Moonliscious Interview

Today I present you with the second interview in my ongoing series of band interviews. (The first interview can be seen here.) These will be posted every two weeks for as long as I can sustain it. Today’s interview is with a friend’s band called Moonliscious. The band members provide plenty of insight into their group’s music with this in depth exchange. For more information you can visit their website at:

Moonliscious is: Brian Barrett (bass), Besu Tadesse (saxes), Rich Bickers (guitar, lead singer), Jeff Socha (drums)

How would you describe your music? (What genres?)

Rich – In simplest terms, a funk/rock group with jam band sensibilities. But, in more depth, what we try to do is blend the funk/rock with a wide variety of other styles from soul, folky/country picking, jazz, reggae. We’re very song-oriented but have a jam band and jazz openness to stretching songs out for solos and experimenting with how many moods and feels we can throw into a song each time.

How did the band come together?

Rich – I was in a band called Junk Nugget that broke up after a decade. I then joined an existing band called Green Delicious and started The Moonfish Band (Moonfish being a nickname of mine). Neither band could do this particular festival party I wanted to play so we took pieces of both bands who were available and really liked it. Soon the other two bands had fallen away and Moonliscious remained.

Your four-song CD is titled, “Pirate.Sex.Music” (which can be heard here). What’s the story behind that name? 

Rich – An older gentleman with a grizzly beard and eye patch came to one of our shows with the soundman and we called him The Pirate. Said buccaneer met himself an attractive Russian lady (this is starting to sound like the start of a joke, right?) and got “lucky.” Our old percussionist Cesar joked that we must be pirate sex music and it stuck.

What was the greatest/most memorable concert you’ve performed in?

Rich – Wow, really tough. I twice played the 4th of July Smoke-In concert on the Mall at the Lincoln Memorial, was one of the founders of the Soundquilt festival in Gore, VA and had an artist painter friend improvise a painting to our set while we played; my girlfriend’s birthday party show as sorta our “coming out” at The Whiskey in Annapolis, a great first night in Shepherdstown, WV with lots of friends and family out to see me for the first time in a long time…really hard to tell.

I guess I’d now say that any show Moonliscious plays at our regular spots Ragtime (Arlington) or Dogwood Tavern (Falls Church) because the music’s finally gotten itself to where I’ve always heard it and wanted it to be.

What’s your favorite venue to play in D.C.? Outside D.C?

Rich – Outside: tie between Ragtime and Dogwood.

Besu – I’ve always been a fan of Velvet Lounge in DC. The sound there is great. Outside of DC, The Whiskey has always been really fun, and the people there are really into our music.

Brian – Honestly, I like to play any venue where there are people who want to listen to music. It doesn’t really matter to me if there are 10 people or 100 people as long as I can tell they are enjoying the music I am happy to play.

Jeff – My favorite place we play at now is Dogwood Tavern.

What’s the most difficult aspect about being a musician?

 Rich – As a sort of bandleader, searching for the right players who have the mix of ability and talent mixed with dedication to making great music rather than cranking what’ll make a few bucks.

Besu – The same things that are difficult about being a musician are the same things that are difficult about any long-term relationship – trying not to step on each other’s toes, keeping things fresh, and make something great every time you all get together without getting sick of each other in the process.

Brian – The most difficult part of being a Moonliscious member is probably managing our expectations and making sure we provide the requisite energy and enthusiasm each and every show. That and dealing with Rich, he is a prima donna.

Jeff – As a musician I feel I have finally found a great bunch of guys to jam with, who make it easy and fun, which is half the battle. The most difficult thing about being a musician for me is not being able to do it 100% of the time. I envy those who are able to make a living at being a musician whether it be playing or teaching or both.

Who are your influences/music heroes/favorite musicians? 

Rich – Yes, Stevie Wonder, King Crimson, Steely Dan, Paul Simon, David Byrne, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Wonder, Sublime, lots of jazz and jazz fusion…favorite individual song- Black Water by the Doobie Brothers

Besu – As a saxophone player, Johnny Hodges, who played in Duke Ellington’s band, was my first and biggest influence. As I started learning how to compose work, bassist Charles Mingus was like the pinnacle of great writing. Often times, people who heard my work commented on the Mingus influence in my work. As a soloist, Talib Kweli’s rapping cadence has provided a great rhythmic backdrop for my current soloing style. 

Brian – For favorite musicians, I love me some grunge rock (e.g. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Blind Melon) and classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Who) and still have fond feelings towards the metal of my youth (Judas Priest, AC/DC, Megadeth, Metallica).

Jeff – My biggest musical influences come from four different genre and they are Jane’s Addiction, The Grateful Dead, Galactic, and Del McCoury Band. My biggest musical hero is Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction for a number of reasons. And my favorite drummers are a tie between Stephen Perkins of Janes Addiction and Stanton Moore of Galactic.

