The Norman Transcript

October 31, 2012

Poor Moon rising on Halloween at Opolis

By Doug Hill
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — “We’re going to try to recreate the record as best we can,” Christian Wargo said.

He’s the band leader for Poor Moon who will be performing at Opolis, 113 N. Crawford Ave., 9 p.m. Halloween night. Wargo was describing what their concert will be like and the reference is to their debut self-titled release on Sub Pop Records.

“We took into consideration when making this record that we didn’t want to be a band who couldn’t reproduce the album live,” he said. “We travel with long-time friend and audio engineer Jared Hankins who runs the sound, he’s got really good gear and cares about sound quality.”

They don’t skimp on what it takes to carry their meticulously crafted music on the road.

Although their band is named for an old Canned Heat tune, Poor Moon sounds more like Perry Como at his coziest than a raucous boogie rock band. Wargo’s band mates are Casey Wescott and brothers Ian and Peter Murray. Wargo and Wescott played together in Pedro the Lion and Crystal Skulls. They’re both active personnel with Seattle indie folk-rock band Fleet Foxes whose 2008 eponymous disc was named Billboard’s album of the year.

Wargo is a prolific songwriter and the others came together in Poor Moon around his compositions. He’s the bandleader.

“That’s a rewarding role and it has been a long time coming,” he said. “I got to do some arranging and part writing in Fleet Foxes but they were definitely Robin Pecknold’s songs. I have a pretty big collection of my own songs now and Poor Moon gives me the opportunity to do something with them.”

He admits being the lead dog can be complicated. Waking up to 40 or so business e-mails with attachments and conversation threads within threads is an everyday occurrence.

“It’s all kind of fun but I do have days when it’s ‘Oh my God, I’m going to flip out,’” Wargo said. “But I enjoy being in a small enough band that you actually see where you’re going and not just sleep on the bus between shows in huge theaters.”

Playing smaller rooms allows him to be closer to the audience energy. At age 36 he’s been a road warrior for 16 years.

“You won’t catch me complaining,” Wargo said. “I’m stoked about being on tour with my brothers. I definitely get exhausted and have to hit my bunk in the van, but I love it.”

Even at home he sometimes finds himself living out of a suitcase just from force of habit. Home off the highway is in Wallingford, a north central neighborhood of Seattle. Surprisingly Wargo grew up in New Jersey not far across the border from Philadelphia. No trace of the east coast can be detected in his voice. He’s been in the northwest for the past dozen years and it has become the place he loves.

“I miss my impression of what the Jersey Shore used to be, not what is has become thanks to Snooki,” Wargo said. “I do miss the beach and the boardwalk sometimes. I miss public transportation; you could get to New York, Philly or D.C. quickly on the train.”

Poor Moon’s music has the facets of a finely carved diamond with tones from glittering harpsichord, marimba and fretless zither. Their sound is gentle and cerebral. The lyrics are meaningful and there’s no question what the story is about in each of them.

“I have an appreciation for music that is carefully composed,” Wargo said. “I’d get excited hearing music that was really intricate when I was growing up.”

He calls that quality the “sparkle” and believes it’s what can draw the listener into a song. The harpsichord in particular produced a sound Wargo was unfamiliar with and he compared it to what’s heard when machinery runs.

“We also use a vibraphone, boxaphone and steel drum for some of the percussive effects,” he said. “They produce short, abrupt little sounds that can also be melodic. I’m fascinated by that and will be using it even more in future recordings.”

He promised that this could translate into the same magic on stage.

“Yes, you’ll see, we will,” Wargo said. “I think we do a pretty good job of it by recording samples of all those instruments and putting them in a keyboard. Most bands won’t take the time to do that.”

Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 day of show and $2 extra surcharge for under 18. Visit www.starlightmints.com/opolis for more information.

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