Moonhat: Spacious sights

by Joslynn Vasquez 

photo by Sarah Van Houten

Imagine with me a Venn Diagram of multiple overlapping circles; one representing psychedelic, the next, indie rock, another for shoegaze, perhaps one for post-emo. Right smack-dab in the center falls Bellingham band, Moonhat. At least that’s how we settled on describing their four-piece in the living room of a house, number 420. Not surprisingly, this isn’t a house to get sober in, but it IS a house to make noise in, and Moonhat has been doing so ever since their beginning, just over five years ago. The best part is, they’ve been doing it themselves the whole time.

Moonhat started in Mash Hall at Western. There’s a theory that the nice people on the “sorting” team at Western had something to do with the happenstance that is Moonhat meeting. Perhaps it was a coincidence that the corner of the sixth floor housed the sort of people who hung tapestries and kept flowers in intricate vases, or perhaps it was fate. Either way, jamming ensued and Moonhat was born.

Once the first quarter was up, and drummer Silas Stewart wasn’t feeling the on-campus lifestyle anymore, he moved into the basement of the 420 house. “We’d had these dorm room jams and then Silas moved out, so we starting practicing in the basement of this house… that lead to a lot of debauchery and that’s how a lot of music was written,” guitar and vocalist Sam Bolt explained. The group collectively laughed and it was clear that they had substantial shared history.

After the majority of them made plans to join Silas at the 420 house in order to better the band, Silas decided to leave to get sober. Today, none of the band members live there, yet it’s still their practice space. Living arrangements, relationships, and habits may have changed drastically, but Moonhat agrees that their sound hasn’t changed much, they’ve just gotten better. “I think our musicianship has improved… I think we’ve gotten better at presenting ourselves to people, too, and not just focusing on playing,” Silas said. “We have a manager now.”

It’s true. As a former booker, I remember having to go through the elusive grapevine to book Moonhat, texting a member of another band that would text someone in Moonhat and then wait until I would hear back. No online presence, no e-mail, nothing. Yet somehow, Moonhat was gigging, earning popularity and scoring fun bills. Five years later, they’re boasting nearly 1,000 Facebook likes and their very own manager. Sadly, the bands they played with most in the past are now disbanded, members of which are in other projects, and some not. I asked how they survived and how they got to where they are now, releasing their first full length album.

“We’re friends first,” Sam made sure to stress. “All of our lives have changed in the time that we’ve known each other, but it’s been an unspoken fact that we can rely on this band and I think that’s why we’re here now.”

And rely on themselves, they do.  Aside from an aforementioned manager, the band has little help from the outside to accomplish their goals. Their new album Miss Anthropic was recorded at Champion Studios, but almost all the work involved was done by the band.

“The CD cases, we just ordered off of Amazon, we printed the album cover that Sam drew, so we really tend to ‘do it ourselves,’” Silas smiled. “We gave Paul Turpin our band fund money and some money I had earned from recording School House Rock songs and then we did all the recordings ourselves.”

Still, the band wasn’t without thanks. “Joseph Vacca (former Noise Toys, Big Oil) was vital to the process.” The band laughed, fondly. “He was there to make sure we had warm almond milk and that we were still rock n’ roll,” Sam said.

“Dave of Dave Sound lent us the equipment to be able to record live, all of us in different rooms,” Silas continued. “Then Troy (Bohman, bass) mixed the whole thing, and I mastered it.”

The band gleamed with pride and deservingly so. Their album can be bought on Bandcamp, or from them in person. A CD release party has yet to be announced.

Check out Moonhat at facebook.com/moonhatmusic for their new album and upcoming show information. 

Published in the August 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine