Moon Tooth was never your typical metal band. They always crafted interesting and authentic songs layered with alt, rock, folk and ambient vibes. The bones of the band, guitarist Nick Lee and drummer Ray Marte were just two young metalheads at the same Middle School and immediately came together to brew a sound that would later become the full lineup of Moon Tooth, but they didn’t want to confine themselves to just metal.
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Joining later was bassist Vincent Romanelli and vocalist John Carbone, who didn’t necessarily get as much immersion in metal like Lee and Marte. Carbone was more influenced by R&B, which lent to their versatility as a band and on their upcoming EP, Violent Grief: Acoustic Selections, out July 31 via Pure Noise Records.
The 5-song EP includes 4 new renditions of tracks from their 2019 full-length Crux, plus one new song, “Six of Swords.” In Moon Tooth style, they took some of their heaviest songs off Crux, like “Trust” and “Awe At All Angles,” and reconceptualized them acoustically, into intricate, finger-plucked songs.
“We thought it was an interesting chance to showcase some different strengths and challenge ourselves to rearrange things and make different versions to keep things exciting,” Carbone told American Songwriter. “And I have a feeling we’re going to get this a lot, but my mother who I was talking to the other day said ‘I heard that song, that acoustic song you did. It sounds so nice. You, I couldn’t believe how nice it sounds.’ And I was like ‘you’re saying that, cause it’s not heavy and loud.”’
As the acoustic tracks seem mom-approved and offer something more low-key and wide-ranging for Moon Tooth, they still presented their own challenges, even stripped-down. Transcribing things on the heavier songs especially, was difficult when it came to figuring out how to make the songs work that were originally written in different tunings that maybe didn’t exactly work well on an acoustic.
“The two songs ‘Through Ash’ and ‘Motionless in Sky’ definitely have more of a folk feel as far as the guitar playing goes and was easily lendable to an acoustic guitar.” Lee said. “The other two songs had to be adapted. ‘Awe At All Angles’ was fairly straightforward, but ‘Trust’ was kind of a big one where I got rid of the really low tuning on the guitar so it could work on acoustic. We changed the key and basically re-wrote it.”
The new track, “Six of Swords”, was written prior to the pandemic and quarantine and before Moon Tooth ever landed on the idea of revamping songs for an acoustic EP, but it was a natural selection for the track list. “Six of Swords” was demoed initially with just guitar and vocals and had a very repetitive structure across the verses, so it was easily suited for acoustic.
“Musically, it’s just more drone, finger picky and trippy,” Lee said. “I like trying to write more almost meditation music, where you can really get lost in the minimalist sort of repetitiveness of it. Only a few notes change from part to part.”
“Lyrically it has to do with a kind of devastating breakup that happened,” Carbone added. “And we took the line, ‘violent grief’ from the song as the title because there were these interchangeable ideas about grief and loss. And I had a day where I was at my wit’s end. And every now and again, I’ll flip a tarot card over and just kind of see what it says and see if there’s anything that triggers in my brain or any life lessons I can apply to myself. And it happened to be the six of swords. I looked at the meaning and it’s all about the idea of leaving trauma behind and moving forward and it spoke to everything the song was kind of about.”
Moon Tooth uses a shared approach in all of their songs and they consider everyone a co-writer. And usually it all starts off with an idea thrown into Google Drive by someone and then expanded from there. “It’s almost like if we were going to build a table and everybody happens to have one piece of the table, like, I got a leg, I got a platform, I got a drawer,” Carbone chuckled. “We all kind of come together and build it.”
Marte who also owns Westfall Recording Company in Long Island has also held a crucial role in getting the band’s music out there and filling in the spot as producer while also flip-flopping as drummer.
“I don’t think we would be talking to you right now if Ray wasn’t a producer,” Carbone said. “We’d probably be a few years behind from where we are now. Ray just does an amazing job of bouncing back and forth between a player and an unbiased producer and the music has really benefited from his ability to do that.”
The EP, was originally intended as an experimental fun project to promote Moon Tooth’s U.S. tour with Australian band Caligula’s Horse, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. And instead of serving as a promotion tool, the EP developed into a kind of fulfillment for Moon Tooth amid a crazy year for the world. But a year where Moon Tooth is able to stay busy during quarantine at Marte’s studio as they prepare ideas for livestreams and the next album which they have over 30 ideas in the barrel for and don’t have to question where they will record at.
“Everything that we do tends to push us as musicians and as people, to dig a little deeper. The EP definitely did that,” Lee said. “It ended up being a much more fulfilling than just a fun way to kind of fill in this album cycle until we are ready to record the next full length. It was so much more gratifying than that.”
Check out the new EP Violent Grief: Acoustic Selections today, available on all digital platforms and definitely peep some of Moon Tooth’s other heavier stuff on their webpage here.