Two years ago, local quartet Moonless Moth were the epitome of a young amateur rock band, anxious to play out anywhere they could, and tracking rough song ideas into any tape machine or recording device they could secure.
In those days, lead singer and guitarist David Adams, 22, told City Paper he believed that "no one wants to support any band until they've proven themselves ... we're still in the process of proving that we're here to stay in the Charleston scene." With the recent completion of a confident, guitar-heavy studio album — the band's first proper CD release, due this week — the Moth look and sound less like long-haired rookies and more like seasoned rock careerists with little to prove.
"After playing for five years, we're really proud and excited to put something out that's real and substantial," says Adams today. "If we quit completely this month, we'll still have something here to be proud of. I'm already looking forward to recording the next one!"
Moonless Moth's story begins in North Charleston, where Adams and bassist Chris Yaun started jamming together while in high school. By 2001, they had enlisted drummer Dominic Stabile and guitarist Dustin Karst and started compiling a hard-rock setlist and writing original tunes.
They put almost everything they had earned from gigs and spent several months in and out of Mantis Records — between last February through the fall — recording with local engineer Mitchell Webb at his facilities in West Ashley and upper Spruill Avenue. The end result was a 10-song disc titled The Beauty in the Flaw.
"We actually recorded all of the tracks on this album with our original guitarist Dustin," says Adams. "We let him go right after we finished recording it. It was just difference in directions. I think we all knew that he wasn't quite as into it all. We're all still good friends — we played together for five years and we still love the guy. But we felt like we were dragging him into doing something he wasn't totally into."
Over the last few months, they've worked in a new guitarist — Brandon Parrish — and performed varied sets of old and new material in and around town at clubs, parties, and benefit gigs. According to Adams, the new lineup is staying on track and keeping an open approach.
"We knew Brandon when we were coming up in middle school and way back," he says. "We've known him forever. He's been a friend of the band the whole time. He's really into it — and gets really into on stage. His style isn't quite as polished, but his enthusiasm more than makes up for that."
Sonically and conceptually, the group's early recordings were pretty rough around the edges, but kicked out the grunge, metal, and acid-rock influences. Somewhere between 2005 and this fall, they settled into some strong musical chemistry; they found their sound, polished their arrangement, and produced an impressive collection of impassioned rock songs and anthems that demonstrates a technical proficiency far beyond their previous efforts.
"Right now, I feel like we're in a completely different direction than our early songs," says Adams. "We keep on growing. We're kind of getting back to the roots while our skills improve. I don't really know what direction we'll be headed this year, but I think it will probably be more polished ... sort of a smoother, modern alternative rock style."