Music Interview: Moonlight Rhythm Society – Data Creation, Or Melodic Methods

August 24, 2022

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

Moonlight Rhythm Society (MRS) consists of three band members. Peter Gaylord, Marcus Oberlechner and Andreas Oberlechner have been together in various band permutations since the mid-1980s. MRS is inspired by artists such as Sting, Steely Dan, Al Jarreau and Paul Simon and writes original, melodic material. The three core members formed the basis of the band Protocol, which became Riverblues, with MRS being the latest evolution, rising from the ashes of the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed the three band members to find the time to write new material. Marcus Oberlechner talks about the band’s output.

 

“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact artist, album, song or era. We grew up surrounded by music and musicians, be it weekends around a camp fire where one of my parents’ friends had a guitar and everybody would sing along, or choir at school, or my one brilliant guitar teacher. Personally, if I had to look at one artist or group of artists, it would be Paul Simon, Don Mclean and Jim Croche, as their songs were easily playable with just guitar and voice.

 

Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?

Once you gain a greater understanding of music and its structure, you are able to  explore and understand different genres of music. It’s not that the music that started me off is no longer relevant to me, but rather that learning, appreciating and broadening your musical scope is a life-long journey and what I now explore or listen to at any particular point largely depends on my mood or at least  what my emotional  state happens to be.

 

Name one song you wish you’d written (or, if you’re not a writer, one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of). What makes that song so important?

One that immediately comes to mind is U2’s Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. The lyrics, the melody, the arrangement and the performance are all perfectly in sync, allowing the listener to feel the song and its message. It embodies everything that popular music should be all about. It bypasses your ears and speaks directly to your emotion and soul. Outside of the popular music genre, there are so many pieces of music that are exquisite examples of total musical perfection, any of which would have made my musical journey complete had I written them.

 

Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the most memorable parts of your songs?

I don’t prioritise any part of the music. My emphasis is that the listener can feel the song, that the lyrics, the melody and the backing all work together as a whole to stimulate the listener’s emotions and try to get the listener feel what we were feeling when we wrote and recorded the song. We want the song as a unit to be memorable.

 

The music industry is no longer a single-narrative operation. For you, what is the best way to get your music from your head to potential listeners? Please comment on digital means (from social media to full streaming and download distribution), playing live (how often; where; to whom), being a cottage industry (selling CDs from a box in your car or similar) and any other creative channels you’ve explored.

The challenge that all musicians face is that music has become another throwaway commodity. Fewer and fewer people now take the time to sit and listen to an entire album, as music is available on tap. Most people now listen to music on their phones and its almost always in conjunction with another activity, so you no longer have the listener’s full attention for any song. Most people will not even listen to a song all the way through and be able to appreciate the nuances that musicians creating the piece will spend hours, days and sometimes weeks agonising over. FM radio is still one of the best ways to get music heard as the listener’s only choice is to change the station, which they rarely do. Streaming is simply not a profitable option for most musicians to make a viable income, as the rate per stream is so negligible one needs 100 million streams plus to make any sort of decent money. You need to use every tool available: streaming, social media, radio, playing live, or trying to get a song used on an ad, TV show or even a movie. Selling CDs is quickly becoming obsolete. Its more chic to press original vinyls and sell those but again, the market for physical copies of the music is quickly declining. So in summary, as an unsigned independent artist, it is a constant challenge to try an get your music heard and to remain relevant.

 

In terms of the above, is there a gap between what you envisioned and what you are experiencing now? Does it matter, and if so, how do you close that gap?

The gap between what was envisaged and what the reality is, is about 20 light years. It’s not a question of whether it matters: to a true musician the only thing that really matters is to be able to create and express oneself musically. If there is a financial reward, awesome. If there isn’t, it’s depressing and discouraging, but it still doesn’t stop you from wanting to create more. It’s a question of whether it’s possible for an independent creator on a limited budget to close that gap. I do not have an immediate answer to that question…

 

What is your new/most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?

Our song Data is about the culture and the dangers of social media. Initially the song was about a ‘catfish’ who lures unsuspecting victims into his web, but then as it evolved it carried a broader message about misinformation and the king of misinformation. The three of us in Moonlight Rhythm Society write the song and nail down its overall structure. Then we engage with session musicians from around the world to play the instruments we cannot play. Peter and myself are guitarists and Andreas is the vocalist. Every song we have written and recorded employs live musicians. No samples and no loops: everything is played by live musicians. For Data, we had contributions from musicians based in Nashville, Los Angeles, Milan, Warsaw and London. The downside of this method is that the songs tend to take longer than usual to put together, but the end result is always awesome. We write and record whatever we feel like at the time. We don’t follow trends. Our main aim is to create enjoyable, accessible music that has numerous layers, so if a listener dives deep into each of our songs they will not only go on a short musical journey but also find numerous little musical Easter eggs in the arrangements, along the way.

 

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