Band Profile : Moonbox

Olivia Hendricks

What is Moonbox? Good question. Even some of the band’s founders, Lawrence students Carolyn Armstrong and Jake Crowe, responded with laughter when asked to describe their band’s genre. Armstrong finally explained, “Jazz rock sounds really dumb. So we try not to label it. I guess we’re instrumental rock … world music? We’re influenced a lot by rock and jazz, though so … razz?”
With instrumentation including cello, acoustic guitar, percussion, electric guitar and fretless bass guitar, it is no wonder that Moonbox’s sound is hard to define.
Moreover, a trip to the band’s Web page at reveals the band’s love of experimentation. One of the songs on the featured playlist, “Winds of Woad,” goes beyond jazz or rock and sounds like an Irish fiddle tune — only the fiddle is a cello. Crowe, who writes the majority of the tracks, said he’s currently working on a song that has a ’90s feel to it.
Looking at how the band got its start, maybe it’s not so surprising that Moonbox produces such versatile and unique sounds. During the time Armstrong and Crowe went to high school together, they visited Scotland. Out of the back of a van, they heard what Armstrong called, “A sound we never heard before. We bought CDs and dug it right away.”
The group was a Hungarian band called Puncs, made up of violin, guitar, bass and drums. Later, in music class back in the U.S., Armstrong and Crowe were assigned to create an ensemble with people in the class. With Armstrong on cello and Crowe taking up acoustic guitar despite his usual specialty as a saxophonist, the two decided to get together and model their band after Puncs.
That was four years ago. The members of the group have changed slightly over time, which Armstrong and Crowe also cited as influencing the band’s sound. Earlier, the group had a conga player. Now, Crowe’s younger brother Ryley plays percussion, but rather than congas he plays a full drum set, shifting the band’s sound into more of a rock feel.
As far as gigs, Moonbox’s uniqueness can be both a blessing and a curse. They play everywhere from Harmony Caf*****accent e**** and Brewed Awakenings, to churches, to yacht clubs and charity picnics. Said Armstrong, “We go wherever we’re asked to go. We’re very versatile, so at yacht clubs we play more background music. We’ll switch people out — maybe just Jake and I will play. That’s one of the cool things about the group.”
At the same time, however, Armstrong adds it can be hard to find the ideal venue to connect with the audience. “We can’t play in bar areas because our percussionist is underage. But we’re too loud for most coffee shops. We’re still trying to find the right scene.”
Trying new venues is one of the many goals Moonbox has for the rest of the year. Over the next month, more new tracks will be coming out. Looking further ahead, the band might go to a studio this summer to do a demo with better recording devices than what they have been using. Crowe is hoping he will have written enough material to put together a new album by that time.
So when versatility is the key to the band’s success, in three words, how could Moonbox possibly describe itself? “Fun. I think we’re fun,” said Armstrong. “Original — because there’s not another band like us,” Crowe said. “And passionate. A lot of people comment that we all feel the music,” Armstrong said.
Ultimately, perhaps that’s the best way to sum up Moonbox: an original band driven simply by the music.