Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Mars or the Moon

I am hanging out today with a band that brings every ounce of the word talent to the stage. Mixing polished vocals, focused instrumentals, and a true sense of what it takes to make the crowd dance. I have had the chance to see these guys perform more than once and I am always blown away by their live shows. Their album is just as good. Sit with me as I talk with Mars or the Moon.

Where did you guys all meet?

(Joe) Lani and I met thru the keyboard player of my last band, his name is Bob Fields. Bob suggested that Lani take guitar lessons from me. On her first lesson, she played me some songs, and I said, “I know that you think that you are here for guitar lessons, but you are really here to make an album.” We started playing shortly after that. We were an acoustic duo, but we talked about adding more players. Lani, one day, says I know this percussionist named Lenen. I knew Lenen from him playing in the Fancy Lizards. Lani knew him from work. So the three of us started gigging a whole bunch but we didn’t have a band name. We cut an album and about 3 months before it came out, we came up with a band name. After the album came out, we found the other players to make it possible to pull off live. I stopped in to Uncle Alberts’ amp shop to have some of my gear worked and I was asking Kevin about a drummer and bass player, and I mentioned if he knew any keyboard players to let me know. He said, ‘I play keys”. I didn’t know and didn’t even think that he would want to play in a band with us, and the next thing you know we are at his house practicing. Lenen and Roger, the bass player, had known each other for a while from different bands, and we all knew Glen Hopkins. Glen is our drummer.

How long have you been together?

(Joe) Lani and I for six years, Lenen, Lani and I for four, and the band for about a year and an half.

Where did the name come from?

(Joe) One of Lani’s friends was over at our house and I was telling her about me being a kid and growing up in LaGrange county right here in Indiana, which is pretty rural (half the county is Amish), and I would get guitar magazines or Rolling Stone and read about all these different bands and the different scenes across the world and there was NO SCENE in the little town of Howe, Indiana, and I felt like I was getting news transmitted from Mars or the Moon. Lani lights up and says, “THAT’S OUR BAND NAME!” About a week before we were thinking of calling ourselves “Lady of the snakes”.

(Lani) I liked it because Mars is masculine, being the god of war for the Greeks, and the Moon is feminine in almost every mythology, which pretty much describes us, and it has a certain ambiguity. It doesn’t really tell you anything about what type of music we play, which appeals to me (I like not being put in a box from the get-go by a band name). Mars is also the ruling planet of Aries (Joe, Lenen, and I are Aries), which made it even more appealing to me as a band name.

You guys play a lot of shows in the Indianapolis area. Ever think of branching out to the coasts?

(Joe) We have been out to California twice in the past year to play some shows in the Santa Cruz and San Francisco area. We have done a Live show on legendary KPIG radio. We have gotten some airplay on some stations out there in San Fran area and have played in Marin County, just north of San Fran.

Where would you guys live if you could live anywhere but Indiana?

(Joe) I think that I would like California, Hawaii or England.

(Lani) I’d live in Hawaii if I could afford to fly to the mainland often, but I’m thinking North Carolina, maybe. I got to go south, that’s for sure!

What is your favorite venue to play?

(Joe) “MacCools for a smaller venue up in Fishers. And any time you get to open for a national act is pretty magical. And we’ve been lucky enough to do so at the Music Mill (rather often), Birdy’s, the Vogue and house concerts. I also like Max’s Place in Bloomington. Best pizza in the state, if not this side of the Mississippi

What is the largest crowd you have ever played for?

(Joe) Probably opening for Over the Rhine at the Music Mill or Opening for Todd Snider at the Vogue. In bands past most all of us have played the small stage at Deer Creek / Verizon so there, you have 15,000 people walking’ by and a 100 or so at any given time congregating and watching you.

The smallest?

(Joe) Spin Nightclub last summer. There were only about 6 or 10 people there… probably our fault that I didn’t flyer more.

Ever forgotten the lyrics while on stage?

(Joe) Probably more times than Bob Dylan.

(Lani) I’m pretty good with that, but there’s the occasional time where you start to focus on someone in the crowd (always something stupid, like, “Wow, that’s a cool shirt”), and then I forget where I am in a song. It cracks me up, but doesn’t help much when you’re in the middle of a song.

Where do you guys practice?

(Joe) In Kevin’s basement.

(Lani) Also known as “the Bat Cave”. Kevin is a serious Batman (and other superheroes) collector and his basement is AMAZING.

PC or Mac?

(Joe) PC although I tend to be an equal opportunity hater when it comes to using any computer.

Tell me what it is like working with Indie500 Records.

(Joe) They are great. They have really helped us get our music out to a wider audience. Marc and Eric are very inspirational, funny as shit, and have tons of stories. I like to hear stories! They have been great to help us network. They also have a pretty cool roster of acts. I’m honored to be a part of it.

