My pal Jamie sings and plays bass in The Moanin Dove. He also plays bass in almost every other good band in San Francisco. And I don’t mean just wimpy regular bass that anyone can play (I can’t), but the super-manly upright bass. That’s basically (BASSically!) the largest instrument you can play. Ok, fine, really that would be the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Virginia, but the upright bass is the biggest “I’m in a cool band” instrument you can play, so it’s still pretty impressive. It’s even impressive when Jamie plays the wussy normal bass. Basssssssssssss.
The Moanin Dove is having their record release show this Thursday, July 7th, at Bottom of the Hill. I caught up with Jamie to talk SF, music, movies, the golden era of 1985, and, as usual, money money money.
My name is James Riotto and I play bass and sing in The Moanin Dove.
Describe your sound in five words (or less).
Electric swamp lounge music.
Tell us about your band name.
We stole our name from one of our favorite bars in rural Western MA. We were on our way to California and we still didn’t have a name, so we settled on that cause we figured no one would realize where it came from. I guess I just let the proverbial cat out of the bag.
Favorite thing about San Francisco?
This city is so amazing! The incredible food is definitely at the top of the list. Also the fact that I can go ten miles in any direction and find some amazing hiking. Oh, and Golden Gate Park.
Favorite SF restaurant?
Shalomar, El Metate.
Favorite SF bar?
I truly love beer, but I don’t often go out to bars at this point. I’d rather get a bottle of Lagunitas IPA and hang in Alamo Square Park with some friends.
How do you prepare for a big show? What will you be doing the night before?
I usually have one last rehearsal so we can run through the whole set and work out any kinks. Then I go home and read.
What can people expect at your shows?
It’s pretty important to me that our shows are different every time. We work with so many amazing musicians in other projects, so there are often guests sharing the stage with us. Also, we all come from a kind of free improvisation background, so we definitely like to stretch out a bit when we perform live.
What do you do during downtime on tour?
Every time I leave for tour, I tell myself that I am going to be productive with all the down time on the road. I always start really well, but at a certain point I realize that it’s just more fun to hang out and act like a 15 year old with my bandmates than it is to write music or practice. I do try to read a lot, for sure.
What’s next for the band? (i.e. plug your next show!)
We actually have our EP release show coming up at Bottom of the Hill on July 7th. I set up a really amazing bill with Beep! and Audio Out Send supporting us, and I’m super excited about it. We’ll be releasing our brand new EP, Broken Light Parade. Also, we’re backing up our friend, Mohsen Namjoo, at Herbst Theater on July 1st. He is an absolutely incredible musician from Iran, and we’re stoked to play another show with him. We’ll be making a record together in October.
Three things you’d take to a desert island?
I’m gonna have to pass on this. I just can’t ever imagine myself being stranded on a desert island. I mean, I know that’s not the point of your question, but I’ve just got nothing here.
What movie can you watch over and over and never get sick of?
Back to the Future, Spaceballs, Indiana Jones. I think I’m stuck in 1985.
Favorite season or time of year (and why)?
Autumn in New England is incredible. I’ll never stop missing it.
Three things that are in your fridge right now?
Eggs, Almond Milk, Strawberries. I pretty much eat breakfast food whenever possible.
Anything in your sock drawer besides socks?
I have a pair of new shoelaces that have been in my drawer for about five years. I’m never going to use them, but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty, i.e. money:
It’s very difficult to be a musician in San Francisco. I work as a recording engineer at Tiny Telephone, and I also play as a session musician on a lot of other people’s records. I’m just getting to a point where I can live a very modest life doing what I love. I guess I’m just going to keep that ball rolling for as long as I can.
Have any tips for aspiring musicians trying to make it on their craft?
The only thing you can do is work ridiculously hard. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ll let you know the secret once I’ve learned it myself!
Best money saving tip in general?
Where do you live now and what are some good cheap/fun things to do in that area?
I live right around the corner from the Full House house on Alamo Square Park. I think the best thing to do is hang out in Golden Gate Park. It’s so huge, and there’s just so much to explore there.
What do you refuse to spend money on?
Sex. I’ll spend it on the pursuit of sex, but not on sex itself. I hope that makes sense.
What is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought and how did that feel?
My upright bass. It’s a hundred year old Bohemian bass and it’s really beautiful. I’m so glad that I bought it.
What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten?
$1.50 tacos at Vallarta. You just can’t beat that.
What is your favorite free thing to do?
Hiking. I’ll never tire of the incredible hiking in the Bay Area.
If you woke up a millionaire, what’s the first thing you’d buy?
The homemade corned beef hash at Aunt Mary’s Cafe in Oakland. Seriously, it’s that good.
What’s one GOOD thing about not having a ton of money?
None of my friends have a ton of money, and there’s a certain amount of camaraderie to that. We’re all in this together.
Any last words?
Please come out to the Bottom of the Hill on July 7th! It’s going to be a really special show.
*photos by Joshua Uziel, via Facebook