Chatting With Vinnie Amico from moe.
Brian Ripple | Sunday Mar. 1st, 2020
Brian Ripple: Hello is this Vinnie?
Vinnie Amico: Yep, hey how you doing?
BR: Good. Thanks.
VA: How’s the weather out there?
BR: It has been dumping here in Bozeman. The local ski area got over four feet of snow this last week.
VA: Holy Shit.
BR: We really had not had much winter until the start of February, then it came in fast.
VA: We have been getting some snow here, but we just get like 4-5 inches and then it rains, which is weird.
BR: Hmm, yeah that is weird. It had been raining here in January too which is also abnormal. Are you guys all big skiiers?
VA: I’m not. Al is actually a ski patrolman at a local ski area where he works. This trip and tour we are going to make we will have a good 10-12 days of skiing out there, so I will probably bring my skis and do some. But honestly, since I am an east coast guy I prefer the groomers to all that powder. It kills my legs. Plus I don’t really know how to ski the stuff. I'm like what am I doing here?
BR: moe. is playing a ski festival right after Missoula in March right?
VA: Snoe.down, yeah coming up. That will be the first time out there. Usually, we have done it at Lake Placid a few times, then we switched to Killington Mountain a few times as well. It has always been at a big mountain east coast style, but this year we moved it to Copper Mountain in Colorado which is an amazing mountain in its own right. There is going to be WAY more snow out there in mid March than there will be in Vermont or Lake Placid so I am excited for that.
BR: The week before that is when you are in Missoula right, so you’re going on a long ski trip it sounds like?
VA: Yeah we got two days in Tahoe, three days in Park City, we got Missoula, we got three days at Copper, plus we will be in FT Collins and a day off somewhere in there. So if anyone wants to go off somewhere around there as well, so there is a good 10-12 days of skiing for those that are that ambitious. I’m sure Al will try to do as many as possible. Steve our FOH guy will probably try and hit as many as possible. I will probably go 5-6 times as long as my knees hold up.
BR: So for our readers who are not as familiar with moe. can you give us a quick summary of who and what moe. is to you?
VA: We are an improvisational rock band that has been around for almost thirty years and we’re kind of one of the early originators of the genre. There wasn’t a genre before, there was the Grateful Dead. And then Phish came along and Widespread Panic and ARU and Blues Traveller and Spin Doctors, there weren’t very many bands doing that stuff and most of them were from the Northeast and Moe came out just after some of those groups, we started in 1990, so there wasn’t even a term Jam Band at that point. There wasn’t a genre, Jam Band, there was the Grateful Dead and there was Phish. We play a lot more Rock and Roll than you hear today in Jam Bands, I mean everybody plays Rock and Roll, but we’ve definitely carved out our own style. I would consider us more like a Punk Band than any of them, except for we’re playing these long jams and its not all Punk, it’s just our way of going about it. Our shows are pretty much that way because we just go out there and jam, pretty much. We’ve been around a long time and we’ve got a lot of songs, it’s pretty rockin’ stuff with a lot of improv in it.
BR: In thirty years you guys have made maybe a dozen or more studio albums, I don’t know exactly but, if you had to condense it down to a theme, or a few themes that keep reoccurring is there any that stand out to you in the songs?
VA: Well it’s tough to say. We do pride ourselves on our songwriting so there’s usually a couple of stand out - epic sort of songs on each album that end up becoming hits we’ll call them, even though there’s no radio or anything, they are hits, or setlist mainstays that we can anchor a show around. They stick with the fans and they stick with us and their great vehicles to lengthen and improvise and even jam from song to song, they present themselves very well to what we do.
BR: Do you guys have any new material or a new album in the works?
VA: We have finished recording what will be either one or two albums that will be coming out this year, yes. Over the last couple of years we’ve written about twenty or twenty-two new songs and we recorded fourteen of them, and it’s more material than we can fit on one vinyl so we’ll probably release it as two separate things within a few months of each other. We have quite a bit of new material out there, some of it has been out for a year, some’s been out for a couple of years, some’s brand new, but it’s all within our latest writing cycle, so all within a couple of years.