(Lani) They’ve been in the business / scene for so long, which means not only do they have a serious store of awesome stories, but they really do know what they’re doing. They’re totally pro and you feel it when you work with them.

Where can I get a copy of you album?

Hard copy at shows, via www. indie500records. com, in the Indy area at Vibes Music, Luna Music, Indy CD and Vinyl, and the Good Earth Health store. We are also on all the Internet distribution sites like iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody etc.

Who are some of you biggest influences?

(Joe) Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles as a group and the guys solo, Neil Young, Crazy Horse, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Ben Harper, Carlos Santana, The Replacements. Bob Dylan, Tori Amos, Ani, Prince, James McMurtry, the Stones, zepplin, Bob Dylan, X, Live, Counting Crows, Black Crows, did I mention Neil young or Bob Dylan? 60’s stuff and great live music by whatever band / artist I happen to be watching.

(Lani) Can you tell Joe loves Bob Dylan? Boy, there are a ton of influences for me, including all of the above. I grew up on bluegrass and folk + the Beatles and Linda Rondstadt (it’s likely her fault that I love to sing). Roots music is nostalgic for me and I
generally love it all, as well as old time gospel (that fits in with old time bluegrass), but I also love a lot of world-type music with crazy beats. Zap Mama is one of my favorites, and you could lump Paul Simon in there too–he’s got this different timing that I just love. I also totally love The Who–best concert I’ve ever seen was the Quadrophenia tour in 98 maybe. WOW.

Describe your genre in one word.

(Joe) Songwriter.

(Lani) Oooh, that’s tough. I’ll have to go with Joe on this one.

Where do you get inspiration for a new song?

(Joe) Dreams, my life, friends lives, books I’ve read and songs that knock me out by other writers.

(Lani) That’s a fair statement for me too, though just looking at what’s on your mind can be inspiring enough to write a song.

Any thoughts on a tour this year to promote the album?

(Joe) We do little mini-tours. I think that Colorado and California will happen by years end.

Let’s say that you are offered a $250,000 record deal but the lyrics were written by someone else and it was a rap album. Do you do it?

(Joe) “If Eyrka Badu and Mos Def wrote the lyrics, Daniel Lanois produced it and we got to tour with Ben Harper; then sign me up!

(Lani) I’m pretty much a “singing slut” (sorry, but it’s true). So, if I get to sing on said album, I’m in.

Who is the biggest name that you have shared the stage with?

Depends on who you think is big. James McMurtry, Ari Hest, Over the Rhine, John Waite, Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, Todd Snider, Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens.

(Lani) Also David Lindley and I feel like I’m forgetting someone.

Let’s get some pizza. What toppings?

(Joe) Some Guys four cheese with barbeque sauce and pecans.

(Lani) The Crossroads pizza at Max’s in Bloomington. Ohmygoodness. Roasted garlic, pine nuts, basil, sundried tomato, spinach, and the kicker, ricotta cheese.

I love the design of your MySpace and album cover. Who did your graphic design?

Deanna Morae gets all credit for the Album, Michele Steele for the official web site and KC Turner for the MySpace page..

What are you drinking on stage?

(Joe) Usually Guiness or a 7 / 7″

(Lani) A crap load of water (seriously, depending on how long we play, I could drink 32-64 oz of water) and my new favorite gin if they have it. Hendricks and tonic.

What are three things you could not live without?

(Joe) A good book, a cup of coffee, and my guitar.

(Lani) Water, good food (organic), and my voice.

What is the last movie you guys saw?

(Joe) The sad thing is I can’t remember the last movie I saw.

(Lani) We borrowed the three Borne Identity movies from a friend.

Did you like it?

(Joe) I’m sure it was great!

(Lani) Both of us love movies but it seems like we rarely watch them. These were mindless entertainment, not my favorite type of movie, but they’re entertainment!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

(Joe) More entrenched in the national scene, playing more festivals, and touring more.

(Lani) That would be super-fly, and we’ll also have at least one child, maybe two if we’re lucky.

(Joe) Oh yea, knocked up in ’09 has been the un-official slogan at our house this year!

What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?

(Joe) Hopefully for have written a couple of songs that have touched peoples hearts or disturbed them in a way that made them feel better about being alive and human.

(Lani) I want to make the whole word smile, and if ever I have a lot of money, I’ll be a killer humanitarian.

(Joe) Isn’t that an oxymoron or a contradiction? A “KILLER” “HUMANITARIAN”?

I always let the artist get the last word. Go.

(Joe) At the end of the day, it’s only rock and roll. But hopefully thru singing and dancing you will open yourself up to Grace.

(Lani) I am so grateful for my life and everyone and everything that surrounds me!