MoeTar Is: Moorea Dickason – Vocals, Tarik Ragab – Bass, Matt Lebofsky – Keys, Matthew Heulitt – Guitar, David M Flores - Drums
On a sunny day at the end of January, I had a Skype chat with the two founding members of MoeTar, Moorea Dickason and Tarik Ragab, an alternative/prog/art rock band from California. Moorea informed me they were going to be “those cliché California people” and be going to the beach shortly, so I got the interviewing rolling right away.
Christen LaFond: How was the band formed? How did MoeTar start?
Moorea Dickason: Well…Tarik and I are married and that’s why it’s really easy for us to do interviews at home in our kitchen [laughs]. He’s a songwriter and bass player and I’m a singer and arranger. We’ve been together for 10 years and we’ve made music together since we met. We met through music. This band is our baby. Tarik really started it, writing the music…we’ve had a couple bands in the past that kind of faded out and this was going to be our big project. The two of us started working out the music and then we asked some guys to get together and start a band, man. [laughs]
Christen:That kind of plays into my next question-Tell me a little bit more about yourself, how long have you been in the music industry. I guess it would be about, forever?
Tarik Ragab: Yeah, I’ve been playing for…well, let’s see, today’s my 40th birthday, and I started when I was 14, so let’s see, what is that…
Moorea: [shrug] A long time.
Tarik: A long time. Twenty five years or so, and I was playing professionally when I was 16, so I’ve been doing music for a long time and one of my first groups was, what you would call, progressive rock, that kind of art rock, called E Is For Elephant. That was a really big impact on my life in terms of musical direction. And then throughout the years, I’ve done a lot of gun for hire work. About 4 years ago I decided to come back to the art rock prog thing and started up MoeTar.
Tarik: A couple years? [Moorea slightly shakes her head] No? I mean, in total.
Moorea: Well, from the time Tarik started writing music, before it was even a band, it’s been a couple years. But…really about a year.
Tarik: Yeah, the making of the record was about a year. Writing the material and all that took a while.
Moorea: We did it all on our own. It wouldn’t have taken so long but we didn’t have the money to do it, so it took forever. We’d save up some money, go in the studio, and then we’d have to wait a little more to save up some more money and get back in the studio. We just recently signed with Magna Carta records and they’re funding our next album so it’s gonna go like that [snaps her fingers and laughs].
Christen:Yeah, I saw that on your website. That’s very cool! So I see that a lot of 60’s bands are your inspiration for your music – Led Zeppelin, The Beatles-…who else?
Tarik: The 70’s and late 60’s are a big part of my musical vocabulary. Frank Zappa…a lot of jazz influence, John Coltrane, Weather Report, a lot of fusion, a lot of that stuff. I listened to a lot of punk rock growing up and heavy metal, so it was kind of like a fusing of all the different influences over the years.
Moorea: And I grew up listening to a lot of rock, but also a lot of soul and R&B and pop music, 90’s, and so, I add that, I think.
*At this point my Skype recorder decided to stop, so I missed a minute of dialogue, but I got it back in time for my next question.*
Christen:In a lot of today’s music, Top 40, etc, I feel like the lyrics are very shallow with a backbeat and lyrics about partying and drinking. Your lyrics are much more complex and get you thinking. What’s your thought process in writing the lyrics?
Tarik: A lot of it is reflection of the time we’re in, and I try and offer some balance, I mean I can go into some negative and dark places with it. But I try and balance it with some positive ideas too.
Moorea: I think we’re trying to be a mirror for that, for exactly what you’re talking about. I mean there’s so much…I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but, mediocrity, right now. It’s become the standard and the norm, and I think a big part of that is how bad the economy is and what’s kind of happened in the music industry and the big labels are only putting through the sure things, and sure things, a lot of the time, have not a lot of creative value. It has some mass appeal and what would work in a Budweiser commercial and would be in the middle of the Superbowl and that’s what’s selling. So a lot of people that want to get into the music industry maybe aren’t necessarily doing what they creatively want to do. So we’re trying to really balance that. We feel super excited and fortunate that the label found us and wanted to fund us because our purpose all along the way has been and will continue to be just to make the music we want to make, and to look at these issues lyrically and musically. We’re trying to push boundaries, at least our own.
Christen:So did Magna Carta find you?
Moorea: Kinda, yeah. We played a show in Marin County, and somebody was at the show who was really good friends with one of the heads of the label and they’d come to see our guitar player, Matthew Heulitt. So he came and he really liked us, bought our CD - he didn’t introduce himself at the show or anything, we didn’t know he was there - and then we heard from Magna Carta a little while later by email, saying that they got a hold of our CD and were interested in working together. So it was amazing! Like one of those things that you don’t actually hear about happening.
Tarik: That’s why you always have to bring your ‘A’ game.
*I then asked about their opinion on American Idol and shows of that nature. Moorea explained she’s torn on the subject. On one hand, she likes that it gets people interested in music, on the other she feels instant fame isn’t healthy, and hard work needs to be done in order to make it in the business. Tarik brings up a good point: Bob Dylan or John Lennon wouldn’t have made it on American Idol, because they don’t have the typical “good voice.” Moorea adds that music and singing shouldn’t necessarily be a competition.*
Christen: I read that you sing on Guitar Hero?
Mooea: I did. Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Karaoke Revolution video games.
Christen:That’s really cool!
Moorea: Yeah, it’s really cool! That work is really fun. If I could be in the studio all day every day, that’s what I would do. But I won’t go down and live in L.A. so it’s hard, but there is some work up here.
Christen:Are you going to be touring?
Moorea: We want to, yes. All of the members of the band are available to tour and right now we do all of our booking on our own [sigh]. None of us are whizzes at the business side of things. But yes, short answer is we will be touring a lot. We’re probably gonna try and seek some support on that so we can do it more effectively.
Christen:How do you like performing live as opposed to in the studio?
Tarik: I definitely think this band loves performing live. A lot of what we do, there’s a certain excitement that happens performing live, it happens in the studio too, but there’s a spontaneity that occurs live.
Moorea: And we are trying to bring some of the creativity in the music to the live show. Tarik creates these 3-D zoetrope things and we’re trying to ramp it up with hand painted costuming. We’re trying to create a visual experience too which we’re always working on.
Christen:So when is the new album due out?
Tarik: It will be this year. These things always take longer than you think they’re gonna take. The actual release will be probably sometime this time next year.
Moorea: No! Definitely this year. We’ll probably get into the studio in the spring. I need to update that on the website…
Christen:Well, we have to get it before December because ya know, the end of the world and all.
Moorea: Yes, yes. It is important that we do that. A couple of our band mates are on tour with other bands right now, so we’re ramping it back up at the end of February, we just have to learn the rest of the material so we can get back in the studio. It’s gonna be fun!
Tarik: Yeah, this material, it’s not just three chords and go, it’s pretty difficult to play and learn, that learning process takes a while too.
Christen:Well, thank you guys very much. That’s about all I have, I guess I’ll be letting you get to the beach now.
We said our goodbyes, and as they went off to the beach, I turned up my heat here on the East Coast.