Listen to The Moondoggies’ second album Tidelands and you might think lead singer and songwriter Kevin Murphy is the quintessentially depressed, flannel-wearing Northwest folk rocker. The truth is, the short-lived dark period of Murphy’s life that produced the album was more an anomaly than a trend.
“It was a somber record out of a weird time,” said Murphy in a recent interview. “An album that reflected where we were at.”Tidelands is a beautiful, albeit sad, folk-rock album in the vein of The Fleet Foxes or Crosby, Stills and Nash and you’ll hear several songs from the record when The Moondoggies play at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis Wednesday, Aug. 15.
According to Murphy, the album was a departure from the upbeat lyrics and bouncy Pacific Northwest-inspired folk of their debut album Don’t Be A Stranger. At least four of the songs from Tidelands were recorded during a period of time when he lived in the cold, dark state of Alaska. The lonely landscape of that region was the mirror image of Murphy’s emotional state, and reverberations of his time there can be heard in tracks like, “Uncertain” and “We Can’t All Be Blessed.”
“I was in a bum state of mind at the time,” said Murphy. “I’m not really there anymore. I feel removed from that.”
Whether it’s the more pensive tunes of the second album or the youthful and sometimes aggressive rock ditties of the first album, both translate to powerful live shows and are fantastically fun traveling music. After all, The Moondoggies didn’t set out to be depressed rockers when they formed in high school. Even their name, which Murphy took from a play his brother wrote, was an attempt to show that they don’t take themselves too seriously.
The Moondoggies are currently working on their third album. While it may contain some elements of the first two releases, Murphy sees it as a new approach to songwriting.
“[The new album] is kind of different for all of us,” said Murphy. “Lyrically it’s close to the first record. But we evolved and write songs a little bit differently. It’s really a step forward for us.”
The Moondoggies are currently on the McMenamin’s Great Northwest Tour, a barnstorming tour of the namesake restaurant/hotel properties that has previously featured the Avett Brothers, among other notable acts. Murphy said he and his bandmates are excited to put some of that new music to the test.
“We have a tendency to play louder rock stuff when we are live. This tour might help us get in the habit of introducing some of the more low key stuff. We’ll definitely play a lot more acoustic songs.“
Regardless of what songwriting era The Moondoggies base their live shows, it’s clear this band isn’t content with conforming to past recording endeavors. Just as life goes on, so must their music, and that ends up meaning everyone is happy.
7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 15
Old St. Francis School
Father Luke’s Room
700 NW Bond St