From left to right: Matt Pittman, Mike Link, Antone Findahl, Ryan Vernazza, and Riley Murphy (kneeling)
Interviewed by Harry Kaplan
I got to spend about an hour over the phone with the band Full Moon Light from San Diego. They released a self-titled album in April 2017 that is hot as molten lava. Their style fuses southern rock, country, blues, and a little bit of reggae & ska. They are all highly qualified musicians that are willing to put in the hard work necessary for the next step up. They have the stuff to appeal to a wide audience. The fellas talked about the album, musical genres, and playing. They also turned the tables on me a few times, asking me questions. These guys were a blast to interview, give it a read……
TL = Twangri-La FML = Full Moon Light (Band) RM = Riley Murphey MP = Matt Pitman AF = Anthony (Antone) Findahl ML = Mike Link RV = Ryan Vernazza
TL: Congratulations on your new album. I really love it. I think it’s a great album.
FML: Thank you. Thank you very much.
TL: Even though this is your debut, clearly you guys have a lot of musical experience. Can each one of you give me a little summary of your musical résumés. And just mention your first name, just so I know who to attribute it to when I transcribe it.
RM: I sing and play guitar. I don’t have much of a résumé. I’ve been in two bands. The band before this was called Humboldt Road. Who Matthew, our bassist, was a member of. That broke up and then I skittered around open mics throughout San Diego County. And then had the luck to find other people around Julian, California, that played music as well. Who were more skillful than I was. And then we’ve been basically just practicing in this crazy shed.
FML: He actually just imposed himself on us.
RM: I’m going to let Matt speak for himself next. Maybe ask him an inappropriate question, to help open him up a little bit.
MP: This is Matt. The so-called bass player.
TL: I don’t have any inappropriate questions to ask you. I work off a list. It’s not on the list, unfortunately (laughter).
MP: That’s fine. I don’t know how I would answer that.
TL: Nice to meet you.
MP: Yeah, likewise. Are you waiting for something from me?
TL: Just wondering—I guess you could tell a little bit about your experience playing.
MP: I’ve been playing bass for about 20 years. I’ve been in a few bands; Where’s Vera, Humboldt Road, Mantra, and anyway, here we are with Full Moon Light.
TL: In your sound, I hear a lot of Marshall Tucker and Allman Brothers, throughout the album. Is that by design, or are they two bands you guys like?
MP: We’re all influenced by, naturally, multiple, but most of us are influenced, in general, by classic rock. And then we get a little more eccentric from there, with a little more drum-and-based stuff, some punk, some country music, but yeah, the whole gamut, it runs a long range.
TL: Yeah, it certainly does. I think the production and mix are great. Did you guys do that yourselves? Or did somebody produce it?
MP: Yeah, both. We did it ourselves. We had Jon Haas, and Ramona Music Center really helped us out with the finished product. But our drummer, Mike Link, he was a fantastic production artist on this. And then Riley was one who really pushed our asses into gear for most of this stuff.
MP: We all had—Antone, and myself, we all had a role, but Mike was definitely the catalyst.
TL: This is a great studio album. Do you guys want to be a studio band, a live band, or a combination?
FML: Good question.
FML: I would say a combo, a combo of everything.
FML: More live.
FML: Recording is hard.
FML: We need a lot of good stuff live.
ML: Yeah the funny thing is, originally—this is Mike here. Originally, like what I sent you there in the bio, we were just a bunch of guys getting together, playing, jamming. And then all of a sudden, it kinda just progressed from there. And we’re like, “You know what? We should start playing out, or start writing some music.”
And once we started playing out, then the feedback we were getting from the crowd, that definitely helped. It was a lot more exciting doing that. I think right now, we’re starting to play more shows, which is a good thing.
TL: It’s a very good thing.
FML: Hey wow Mike, while you’re speaking, why don’t you say who you are, and what other bands you played with. We’ll just kind of go around.
