Moongrass: Five boys from the Nooksack delta singin’ songs because they like to

by Rodney Lotter

I remember one day, almost two years ago, I walked into a bar that I had not set foot in before. That bar was Tubb’s (now known as The Swillery).There were some dudes setting up on the stage. There were acoustic guitars, two banjos, a washboard. The dudes started playing, and the place turned into a hoedown. The band was Moongrass.
The band, which consists of Cole Melcher, Taylor Merlina, Eli Watson, Willie Reavis and Tom McKay, played their first “gig” at the infamous busking spot on Holly, the vacant storefront next to The Swillery.
“Busking was huge for us as a band,” McKay said. “It came from a real “f*ck it” attitude toward playing for people, where we figured that if we just go set up on Holly on a Saturday, we could manage to get people to listen to us without dealing with booking a show or having to know people or any of that stuff. It was convenient, and it really shaped our core sound, of all of us yelling the refrains together and this foot-stompin, loose, rough, drunk sound that we can’t really shake.”
After doing time on the busking circuit, a friend who worked at Tubb’s asked them if they ever wanted to play a show at the bar. They did, and ended up as the de facto house band, playing every Thursday. They played once-a-week, while still learning the songs and honing their chops. Tubb’s was their woodshed.
“Tubb’s was huge because they gave us a place to play when we were babes in the woods,” McKay said. “I’m very grateful to Bill [Lohse, owner of the bar] and everyone there that gave us a boost to get some momentum going as a band.”
Currently, the band is working on new material and getting a bass player up to speed, McKay said. They’ve also been booking shows and toying around with the idea of recording a new album. They released All The Wrong Notes In All The Right Places in November 2013.
McKay said they don’t really consider themselves a bluegrass, country or an americana band, but do have all those aspects in their music. He was recently told by an audience member that they “look like a bluegrass, but played rock n’ roll,” which he took a shine to.
“I think we all have a bit of an aversion toward all those cliches that come along with your standard drunk busking band, but as pompous as it might sound, our music comes from a very honest and personal place, so I think that makes it different,” McKay said. “We aren’t playing music to impress our friends or really to make money either, we just all have these songs and this band and these instruments are the best ways to get them out. We might fall into cliches, but its not because ‘that’s what you do,’ its because they are honestly what we feel or what we think sounds good.”