnie Amico of Buffalo's Sonic Garden.
Following an opening slot on the Furthur Tour in summer of 1997 and (surprise) more touring, moe. recorded Tin Cans and Car Tires as they began to place increasing importance on the traditional song form. In early 1999, Loughlin rejoined as an auxiliary percussionist and the band was dropped from Sony. That fall, the expanded lineup recorded and released the double-live album L on their own Fatboy Records, showcasing the new textures of the quintet. This was followed in early 2000 with the experimental Dither, co-produced with John Siket. Three years later, moe. highlighted their studio and live brilliance with the release of Wormwood. A parade of concert albums followed during the early and mid-2000s, including volumes in the Instant Live and Warts and All series.
moe. has been a staple for years at music festivals nationwide -- especially at Bonnaroo, where the band has played three years. In addition to headlining festivals, moe. hosts two of their own: moe.down and snoe.down, both held in upstate New York in the late summer and late winter, respectively. Amid all this live activity, the band released a compilation of two earlier releases, No Doy/Tin Cans and Car Tires, in 2006. They followed it up with their first studio effort in four years, 2007's The Conch, and returned in 2008 with Sticks and Stones. ~ Jesse Jarnow, All Music Guide