BR: When you say some of them are a couple of years old you’ve been playing them live for a couple of years, but they are yet to be released on a studio album?
VA: That is correct. There are probably five or six that are a couple of years old, there are maybe ten that are a year old, and then like three or four that are brand new and we have more songs that are new that we didn’t get to put on the album and haven’t played live yet, so we have a lot of material.
BR: So along with all the songs and albums you’ve been touring for thirty years, so what are some of your favorite spots to play? And what are some of the places you haven’t played yet that you want to play?
VA: I don’t know if we’ve never not played anywhere, actually we’ve been talking about going down to Australia which would be pretty awesome! Some of my favorite places to play, like everyone else, Red Rocks is always a pleasure. We’ve had the pleasure of playing there a whole bunch of times at this point, which is great. One of my favorite places to play is home to me, SPAC, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, which is about three miles from my house, and it’s the concert venue that I grew up seeing all of my concerts at, which we’ve gotten to play a couple of times, but it’s been a little while since we’ve been there. New York City of course, Roseland Ballroom used to be the best but that’s gone. We’ve played Radio City a couple of times which is pretty amazing. Love playing in Atlanta, the Tabernacle is such a great room. San Francisco is always great, there are just so many great towns with great people it’s tough to say. Japan is always great. Like I said we haven’t played in Australia, we haven’t played in Spain, I don’t know what the rock crowd is like in Spain. We haven’t played in South America, those are all places that would be great to play. Every night is the best night to play because I get to do what I’m doing, and people dig it, ya know?
BR: Ya, so new songs since you were here about a year and a half ago, what else has changed? Anything?
VA: Hopefully we’ll have a record out soon, what else? Rob is cancer-free, I guess the last time we were in Montana was his first tour back. We just keep doing what we do, music, writing tunes, and we made a record.
BR: Are you guys planning on playing a lot of that new material on the road this time?
VA: Oh ya, I’m sure we’ll play pretty much all of it except for the new songs that nobody has heard yet, I think we’re going to try to save those until the first record comes out. We’re hoping to get that out to people in May.
BR: I know it’s been a long time since you’ve been to Bozeman, but we’re getting some new venues and have some new stuff in the works and hopefully you’ll be able to come back here in the next year.
VA: I know that’s the plan, we were supposed to play there and then something happened with the date.
BR: The Elm is the one you’re probably thinking of, that Nick from LogJam is building here will be opening this spring, we don’t have a solid date on when that will be done.
VA: We used to go to Bozeman a lot, it used to be one of our first stops out West. Some of it before my time but even after that, we used to play there because one of Rob our bass players' best friends lives in Bozeman. We used to be there a lot, and there are a lot of Buffalo (NY) transplants there in Bozeman.
BR: There’s still a big yellow moe. bumper sticker on the backstage wall at the Filling Station here, I know you guys played there a few times, and the Cat’s Paw too I’m assuming. The Filling Station is still rockin’ they do shows four to five times a week.
VA: You’re keeping it going, there’s still a live music scene out there?
BR: Oh ya, for sure, it’s a good one and with the new places opening, the Elm and couple others, it’s a good stop-over point for bands, Montana in general, Bozeman or Missoula both have great music scene’s going. It’s a long drive to get from one side of Montana to wherever you’re headed.
VA: That’s the hard part about getting up there in the first place, it’s not on the way to anywhere so you kind of have to make your way there. For us, it’s kind of a once a year stop-over. Being on the East Coast everything is just a couple of hours from each other, you can hit twenty-five shows from Portland, ME to Washington DC you can easily do twenty-five shows and you’re covering the same distance as getting across Montana, it’s frickin’ insane! It’s awesome, we love it up there, so we’ll keep coming! We’re looking forward to being there, we love the Wilma.
Photos courtesy of PAUL CITONE.