By Celeste Thompson and Camilla Mortensen
There’s something about dancing to music at the Oregon Country Fair — in a crowd in the forest made up of hippies and folks letting loose in costumes. Folks you might see next week at their day jobs as attorneys, doctors, tech industry workers or pretty much anything, just getting their groove on.
Moonalice has that OCF vibe. A little bit Grateful Dead, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, a little bit psychedelic soul.
Eugene Weekly grabbed a quick Q&A with three members of the 10-piece band as they tour the West Coast and headed for Veneta. Roger McNamee is a frequent Time Magazine opinion writer as well as the author of the New York Times bestseller Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe. He’s also a former advisor to the Grateful Dead and worked for U2. The band also includes Lester Chambers, lead singer of the 1960s soul rock group The Chambers Brothers, and his son, singer-songwriter Dylan Chambers.
What are you all looking forward to while performing at the Oregon Country Fair?
Roger McNamee: OCF is unique… and we love everything about it. Many of us grew up as Deadheads, and the bootleg of the 1972 Springfield Creamery benefit show was part of our personal soundtrack even before we first got to play at the Fair. The setting in Veneta is magical. The forest, the paths, the meadows, filled with people and music. The little shops. The camping. There is nothing like OCF. This will be our first visit to OCF since the New Chambers Brothers and T Sisters joined Moonalice. We have embraced the psychedelic soul sound of The Chambers Brothers and we cannot wait to share it with the beautiful people at OCF. Our message of love, peace, and happiness is one that should fit in well.
Dylan Chambers: I’m looking forward to playing for all the people with positive energy being weird and wild and free!
Lester Chambers: Making people happy and sharing our “Love, Peace and Happiness!” Beautiful people who came to enjoy music.
Where does the inspiration for your music stem from?
Roger McNamee: We have nine songwriters in the band, all inspired by different things. We are trying to focus on three themes, all embodied in The Chambers Brothers tune, “Love Peace & Happiness.” Given all the stress that people are under these days, what better themes could there be?
One thing that has changed recently is the way we collaborate. We always collaborated on arrangements, but now we are working together much earlier in the process. Barry [Sless] just wrote a new tune that we learned to play just yesterday. It is perfect for the band: psychedelic soul vibe, big parts for all five vocalists, really challenging for the instrumentalists. I do not know if it will be ready for OCF, but we will try.
Dylan Chambers: Well that is easy, I was born to rock n’ roll!
Lester Chambers: My inspiration comes from the spirits and my ancestors.
Tell me about your new singles such as “Love, Peace and Happiness” “Turn on Your Love Light” and “People Get Ready.”
Dylan Chambers: We are super excited to release these singles and bring psychedelic soul energy to 2022. I really get to shine when singing “Turn On Your Love Light,” so that one is special for me.
Lester Chambers: “Love Peace & Happiness” is something I’d like to see the world experience. “Turn On Your Love Light” makes everyone shine and on stage I get to see them light up from the spirit of music. “People Get Ready” is my favorite song to sing because it has such an important message. Everyone needs to get ready and be ready and stay ready for the time and changes to come.
Roger McNamee: It is amazing to see audiences light up when we play these songs in concert. That feeling of community is why we perform.
How has the response been since releasing the EP, Full Moonalice Volume 1?
Dylan and Lester Chambers: it has been amazing! We are getting calls from all over the world from people feeling the love and the psychedelic soul!
Roger McNamee: Moonalice has recorded two full albums and nine EPs over 15 years, but we never had a record label to promote them until last year. Our record label (Nettwerk Music) has worked hard for us, which has been very exciting. We are new to streaming, and still early in the game of building a streaming audience, but all of the trends are favorable.
Psychedelic soul was a big deal in the ’60s and early ’70s, but for some reason it died out. We have found that this style of music — and the message contained in it — is particularly welcome in this challenging time.
Is there anything else you want people to know about the band?
Roger McNamee: Moonalice has been playing for 15 years, always evolving and growing. Barry Sless, Pete Sears and Roger McNamee have been with the band from the start, and John Molo for the past 13 years.
The big change came in 2019, when we added five amazing vocalists — Lester Chambers, Dylan, Chambers, Erika Tietjen, Rachel Tietjen, and Chloe Tietjen — to the band.
Family harmony is special, and two families of harmony are mind blowing. Lester was the original lead singer in The Chambers Brothers — he sang their hits “Time Has Come Today” and “People Get Ready” — and he sang two songs in the Oscar-winning documentary, Summer of Soul.
Some of our other players have also had distinguished careers in music. Our drummer, John Molo, came up with Bruce Hornsby & The Range, won a Grammy with them, and then played with John Fogerty, The Other Ones, and Phil Lesh & Friends.
Pete Sears played on Rod Stewart’s seminal albums, Every Picture Tells A Story and Gasoline Alley, before being a founding member of Jefferson Starship. He has also been a member of Hot Tuna, Zero and many other great bands.
Barry Sless played in Kingfish and David Nelson Band before Moonalice, and Phil Lesh & Friends and Bob Weir & Wolf Brothers since then.
Moonalice has been live streaming concerts since 2008. We have streamed about 1,000 concerts, out of roughly 1,150 total concerts played.
The band’s biggest single, “It’s 4:20 Somewhere,” has been downloaded 4.6 million times. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame has certified it as the song that has been downloaded the most from a band’s own website.
See more on Moonalice at Moonalice.com and check out all the music at the Oregon Country Fair at OregonCountryFair.org. Moonalice plays OCF 5:50 pm July 8 on the Hoarse Chorale stage and 4:15 pm July 9 on the Main Stage. The band normally streams their shows, but can’t due to a lack of bandwidth. KLCC will broadcast live from the Fair July 9 and 10 from 1 pm until close, so listen for Moonalice Saturday afternoon.