Where did you learn to play your instrument/sing? Did you go to school for it (if so, where?) or are you self-taught?

Rich – I had a guitar in high school but only learned a few cover riffs. In college I started playing along with Grateful Dead tunes and had a Dead songbook and learned chords, or rather, how they fit into songs. Almost immediately I was taking chords I learned from Dead, Clapton, Creedence Clearwater songs and making my own songs and lyrics so I was pretty much self-taught and learned to sing and play the guitar together.

Besu – I started playing the saxophone in elementary school, because I saw Bill Clinton playing saxophone during his presidential run. I didn’t start to get any good until junior year of high school. I went to school more for engineering and sciences, but I was a band geek for most of my life, playing through college. It wasn’t until I came back to D.C. that I started learning other styles away from the classics, so that’s where I am in terms of my music study.

Brian – I started playing bass after being the singer in a death metal band and decided that I didn’t want to be the no-talent singer and wanted to play an instrument (besides I am the least extroverted front man ever). I didn’t want to be a douchey guitar player and my buddy already played drums so, bass it was. I was largely self taught, though I did take a lesson here and there along the way. I had actually put the bass down for a while and decided to pick it up back up and almost immediately started playing in the Moonfish Band.

Jeff – I learned from a friend in 6th grade how to play drums, and ever since then I’ve been a self-taught musician. I regret not taking lessons earlier on in life. Had I taken it more seriously when I was younger and put a lot more effort into music rather than sports maybe I could have been a more serious player now. My advice to younger kids who want to be musicians is: if you love playing music and you want to become a musician, you need to practice and become obsessed with your instrument now when you have the time to be obsessed with it.

For all your lady fans out there, who and which of the bandmates are single? 

Rich – Only Besu, but he’s in love with a video game heroine. Only one of us is married. Just realized that.

Besu – Rich is right. I’ve been having a love affair with Samus from Metroid. She can tuck herself into a ball AND protect me from aliens. That’s all I’ve ever wanted in a woman.

Jeff – Taken

How old are all of you? 

Brian – Rich is like 53, I think. The rest of us are in our thirties.

Besu – I just turned 30.

Jeff – I’ll be 40 this September.

If you weren’t being a musician, what would your “second best” dream job be?

Rich – Writing for a comedy show.

Besu – I’d delve into the other arts: photography, painting, writing stories.

Brian – Professor at a university. I am not sure that is actually second best for me, though.

Jeff – I would be a beat writer/photographer for a music publication.

How long does it take to write a song (lyrics and music)? How many people in the band write songs? 

Rich – It’s taken 10 minutes and it’s taken 5 years. Sometimes inspiration just hits, sometimes inspiration needs some help from time. Sometimes I have a song and only later will experience lend the lyrics that make it work or vice-versa, I’ve had some lyrics or a saying and suddenly I’ll have a progression or riff that fits it and it can help pull out other lyrics to go with it. I have a million ¼ to ¾ completed songs lying around waiting for something to streamline them and make them for something.

Besu – In our band, Rich is the man for songwriting, but every once in a while, someone will just do some warm-up riffs in rehearsal, and it turns into an explosion of music. I think it has happened even at gigs from time to time doing warm-ups.

Do you have any songs that you don’t like to perform as much as others? (If so, what and why?) 

Rich – Actually, the guys like a lot of my stuff that I’d disregarded. Pushing them into the set and seeing people like them has made me like them better. Some of the simpler, straight-up funky stuff that’s some of our main thing.

Besu – There are only a couple of songs that I’m not as excited about, but they change up our feel and give our band some more depth, so it’s cool with me.

Brian – I definitely have songs that I don’t like to perform as much live, but I do really like all of the stuff we play. There are some songs in the catalog that are just a little too eclectic to be fun to play live (e.g. Shaynah Dawn, Hardscrabble).

What is your favorite song of yours? 

Rich – Oh man….I don’t think I can make that choice. I love Blue Sky Dies, Roll On, Night Dive. Stuff that goes a bit into arty complexity outside the kicking funk energy that’s our main thing (which I love).

Besu – There are some songs not on our current album that are among my favorites. Blue Sky Dies and Roofline are my favorite lyrical songs. Funky Toenail is just really fun to play. I’m always a fan of my soloing work on Married Now and Rain Smell, two songs that we have played out at shows but haven’t had a chance to record yet.

Brian – For pure awesomeness I think Funky Toenail is probably my favorite song, but I do really love Night Dive as a close second.

Jeff – Funk Singer and Funky Toenail are my two favorite originals to play live. I love the funky songs. I’m big into funk.

What can we see from your band in the future? Any upcoming gigs? 

Rich – Look on our Facebook site or web site and find out where. We’re somewhere around the DMV at least once a month.

Besu – We’re also getting back into the studio this summer to put together our first full-length album. The one we have out right now is the four-track EP, available at all major online retailers of music

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