ML: I’m Mike, the drummer. I was originally in a rock band and that kind of just fizzled away. I was with that band for a number of years. But before drumming, I played piano. And I was really involved in songwriting, because I do a bunch of that stuff on the side as well, and even with drumming, I’ve always wanted to be the front man, but I also like drumming. It’s really hard to choose. Everybody wants to be the front man. So I’ll do what I can with drumming.
But with the whole songwriting part—and that’s what really clicked with these guys. I’m not even a country fan, to tell you the truth. All the music I was doing, it was definitely everything but country. And when I got together with these guys, I noticed the skills right away, the experience right away, and we just meshed it.
And like you said, then we have all the genres, all in one. As you have noticed, even in our cover songs. And that’s what really sets us apart, because we have so many different backgrounds, different genres, now we mesh it all together, which is what you’re hearing in this album.
TL: I hear a fair amount of reggae influence, as well.
ML: Yeah, that would be from our other guitarist, Antone, who is right here.
AF: I’m Antone; guitar, vocals, singer-songwriter, [inaudible 00:06:09] also. Yeah, the reggae influence came through, it just came to me naturally. Just had a great time with it. I’ve been in a few other bands. Been in Circus Junkies; we went up and played in Hollywood at the Sunset Strip a couple times. Played all over San Diego. Ripped it up and had a great time. Limo, buses, and did everything. A lot of experience.
Mike was down there, doing the same thing; we were playing in the same circuit down there. And then when we got in this band, just kind of randomly, recognized each other, reconnected, and it’s just kind of weird how we all came together in this band. We’ve all been playing and doing everything, and it’s cool now. We came in just having fun, and next thing you know we’re writing new songs, a whole new vibe. It’s going really well for us.
TL: That’s great.
AF: With this new album, you know?
TL: I think you’re doing it from the right place. The fact that you’re having fun, I mean that’s what it’s all about.
AF: Absolutely. Yeah.
RM: Can I ask you a question?
RM: What are your top three favorite bands? Just real quick. Sorry.
TL: Top three favorite? That’s a good question. Bob Dylan, the Minutemen, and Black Flag.
RM: What was your first concert?
TL: My first concert was Blue Oyster Cult, in 1980.
FML: Can we get a little more cowbell on that, please? (laughter)
TL: It was Blue Oyster Cult and Foghat.
FML: Nice. We saw Foghat at the Delmar Fair; that’s great. Excellent. Right on. Cool.
TL: I’ve seen a lot of concerts. I spent about eight years following the Grateful Dead in the 80s.
AF: Thank you. I just went to the Dead show recently. It’s awesome. I did a bunch of the Dead shows, I just went and saw the Hollywood Bowl show, up there, it was great. I was there.
TL: I haven’t been to any of the new ones yet, but I’m thinking about it.
AF: In fact, we do some of their covers, too, when we play.
FML: Yeah, we do.
AF: And I went on the West Coast tour, a couple times. And that just came back to the music, the whole thing is just like, music just opens you up and you can go somewhere. Like going somewhere else.
FML: Yeah, for sure.
TL: You mentioned covers. I want to talk about the cover you guys do of “Angel from Montgomery.” I’m just wondering how you decided on that one. Because covering an iconic song like that is risky, but you guys hit the bull’s-eye. I love the harmonies.
FML: That was Riley’s idea.
RM: This might take about 30 seconds here. Sorry.
TL: Is this Matt speaking?
RM: This is Riley. I used to go to an open mic, that was hosted—my buddy JR, works for Taylor Guitars, he’s a sales guy for the Southern District. Anyway, he’s like, “You gotta go check out this open mic that my buddy Jon is hosting.” Anyway, Jon, he’s the owner of this music store in town, in Ramona, California. I went to the open mic. Spent some time; cut my teeth. Made a lot of good connections.
John—this might be embarrassing for Jon Haas—but, I became Facebook friends with his mom. And she posted the original John Prine cover on YouTube. If you look it up, it’s like 1976 or something like that. And I watched it. And I was like, this is awesome. I’ve got to learn this.” So I learned it. And I used to listen to the Bonnie Raitt cover when I was a kid. And I was like, “Hey dudes, we should probably try this.” And that’s how I ended up there. Sorry to be verbose.
