Article by Matt Wickstrom
Photos by Tom Wickstrom
At the tail end of 2015, Yellow Spring, Ohio, based newgrass quartet Blue Moon Soup released their third album, titled “Luna.” Shortly after the album’s release, I had the opportunity to sit down with the band’s fiddlist Robbie Marion to discuss developing the album, the band’s progression, and much more!
MW: How did Blue Moon Soup first get it’s start?
RM: “Our original guitarist, Ben (Clonch) and I knew each other from growing up and going to school around Yellow Springs. When we started out, Brendan (Moore) was actually on stand-up bass, but less than a year later we picked up our current bassist, Jon (Bauman). Brendan then switched over to mandolin; a lineup that we stuck with for a bit. Justin (Moon) joined the group about three years ago on guitar, leaving us with the lineup we have today.”
“Our time together as a band is creeping up on six years now. Last year we had our fifth anniversary show on St. Patrick’s Day.”
MW: What was the process like recording and manufacturing “Luna”?
RM: “We really wanted to do this record right, so we spent a lot of time in the studio. Our first two albums were basically glorified home recordings. We tried to replicate studio quality sound for the first two (records), but nothing beats a professional studio, real equipment, and real sound-blocking capabilities and the like.”
“We recorded “Luna” at Refraze Recording Studio in Kettering, Ohio. Ron Pease, the current owner of Refraze, was the main technician we worked with in the studio. We’d go in once or twice a week, unless we were on the road. We started recording in February. Our last day in the studio was in early December.”
“Things really develop over time. You spend a lot of studio time working on certain parts. Your ideas develop and evolve over the course of ten months. You start out with an idea for a song, and six months later you’re able to really digest the song and decide what you want to do with it.”
MW: Last year was arguably the band’s biggest to date, sharing gigs with the likes of the Infamous Stringdusters, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Willie Nelson, among others. What was it like being around those musicians and getting to soak in their surroundings?
RM: “It was crazy playing with and being around so many people you aspire to be like and have been watching for years. We got to share not only the stage with them but the green room too. It was interesting talking to them about how they operate as a touring band, the Stringdusters especially. We played two nights with them, so we got to see how they do things. It gives us something to aspire to.”
MW: “Luna” features several instruments not a part of Blue Moon Soup’s regular repertoire, including the banjo, accordion, and piano. Is the band looking to permanently add new instruments or pieces in the future?
RM: “It’s certainly a possibility. There’s a lot of different instruments on the new CD. Normally when we’re working in the studio it opens up a lot of doors and you’re able to branch out on what you’re doing. We’re no longer restricted to our normal four instruments that we’re typically restricted to. With a lot of our songs, we hear that other things could be going on there.”
MW: Is “Luna” a concept album? I only ask because I noticed there’s tracks titled “Tartarus I”, “Tartarus II”, and “Tartarus III”.
RM: “There’s certainly threads that go together, like you noticed. The Tartarus songs were Justin’s, and I know the content in those tunes also relates to “Annie Up” as well, which is another of his songs. I wouldn’t call it a concept album though. Something like that takes a little more planning with that precise intention, but I certainly think there’s elements of a concept album, which is something we like to do; running songs into each other; running similar styles and themes into each other.”
“I think a hybrid album is maybe what you could call it. We like to stay in the same realm sometimes, but like you noticed there’s some stuff on the album that doesn’t quite fit in with everything else.”
MW: Switching gears: Every year you travel overseas to play in Scotland. How did that begin, and what’s it like playing over there?
RM: “I’ve got some family over there. Six or seven years ago was the first time I went up to the city called Aberdeen, and there was a fiddle convention going on. I ended up meeting a bunch of people through that, including locals, but there also was a fiddle convention going on. People were there from all over the world, representing countless different styles of fiddle playing. I also met a couple people from Aberdeen who were just great folks whom I’ve been in touch with ever since.”
“In one instance, my parents used to take me to see this Scottish band around Dayton called the Old Blind Dogs. I just happened to run into their fiddle player in a little pub in Aberdeen. That was a hilarious, ‘it’s a small world’ moment.”
“(Aberdeen) has always been a special place to me. I really like going up there and seeing all the good music.
MW: Well, that’s all I’ve got! Thanks again Robbie.
RM: “Thank you.”
Blue Moon Soup is currently taking a short break from touring after a busy 2015 on the road and in the studio. The band plans to announce spring and summer plans in the near future.
Purchase or stream “Luna” using one of the following services:
Photos were taken December 26, 2015, at Blue Moon Soup’s annual Snowflake Soiree at Glen Helen in Yellow Springs, OH. This year’s Soiree also acted as a release party for “Luna”.