Viking Moses
Dave McGovern
staff writer
August 30, 2005
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photo by Deborah Samantha

Viking Moses (Brendon Massei) was conceived in a truck stop parking lot. The truckers wanderlust must be part of him now because he travels across the country playing his folkish rock-esque (but Brendon will be the first to tell you he does not like to pigeon hole his music) typically solo music, but his voice was the main drawing point for me; booming, quiet, melenchocy, sweet, howling, shouting, contemplative. Others have noticed the talent of Brendon, most notably Devendra Banhart. He has played with other big acts such as Ted Leo, Joanna Newsome, and the Mountain Goats. Isnít about time you got to know Viking Moses?

RMR: What has Viking Moses been up to this summer?
Vacationing? Touring? Working? Recording?

BM:dang! i was hoping this summer'd just be a vacation and i guess in a lot of ways, it has been, so, well... on July 3rd, we finished up a tour that started in January in Portland Oregon where the good folks at Marriage are. The tour ended in Providence Rhode Island where John McCauley lives, sacred brother! in that time we recorded 3 albums on the road, a trilogy of sorts, two with Paul Oldham at the Rove farm studio in Kentucky, and one with the legendary Kris Poulin at Carrol Kingman's house (Spencer's mom) in Las Vegas Nevada. after Providence, spent Independence Day driving to Indiana, where i stayed in Bloomington about a month with a sweetheart, and met some nice people there too, spent most that time at the Monroe County Library, checking out films, and such... then i headed up to Chicago for about two weeks, then flew back out to Providence to resume touring about two weeks ago, August 14th or so...

RMR: You've played with some pretty big names (Devendra Banhart, Cat Power, Ted Leo, Will Oldham) in the "indie" scene . Have you noticed your music getting any more attention because of this?

BM:i think i've lucked out to be a part of some of the evenings that have been, and yeh, i blame most any attention to be some result of this in one way or another. i mean, it might open someone's eyes or ears about two minutes, then i guess it's ultimately up to each of us to do what we can and be ourselves in that little, precious time, while someone might just be paying some attention. some of these folks i've been lucky to get to know a bit better than others, but i rarely know anything about anyone's music these days unless i meet them or play with them first... it was nearly ten years ago that i was asked to do a show in Lawrence Kansas at the Bottleneck with Palace Brothers, i had no idea who that was, i was just excited to play my banjo and sing for a couple people. Will was very kind to me, friendly, full of questions. i'd never really been to Lawrence Kansas before, but i met some of my dearest friends that night, people just paying compliments afterwards, then keeping in touch. god this story goes on forever, it's really a pivoting point for me, sorry, let's move on... but yeh, i mean, whether it's riding someone else's attention, or what, i'm glad to be ignorant of these things beforehand, because it leaves it to just getting to know someone, or if nothing else forming an uninfluenced opinion, or just simply appreciating what is, and honest to God, i am grateful for these times, be there 10 people or 1,000, when we can stand in a room, and move one another in ways unthought of. sorry to twist this all around, so yeh, i guess doing stuff where lots of people are watching, yeh, brings attention, and much of it sometimes, and gratefully so, it propels this livelihood, but its really more than that, it's removing from that, it's what we give to and get from it all. it's sitting on a rooftop under the stars with these people, and what comes of it, regardless of their name, or who's watching, this IS the livelihood, the life in it all.

RMR: You were featured Golden Apples of the Sun, this must have been huge for you. How did Devendra hear your music?

BM: Devendra and i met on the roof of the San Francisco Art Institute. my friend Jesse and i were passing through town, and stopped to visit Rell Olsen. she thought we should sing songs up there, she invited some of her friends, there might of been 5 or 6 of us all up there together. Rell and Devendra had an apartment together. we met in San Francisco, through Rell. we didn't keep in touch tho. it asn't till a couple years later, very peculiarly traveling with Jesse again, we were doing a show at the Brooklyn Lyceum, Brooklyn, New York. Dianne Cluck and Greg Weeks also played. this kid came up very excited, full of compliments and kind words, offers to trade me music. we switch cd's, demos, stuff. it was Devendra, of course, but neither of us recognized eachother right off... we kinda came to realize after emailing about a week or so back and forth, and that was very cool! a year or so later, he told me that this magazine called Arthur was gonna let him put out a mix cd, and he asked me if he could put one of my songs on there, that's how it all came about, magic, really! he's one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and generous people that i know, not to mention talented and inspiring, which is needless to tell you... in my eyes, he is a true blessing, and he'll get all he deserves in this life! (well, as we all do...)

RMR: What drew you to Folk Music. Your bio on your website seems very minstrel/vagabond-esque. Did this apparent pseudo-nomadic lifestyle growing up have a major influence on your musical development? Can you expound on your musical development?

