At first glance Columbus, Ohio's Moviola seems like the perfectly conventional band you'd expect from the heart of the Midwest - a couple guitars, a bass, a drum. But as anyone who has heard the band's records will attest, they hover far above the heads of most conventional rock bands. Their recordings are imbued with a post-modern sensibility, both in lyrical bent and sound. When it comes to sound the appropriateness of their name, a piece of machinery akin to a nickelodeon, becomes readily apparent. There are elements both old and new, rock standards and otherworldly nuances. Often labeled 'lo-fi', they've transcended the limitations of their homemade studios through innovative tinkering to create some of the past decade's most immediately engrossing records, namely 1997's Glenn Echo Autoharp and its follow-up, The Durable Dream, both on the Spirit of Orr label out of Boston.
The band - like other Ohio denizens Jim Shepherd, Mike Rep and Guided By Voices - recorded with the equipment available to them, never giving credence to thoughts of what was or wasn't suitable for public consumption.
Spirit of Orr recently released the band's fifth album, Rumors of the Faithful, which reveals the band eclipsing the so-called lo-fi aesthetics that for so long had been an easily identifiable element of its complexion. Not so much a conscious decision as the result of honed recording prowess and advancements in technology - as well as access to better equipment - the tact also highlights the increasing songwriting abilities of the band. While Housh once wrote the lion's share of the band's songs, on Rumors' each member shared songwriting responsibilities equally.
The following interview was done in two sessions: First at the band's former studio/practice space situated in an old mortar factory and where all the band's records were made save for the latest one. Following that initial conversation the band began construction of a new space in Housh's backyard (as the photographs show), as well as began to record what would become Rumors of the Faithful. Housh, who is employed by the Ohio State University as a videographer, was working in an old television studio equipped with a Bellari RP583 tube compressor, AKG C3000, Neumann mics, a Carvin 16-channel board, Alesis monitors and a Tascam 38 8-track reel-to-reel. The band took full advantage of this goldmine, recording the majority of the material for the album over the course of the winter of 2000 and 2001. Only a few overdubs and guest parts from Marcy Mays of Scrawl, Mark Wyatt of bluegrass band One Riot One Ranger (and formerly of Great Plains), and Barry Hensley of Hensley-Sturgis were later recorded in the band's completed backyard studio. This is where part two of the interview took place, after listening to a few tracks near completion. Moviola currently consists of Jake Housh, Ted Hattemer, Jerry Dannemiller, Scotty Tabachnick and Greg Bonnell.
Why did you initially decide to go to Diamond Mine to record Durable Dream when it seemed, as indicated in interviews I've read, that previously you were pretty adamant about recording yourselves?
Jake: I think we just needed to be reminded how much we still wanted to do it ourselves. We wanted to see how that would go. We didn't like it, which had been our experience other times messing around in big studios. We just don't work that way.
Was it the studio or working with Jeff Graham specifically?
J: No, we all like Jeff. Part of the reason we didn't like the big studio, having nothing to do with the equipment or the facility, is that the four of us, when no one else is around, do things in a certain way. It doesn't matter who the other people are - it messes up the dynamic. I'm not saying that was the case there, but usually whomever is there wants to have their input into what's going on and I don't think we deal very well with that. It doesn't matter whether or not it's good input - I'm not making a judgment about that - it's that this has become a pretty tight-knit thing, even on a personal level.