RM: Matt might have a different story. Matt says that he brought it.
MP: Riley’s trying to steal my thunder. I played this song with a this guy Chris—he’s dead now—he had a rock voice. He introduced me to John Prine.
ML: This is Mike here. The reason why it went the style it did, I never heard the song before. Started playing it, and I always thought it was a song that Riley wrote. Come to find out afterwards, after we played it the way we did, then I heard the original. And I’m actually glad I didn’t hear the original first, because I probably wouldn’t have played it the way I did, with the drums and everything, and then putting all the vocals in there, as well. And then I heard the original, and I heard all the other covers from other bands, and the fact that nobody did it the way we did it was awesome.
TL: It’s got a little bit of an 80s heavy metal feel to it.
ML: I was bummed, then, when I found out that we didn’t write that. But that’s all right.
TL: You guys definitely made it your own. I’ve never heard a cover that song quite like the way you do it. I think it’s awesome.
AF: And all respect to John Prine. He’s awesome. This is Antone again. I listened to him do it before June. John Prine is an amazing artist. I love how he tells a story. It’s the lady that pulls out her acoustic, that’s the song, that’s the way she sings it, that’s her story she’s telling. That’s the awesome thing about it. And then Mike brings all the drums; he went into it crazy. It all worked out really well.
And all respect to John Prine on that one, of course. It’s a great story and a great song. Yeah, Riley and Matt brought this to us, and I just came in, and then Ryan came into it. And it turned out really well.
FML: So Ryan, Ryan’s not here. He lives actually quite a ways away. It’s tough for him to come up.
FML: He’s on the ocean. He’s surfing right now. Surfer boy; Carlsbad.
FML: He’s our lead guitarist. That guy’s an animal. He has tremendous skills.
FML: He’s on the shore, shorelining.
FML: He just comes once in a while, but he knows the songs pretty well, and we don’t have any doubts on his skills.
RM: Can I interject real quick, and ask you one last question? This is the last question I’m going to ask you. When you were a kid, what band did your parents listen to?
TL: My mother listened mainly to top 40 radio. At the time it would’ve been the Beatles, that kind of stuff. My dad was into folk. Like 50s folk, like the Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, and so on. Those were my parents’ influences. And my dad also liked early rock ‘n roll, like Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash.
FML: I think all our dads did.
FML: That’s what we all grew up to, it’s just like everything. James Brown, just everything. It’s awesome. Awesome music.
FML: Which is why we also throw some funk in there, too.
TL: I heard a little, like the jam band thing going on. I like it.
FML: Yeah. Thank you. We started out as outlaw country, and then explored other genres
FML: How many millions of people are listening to this right now?
RM: So where are you at right now?
TL: I’m in Maryland.
FML: Nice. I love Maryland.
TL: Yeah, it’s not as nice as the West Coast, but it’s okay.
AF: That’s fine, bro. We’ll do a huge gig, we’ll fly you out, if you come out, you’ll do a whole behind-the-scenes interview with the band. And then we come out, intermission and everything, you’re doing interviews. We’ll do whole thing like the Stones used to do. Stones had everybody behind stage. I love that. This is Antone again, by the way.
TL: I like that.
AF: I grew up with a lot of the Stones in the family. That’s what they did. They have all the backstage cool videos and stuff. You know? And their interviews.
TL: I’ve got a good camera. Maybe that is something we can do.
AF: Yeah, that’d be cool. You know what I mean? That would be really cool.
TL: So the album’s been out for what, a couple of months now?
FML: I guess so. April? Yeah. It was released in April. Yeah, a couple of months.
TL: How’s it doing? Pretty good?
ML: Yeah, this was really like a shot in the dark. Made this album, which we didn’t expect to even do an album at first. Now we’re—starting to grow. Sending it out there.
