One listen to Moving Mountains is enough to convince someone that the name wasn’t arbitrarily chosen. Indeed, hearing the band’s first full-length album, Pneuma, for the first time can be compared to seeing a mountain move. Moving Mountains produces music that is consistently refreshing, passionate, and awe-inspiring in an industry of watered-down genre classifications, mediocrity, and recycled ideas. Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Gregory Dunn, drummer Nicholas Pizzolato, bassist Mitchell Lee, and guitarist Frank Graniero, the band has quickly secured its place among rock sub-genre giants like The Appleseed Cast, Hammock, and Thrice with its unique blend of spiraling guitars, piercing vocals, and unparalleled musical energy.
The quartet from Purchase, NY, began as a studio project for Dunn and Pizzolato. Together, they wrote and produced the band’s first self-titled EP as well as Pneuma, the latter receiving a considerable amount of critical acclaim and mainstream exposure. Following the success of Pneuma, Dunn and Pizzolato moved out of the studio and onto the stage with the help of Lee and Graniero. Their added creative energy became immediately apparent with the more complex and urgent sound of 2010’s Foreword. With Waves, Moving Mountains continues to develop its sound and deliver raw, energetic performances, leading us to wonder where the band will go next.
The Maroon chatted with Gregory Dunn of Moving Mountains about band life after being signed, clumsy honesty, and being ultimate fan boys.
Chicago Maroon: How has life changed for the band since being signed?
Gregory Dunn: Not a lot. I think what’s changed us more…is that we’ve been a band for six years, whether or not we were signed. It’s not as glorious as some people may think it is. It certainly takes [up] more of our lives now. We really don’t have so much of a social life when we’re actively touring. Six years ago, we had a lot more time to ourselves. So that’s probably the biggest difference so far, just how much more the band has taken over our lives.
CM: What’s the story behind the album name, Waves?
GD: [Laughs] I’m not sure how to go about answering that exactly…. It’s a bit of a reference to writing sort of the same CD three times, I guess, because Waves is sort of a continuation of our first record and our EP, Foreword. It’s a reference to taking apart the sound that we built up on the first two records and putting it back together and finding a new perspective on it.
CM: How has the band evolved from the first EP to Waves? Has this been a natural development or is there an ideal sound that the band strives for?
GD: When we first started, we had an idea of what direction we wanted to go in, but from there it just sort of developed naturally. The biggest influence was probably transforming from a studio band to a live touring band. The way we went about writing songs, we began to have more ideas about how we were going to play them live and knowing that we would be touring with new songs. So that was always in the back of our minds when we started writing the new record.
CM: Both Pneuma and Foreword are extremely thematic albums. Is there a theme on Waves?
GD: There is and there isn’t. The themes are the same; what’s different is the way I went about writing it. Pneuma and Foreword are both very poetic albums, whereas Waves is just so un-poetic and almost clumsy. But it is really honest, which is something I wasn’t really comfortable doing when I was younger. Pneuma was somewhat cryptic because I wasn’t secure enough to write the songs about these kinds of topics. But this time around I was like, “You know what, fuck it.” The lyrics might sound awkward to some people, but it was really the only way I could express what I wanted to express.
CM: You have self-produced every Moving Mountains record to date. How important is self-production to the band’s sound? Would you like to work with a producer in the future?
GD: Yeah, it is huge for us. But it’s not so much [about] producing as it is about our writing process. We don’t write songs, finish them, and then go to the studio. We write the songs in the studio. We were going to go with a different producer for Waves, but we just sort of chickened out at the last minute because we didn’t know how we would explain to someone how to make these songs. We wouldn’t know those bells and whistles with someone else. But we did learn a lot with Waves and gained some experience in the mixing department working with Matt Goldman, who is a producer we admire. Going forward, we’re pretty much 90 percent sure we’ll be working with a new producer on the next CD.
CM: The members of the band have described themselves as the ultimate fan boys. What’s it like starting to build a strong and devoted fan base?
GD: It is the weirdest thing in the world. It’s so strange--- I don’t think we’re ever going to get over that. Whenever we got offered to play a tour or a show, we’re always like, “Holy shit, look who we get to play with!” That feeling really never goes away. It’s just one of the coolest experiences. One of the most fun parts about being in a band, for us, is to meet fans, musical peers, and heroes that influenced us when we were kids.
CM: Which Moving Mountains song means the most to you?
GD: Right now, I think “Tired Tiger” is the song that I like the most and has the most meaning for me. There’s something about that song…. I just really like the way it came out, and the lyrics were at first something that I wasn’t really comfortable with, but it’s super honest…. I don’t exactly know how to explain it. I’m just very aware of it, and it seems so relevant. When I play “Tired Tiger,” I’m very aware of what I’m singing about and very in touch with it.
CM: What are your dreams for the future of Moving Mountains?
GD: Whenever I’m asked this question the answer is always that I hope we can just continue to do what we’re doing. Being in a full-time band, or being a full-time anything for that matter, is really tough. It’s tough mentally, and it’s tough just as a lifestyle. At this point in our band’s career we’re all broke as fuck, which may be surprising to some people. We just hope to make enough to support the band and to continue doing what we’re doing for years to come.