BM: well, i don't know really what defines music as being "folk", or what puts my music into that group. seems too broad or generic a term, like "country", or "rock", or "popular", or "alternative"... it's all the same to me... it says nothing to me of what the music sounds like, nor should it, i guess. if you're asking what drew me to music, that would be a little easier for me to answer. i feel like i'm being asked what draws me to black people, or red shoes, or something... what drew you to soft storytelling music with accoustic guitars? i don't know man, i haven't really been swayed to one side quite yet... i guess i always made songs, like anyone who makes songs, does. my grandpa let me play he's mom's chord organ when i was little. that was the closest thing i had to a toy on our farm in the Ozarks, i'd spend hours on that thing, just making noise. my Ma got me a little casio toy when i'd be with her in Las Vegas. played that alot. when i got a bit older, she had a roomate who was learning guitar, he'd show me black sabbath riffs, and stuff. like most anyone in my generation, the first thing that inspired me to approach music in the way i do now was hearing Nirvana. all my old songs sound like Nirvana songs. its all i listened to. but Kurt opened a lot of our eyes to so much other music, seemed to me pretty out of the ordinary for someone to divert their attention to others, to share it in that sense. you know, it develops from there, we age, develop ourselves as people by finding what moves us, and how we move others. i was discouraged by family to make music, but motivated the strongest by Ronn Benway, who owned a record shop in Vegas. Las Vegas is filled with nostalgia, and trinkets, and facades, and it was his idea initially that i move around a bit, get away from that shit. i left home at 15, i'd always had shows in my bedroom for people. i'm 26 now, and still mostly play in houses. there's nothing like it. nomadic behavior comes and goes. i've been pretty settled for about 6 years in Chicago. i've just had a busy 2 years, traveling, but it's been more planned, not so much aimless wandering. it's been senseless to keep an empty apartment, but my eyes are always open for another nest.

RMR: In your short bio you say that a friend gave you the name Viking Moses. I also notice that on your discography there are releases under three names. Just wondering if you could explain the name(s) a little.

BM: Spencer Kingman called me that in an email to our friend Cody Brant, i think. Cody just called me Viking Moses one day when i was in his room, i laughed, didn't know what he was talking about... he revealed it tho. i was asked to do a show in a basement in Illinois, and they asked me what to list me as on the flier so, as a joke, i just told them to put Viking Moses!. it's just sorta stuck since then... the music i did when i was 13 - 16 was called Spork, it was a two piece, me and my friend Rudy, he played drums, i played guitar and sang. it was loud, distorted, screaming, fun! we made lots of tapes, but someone might be putting out a record of selected material of that old stuff soon. i traded my guitar in for a banjo when i was 16 and moved into a secluded place in Missouri where i knew no one, just played my banjo by myself about a few months. started calling that music Supperbell Roundup, but i feel that name drew too many expectations. people would give me shit when i didn't play the banjo at a show, or they'd be disappointed that i'd play electric solo guitar and sing, instead of "country music". like i say, i don't know the difference, and don't care really, but i seemed to draw a lot of pressures with that name so i abandoned it.

RMR:Do you currently have any recording projects or collaborations?

BM: i record all the time, write with whoever wants to.


RMR: ok here is the super typical "what are you listening to" question

BM: Larkin Grimm, Ramona Cordova, Deertick (John McCauley), Nat aldwin, Spenking (Spencer Kingman), Scout Niblett, Josephine Foster, The Brrr, Tiger Saw, Little Wings, Morgan's Orange, G9, Flaspar, Coughs, Cass McCombs, Jana Hunter, Castanets, Devendra Banhart, Thanksgiving, Watery Graves of Portland, Love Letter In Blood Red, Bonnie Prince Billy, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Leonard Cohen, Nirvana, Fruit Bats, Lights, Meadows, Mouth of Leaves, Brad Adkins, Akron/Family, Magnolia Electric Company, Feathers, Casey Daniels, Sam Rosen, Kris Kristofferson, Jay Z, The Game, Bruce Springsteen, R Kelly, Lauren Hill... it goes on and on...


RMR: what are the future hopes/goals of Viking Moses/ Brendon Massei (not just music necessarily)?

BM: well, every plan i try to make gets violently turned inside out through its asshole, so anymore, i just try to ride this shit like a wave...

RMR: This is the Tigerbeat-esque section for all the teeny boppers.

Favorite color?
Brown

Favorite time to record?
when i'm not sleepy

Favorite texture?
sweetheart's skin

Favorite top 40 artist/song right now
i don't know, i havent listened to the radio in years.

Black beans or pinto beans
black beans

Command or Conquer?
simply "suggest"

Seen any good movies recently?
o yeh! Dukes of Hazard is fucking awesome! went and saw it with my friend Kho! i was so in love that night! also, i saw a special screening of the Constant Gardner a few weeks ago, and Fernando, and Rachel Weisz were there to talk and take questions afterward.

Favorite medium of communication?
i enjoy talking in person the best, but email is the only thing keeping me connected with the outside world, these days.

Is TV corrupting the youth of America?
it's corrupting more than the youth, it's corrupting voters, and people with cars and guns. let the youth have their cartoons, but maybe something should be done about the network news...

Sesame Street or zoobalezoo?
Sesame Street for sure! i was just daydreaming the other day how i wish my mom and my aunt were standing with me in New York City! neither of them have really given the place a proper visit, and so i believe they're pretty fearful of going there, i think this'd change when we're cruising through the park and Barkley busts out from behind a tree!

RMR: haha. Well I guess that should just about do it. Thanks very much for your time and answers Brendon.

BM:thank you so much for having me for this interview!


ON THE WEB:
Viking Moses
Marriage Records

[RMR]