John Moremen is almost impossible to explain. A session-man, side-man, band leader and collaborator extraordinaire, the San Francisco musician has recorded with experimentalists Half Japanese and MX-80, backed legendary Flamin' Groovies front man Roy Loney, written with The Minus Five's Scott McCaughey and fronted his own bands. And that's alongside over a decade as a member of Bay Area popsters, The Orange Peels, first as their drummer and now as their lead guitarist. Yet none of that explains what he does on "Flotation Device," where he navigates surf, NRBQ-esque roots rock and Monk-like bop with a deft hand.
In the spring of 2011, Moremen started working on some instrumentals for fun, but over the course of a few months found himself completing over 20 songs. After each one was finished, Moremen would post them online as a work in progress.
"I was kind of going back to something I did when I was in my teens, where I would come up with these instrumentals and then as quickly as possible, sit down and record the drums, guitar and bass. The whole process from writing to recording was almost instantaneous," Moremen says. "It was a routine I had and it was a really fun thing for me and I wanted to tap into that again."
Soon friends and fellow musicians were asking whether he was actually making an album. Working with producer (and Orange Peels band mate) Allen Clapp, the two mixed, mastered and sequenced fifteen of the songs into "Flotation Device."
"John is too ridiculously talented. Everyone knows this," Clapp says. "Flotation Device is like what it must be like inside John's head: Thelonious Monk, Robert Fripp, Jimmy Page all hanging out on the San Francisco coast..."
Performing all the instrumental parts on this album, Moremen freely navigates between drums, bass and guitar while never losing sight of the end goal: songs that move, shake and rattle with palpable energy. From "Stay Inside," which refers to his theory about listening and learning music to "Outta Here," motivated by the homerun call of San Francisco Giants announcer Duane Kuiper, while "Skybar" is a little musical candy bar with its separate sections. Call it 21st century mood music; call it a West-Coast guitar freak-out; call it what you will —Moremen is entirely at home in the grooves of this album.
John Moremen's Flotation Device
with Chris Xefos-bass, Ian Robertson-guitar, Adam Symons-drums
Friday, June 8th @The Make Out Room
w/ The Hollyhocks
3325 22nd Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
@ 7:30 pm, 21+