What I sent you there in the bio, too, we really just started this year, because it’s pretty fresh. We have a pretty big show coming up at the San Diego County Fair, it’s a big deal out here in the West Coast, it’s a big fair, and if you can get on their….it’s pretty impressive, considering that we didn’t really have any real chance to get on there. But they liked the album too, evidently.
TL: It’s a good album, it really is.
FML: Thank you. They thought we could provide some energy at the fair. That we can do.
TL: So with the success of this album, are there any plans to do more material? Do you have anything brewing for the next time?
FML: We’ve already got six or seven other songs ready to record.
FML: We’ve actually started recording again already.
TL: That’s great.
FML: We’re open to album name ideas.
AF: We’re working on this brand new song, It’s called “San Diego Sunshine.” Everybody talks about it here in San Diego, you wake up and do everything in one day. Everybody talks about it. You know the dudes in the desert, at the top of the mountain, it’s 6000 feet, and snowboard, they end up seeing the sun drop in the ocean. We’re writing a song about it, yeah.
TL: That sounds interesting. I can’t wait to hear that one.
FML: Yeah, it’s going to be a good one.
FML: Yeah, it’ll be fun. And that’s more in the reggae vibe, too.
FML: Yeah, it’s a reggae song.
FML: Rock reggae.
RM: Are there any intrusive personal questions you’d like to ask our bass player?
TL: Unfortunately, like I said, I planned it all out. You should have told me beforehand.
FML: We’re just teasing our bass player.
FML: The questions to you are from Riley.
TL: I probably know the answer to this already, but, how do you decide which direction you’re going to follow musically? Or do you just let the sound take you where it takes you?
ML: That’s always a tough one. This is Mike again. Because of all our backgrounds, and we have so many different ones, we just want to do it all.
ML: All of the songs are experiences, they really have a story. Mix it all up. With our engineer, when he listened to all the songs, that was his question: “Boy, what is your genre?” Of course, you hear that in the music field, “stick to one genre.” They were saying that years ago. Well, why not try something else? Let’s try something new. Let’s see how the fans react and what they like. And in the end, it’s all about the fans anyway.
TL: You can never base your sound on what something “should” be. It has to develop, like you said, organically. If it was formula-driven, it wouldn’t sound as good as it does. So clearly, you guys are definitely great musicians. That shows through in the album.
FML: Thank you.
FML: You know what we like about this album? Because there’s so many different styles to it. The average listener, they don’t have to love the whole album, but there’s two or three songs in there which they absolutely love. So if they’re not a country fan, well, there are other songs that are in there. If they’re not a funk fan, or Americana, or whatever it is, but they like country, we have it all in there. More fun, I guess.
TL: You’ve got everything well represented.
FML: Did you get to listen to the full album?
TL: I did. I don’t do a review unless I listen to it at least once.
FML: Well, you definitely nailed the description, on the review. Great review.
FML: I think you were in the middle of a question?
TL: I was talking—I can’t remember, somebody asked me. I guess I can play back the tape.
FML: I think Riley was trying to ask something.
TL: We were talking about all the genres that you cover.
FML: Oh yeah, okay. Right.
FML: Describe our genre again.
TL: Describe your genre?
FML: Yes, please. We don’t know, really.
TL: I don’t know either. Southern rock-funk-Americana. How about that?
FML: What sort of label is that?
TL: Southern rock-funk-Americana with a touch of reggae.
FML: I like it.
FML: Good, we’ll stick with that one.
TL: Feel free. You have my permission. So, how can people get your album and your swag and find out what you guys are up to?
FML: Everywhere, I guess. We’re on iTunes. “Full Moon Light,” put that in there. You can find us on iTunes, Google, Spotify.
TL: Do you have your own website?
FML: Yeah, www.fullmoonlightband.com. Actually, for right now, that links up to our Bandcamp. And then the same with our Facebook, fullmoonlightband.
TL: Those are all the questions that I had. Do you guys have any more questions for me?
FML: Riley does.
RM: Yes, I do. What inspires you?
