Monday, December 5, 2011

Moonlighting the Social Scene

Clouds rolled across the sky, obscuring the moon and what little stars could be seen through the light pollution of Austin. Music floated through the cool night, drawing in spectators like a siren’s song to the western side of the Art Institute of Austin. Harmonies filled the air as guitar and drums accented them. It may not have been the normal scene for live music in the city, but the band that was playing is far from out of place. They have been hard at work and that work is paying off. All within the same year of its creation, the band’s achievements include a SXSW showcase, a win in a competition held by The Austin Chronicle and a chance to record with a member of Blue October. With this being their final show before heading into the studio in January, the musicians gave an intimate performance with their hearts on their sleeves. This is Moonlight Social.

Jeremy Burchard played tenor drums and Jennica Scott played trumpet in the Longhorn Band, but that isn’t what brought them together. Longhorn Band boasts about 400 members, making the leap between different sections is not an easy feat.

“I don’t think I would have met her without her reaching me,” Burchard said.

“I heard a cover that he did online and reached out to him to tell him I liked it. We met that way and then started hanging out,” Scott said. “The music came naturally because we were both such musical people.”

Both had been interested in music since they were children. Scott came from a musical family, with both of her parents being singers and her extended family on either side playing instruments or singing. “It’s a family thing, what can I say?”
Burchard grew up fascinated by music. “When I was little, I used to have a little black notepad with neon pens that I would write my songs in,” he laughed. He is also knowledgeable in many instruments, having started with the viola before moving on to trumpet, percussion and self-taught guitar.

After pushing to get Scott in front of a microphone, the duo recorded their first cover, Reckless Kelly’s “Wicked Twisted Road.” And then another, which led to yet another. These jam sessions led to them doing a couple performances together, which in turn led to their friends asking about their band.

“We were like, ‘Are we a band?’” Burchard recalled fondly.

Once they realized they were, in fact, a band, the duo needed a name. “The idea was the total, complete honesty of conversations that people have late at night,” he explained. They try to create music that rings with honesty, and the name Moonlight Social captures that sentiment, lending itself to a moment that we all experience, whether it be with friends or a lover.

They started writing songs to convey their ideals captured in their name. “There are some songs that one of us wrote and we’ll work together to make it ours,” Scott said about their writing process. “Most songs are a collaborative effort in some way.”

Things took off for the newly formed alt-country duo as they were selected to take part in a Grammy sponsored showcase at SXSW in March, self-released an EP in May and took on about 100 bands in the Sound Wars hosted by The Austin Chronicle to win a chance to play at the annual Hot Sauce Festival in August. They also started playing shows around Austin, becoming regulars of the club Momo’s. Creating a loyal fan base of friends, family and local music lovers, Moonlight Social was already further ahead than many bands get within their first year. Then, they got some great news.

A contact Burchard had made as a member of the group Grammy U had been passing their music around, and passed it along to Matt Noveskey, bassist of the band Blue October.

“He said it really ‘jived’,” Burchard said. “And he wasn’t pushy. It’s cool to have someone who has been on the other side as well, ya know?” They were offered the chance to go into the studio with Noveskey in January to record their debut album. The band jumped at the chance and took to the internet to employ the help of their fan base by creating a Kickstarter project. In order to get to the studio, the band would need to raise $15,000 in donations by Dec. 16. Less than five days later, the band had met its goal.

“That’s incredible,” they wrote on their Kickstarter page. Now, they are working harder than ever preparing to create their album.

“The songs on the EP were a good start but they aren’t how we imagined they’d end up,” Burchard said. “We have 20 or so songs to choose from.” One song that will be “retooled” for the album is “Neither Are You,” the song they would use to showcase their band. It also recently won Grammy U’s “Show Us Your Hits” competition.

“It really expresses our sound and melodies as well as our harmonies. It encompasses all of the things that we hold most important in our music,” Scott explained.

As their two hour set came to a close, the moon had cut through the clouds, shining down on the band that used it as a namesake. Scott and Burchard, along with their live performance members Gabe Durand-Hollis (Drums), Rannon Ching (Guitar/Mandolin) and Donald Williams (Bass), thanked the crowd for coming out and handed out free EPs. It may have been their last show of the year, but it is certainly far from this band’s last show.

For music and information about donating money toward Moonlight Social’s debut album, visit

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