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Interview with James Moore the frontman / vocalist / guitarist for Nightbird Casino
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I grew up around music – my dad is a bassist and I’m sure that had a huge influence on me. I remember listening to my parents vinyls as a kid – two that stand out to me are “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, and The Police Zenyatta Mondatta. I taught myself to play bass when I was 13, then guitar a few years later and it just kind of grew from there. I’ve been writing music and/or playing in bands to some degree since I was in high school. If I wasn’t doing that I imagine I’d have some other creative outlet. I’ve worked as a film producer off and on for years so I might be putting more focus on that – or maybe writing, I’ve always wanted to write a novel.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Like I mentioned I have worked off and on as film producer for years … the rest of the time I live a surprisingly average life. I work a regular job, I spend time with my wife and dogs. I find the mundane aspects of life can have a surprising influence on writing, especially lyrics. I spend a lot of time people watching and that can lead to the characters in my lyrics, sometimes. Music is definitely my biggest creative outlet – it’s an escape from real life.
How long has your band been around?
Nightbird Casino has been around, in some form, since 2017.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
Currently we’re based in southern Oregon but I don’t think it influences our music in any way. I kind of hope it doesn’t. Originally I’m from New York and the other band members are from different parts of California. If anything, I think our roots influence us more than where we are currently.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
We just wrote down a bunch of words on a napkin until we came across a few that we liked. So originally, there really wasn’t a meaning … if anything, the meaning came after the actual name. It would be fair to say “Nightbird” maybe reflects our somewhat-gothic-influenced style of music, but that wasn’t intentional. The Casino part of the name is just funny. I hate casinos. We all hate casinos. I can’t think of any place on earth more depressing or antithetical to us or our aesthetic than a casino.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
We’ve really only been playing shows for a year, as odd as that might sound. Prior to 2021, we were really more a musical project than a band, with no plans to play out. Last year we played a lot, mostly around Medford and Ashland, where we’re currently located. The first show we played was the most memorable – we had a bigger crowd than expected, and it was really lovely to experience an audience reaction to our music for the first time.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
There’s so many venues we haven’t played at yet – we’ve barely left our little corner of the world.
Right now, we play at Johnny B’s in Medford here quite a bit. Super chill and it’s a fun place to play, really music centric and it’s clear the owners – who are musicians themselves – genuinely care about local music and are doing everything they can to support it – it’s also a dope place to catch a show and grab a drink. We go there quite often even when we aren’t performing.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Any lineup at all? If it were solely up to me and I had my druthers, we’d open for Radiohead. That’s the dream.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Be on time to rehearsal, practice on your own time. Be open to other people’s suggestions and be kind. Being in a band is very different than making music by yourself. You have the benefit of the input of a group of people, which can result in amazing ideas you’d never have thought of yourself … but an idea you think is brilliant may not be well received by your bandmates and you have to okay with that.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Personally, I’d tell myself to stick with music. I was very active in music like I said from about high school until my mid-20’s. Then I stopped for years and just played guitar at home as a hobby. I missed making music but didn’t think it was realistic so it just well to the wayside. Thankfully I came back to it, but that break was unnecessary.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
If I have to pick just one The Squid is my favorite song I’ve written, both lyrically and the arrangement. I’m very proud of how that came out .. more recently, we have a new song called Lynx. Lyrically, it’s the most personal song I’ve written and I think it’s the best arrangement we’ve written thus far as a band. You might hear it if you come to one of our shows, we’ve been trying it out in front of an audience. We’ll be recording it later this year. It’ll involve a string quartet, possibly more, so it’ll be a bit more complex to record.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
Right now, Radio Anxiety is my favorite to play – it’s just fun and driving. It’s just extremely gratifying to play, especially as a band, the way all of our parts combine and sync up. Catharsis Train is probably our most requested – that was our “hit”, if you will.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Our creative process varies wildly, but it generally starts with one of us coming up with a basic idea – and it really could be any of us – each of us has, at different times, come up with the inception of a song … we’re all multi-instrumental, so maybe one of us has a riff, beat, or chord sequence we’ve written on guitar, bass, piano, synth whatever. We usually record that bit solo and then send it to everyone else – we share a WhatsApp group where we all exchange ideas. Generally we’ll come back to that idea a few weeks later when we’ve all had time to digest it. Sometimes after jamming on it together for a while it’ll start to evolve into a fully realized song … other times it won’t go anywhere and it'll get relegated to the back catalogue.
At any given time, we’ve got a list of songs that are in some evolutionary stage. I think we’ve got about 25-30 at the moment.
Once we have the basic structure of a song down, we record a demo, and then my homework is to write the vocal melody and lyrics. Once I’m happy with that I bring it back to everyone else. At that point it’s just refining … or adding anything we need a third party for, orchestration or what have you.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I don’t try to get any particular messages across – rather I hope the listener can create their own meaning from the song, whatever that may be. I do address certain topics frequently in my lyrics: existentialism, non-duality, alienation, loneliness, love, sex, science.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Sure, sometimes when Oliver (Collins, drummer) gets out of line, we have to take him out back and beat him but that usually resolves everything.
But seriously, of course we do. Like any human relationship, you’re not always going to agree. Hopefully disagreements can be resolved like adults.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We’ve got new singles out every few months for the foreseeable version and an as-yet-untitled new record out late this year, hopefully. Expect a tour to go with that album around the PNW and the west coast. Our next single, Radio Anxiety, should be out in late February – early March. Stay tuned!