TL: Writing about music that I love. I started this a year ago, and it’s been fantastic. The amount of music that I’ve discovered and I’ve been able to share with people. And interacting with the bands, and the artists. And a lot of them are indie, they do it because they love it, and they don’t care if they ever make money. And it’s just inspiring. And that’s what inspires me.
RM: Besides us, who is your favorite band that you’ve found through this process?
TL: That’s a tough one, because there’s really been so many. If I had to pick one, there’s this guy, Josh Haden, in Los Angeles. He’s got a band called Spain.
FML: Spain? The country?
TL: What’s that?
FML: Spain, or Spayed?
TL: Spain, like the country.
FML: Okay. Spain. Cool.
TL: He’s fantastic. There’s a guy, Kyle Craft, who plays sort of like glam music, and he’s amazing. I’m interviewing a guy on Friday who sounds just like Johnny Cash. Of course, now his name escapes me.
TL: Colter Wall. Colter Wall is his name. He’s country, but he sounds—he’s 22 years old, but he sounds like Johnny Cash. He’s amazing.
FML: Are there a lot of international bands that are coming through that you’ve heard?
TL: Quite a bit from Australia, from England, couple from France. I mean, yeah, there’s a fair amount. And they’re pretty good. Netherlands, too. I’ve done over 200 reviews in a year, so you should just go to www.twangrila.com and I’m sure there’s something there that you probably would like.
MP: This is Matt, I have a quick question. Of everything you’re listening to and our style, how does our style fit with everything that you’ve been hearing, new stuff or whatever, in general, our style is it competitive?
TL: Extremely. I think I got cut off, what I was saying was, when you submitted your music to me on ReverbNation—I get 2,000 submissions, so I only have really 30 seconds at first, to weed out a band. And your sound, in 30 seconds, compelled me at least to listen to another song, and then eventually, listen to the album.
So I think your sound is very competitive. What it isn’t is cookie-cutter. There aren’t a lot of bands that you sound like. But, I think, because of the guitar parts, it sort of can go as country. I mean, what I call good country. Not the crap they play on the radio.
ML: It’s funny, when my friends tell me, that know me from my rock days—this is Mike—and they say, “Are you in a country band?” Have you listened to the album? I wouldn’t quite call it straight-up country. There’s a lot more to it. Not only that, you’ve got to see us live. You’ll also like it.
TL: But as far as sound-wise, I think your sound’s definitely competitive. The musicianship shows through. The vocals are great. The songwriting is good. Like I said, the way you do covers, at least that cover, is phenomenal.
FML: Thank you.
TL: I give you guys high marks.
FML: As well to you, man. Great interview. Thank you, man.
AF: I’ve seen so many bands, that it’s just so cool of you to take your time, to spend some time with us, to do the interview. Very much appreciated. Very cool. Thank you.
TL: The pleasure’s mine, really. Like I said, doing this has been so much fun. And I get to discover so much new music, and meet a lot of new people, and get their insight on how the band’s run, and how they go about writing, and things like that. This has been great. Thank you guys for participating. I really appreciate it.
FML: Thank you.
TL: I’ll keep in touch. I wish you guys a ton of success in the future.
FML: Thank you very much. Are you actually recording this whole interview?
TL: Yes. And then I’ll go back later and I’ll put it on paper and post it on the web. I just do the written part, I don’t put the audio on.
FML: When it comes to the audio, do you actually keep that too?
TL: Yeah I keep it, but I don’t really do anything with it. Unless somebody says something I can blackmail them with (laughter). I just keep them, but I don’t really use them.
FML: You’re the man. Thank you.
TL: Hey, thank you guys. I’ll look at your tour schedule, your gigs, maybe I’ll come out to San Diego and see you guys.
FML: You can do the whole thing, man. Just like all those movies. Everybody just did it, man. We’ll do this one, we’ll call it the Full Moon Light—we’ll call it anything you want to call it. Yeah, the Full Moon Light Experience.
FML: Full Moon Light Jack, I like that.
TL: Thanks again, guys, for giving me your time.