Alternative folk band from Petaluma bends genres
A few months ago, when Cliff Eveland was looking for local talent to fill out the lineup for the 10th annual Petaluma Music Festival on Aug. 5, he noticed that a band called Miss Moonshine was scheduled to play at the Twin Oaks Tavern in Penngrove.
“When I run across a band I haven't heard of, I like to Google them,” said the longtime Petaluma High School music teacher and founder of the festival. “I found some videos of them on YouTube and was blown away by the quality of their music.”
Eveland contacted Cody Martin, leader of Miss Moonshine, and told him he wanted the band to play at the festival.
What Eveland didn't realize at the time was that Martin is also a music teacher at two local elementary schools. A few weeks later, Martin came to substitute for one of Eveland's own music classes at Petaluma High School.
“I met him while I was leaving for my appointment and I said, ‘Aren't you Cody with Miss Moonshine?' It was kind of neat,” said Eveland.
“I'm beyond thrilled that we were asked to play at the festival,” Martin said of the event that raises money for music in local public schools. “It's fantastic that we have an opportunity to give back to schools.”
Miss Moonshine may not be as well-known as other local bands, but they have been gradually building a following since forming two years ago. They have played at Petaluma venues such as the Big Easy, Aqus Café, the Roaring Donkey, the Mystic Theatre and last month's Rivertown Revival.
Members of the seven-piece alternative-folk band met at Sonoma State University, where they all were majoring in either jazz or classical music. Their eclectic instrumentation includes accordion, trumpet, mandolin, guitar, bass and percussion.
“It all started when I was a classical guitar major,” said Martin, a songwriter who plays guitar and sings lead vocals in the band. “I really missed the aspect of playing with other musicians.”
He became “obsessed” with the guitar while going to high school in Concord, and played in a Led Zeppelin cover band. By the time he decided to pursue music studies at SSU, he had “fallen in love” with the classical guitar, even though he didn't read music.
Inspired by the soundtrack to the movie “Little Miss Sunshine” (primarily by the band DeVotchKa), Martin decided to start a band. The title of the movie was also the inspiration for the name of his band.
“I reached out to people I knew who were good musicians, better than me, and I asked them if they were interested in this project,” he said. “It started with us getting together to play some tunes, then we began playing shows and then recorded a CD.” The self-titled album, featuring 12 of Martin's original songs, was completed a year ago. Digital downloads are available on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon.com.
Miss Moonshine features a lot of three-part harmony.
“We do a lot of arranging,” Martin said. “People seem to be attracted to a big sound, and seeing seven people on a stage playing instruments that don't typically go together. When we started, I came in with the chords and lyrics to the songs I had written. There was some collaboration in the group, but now we're collaborating more.”
Vocalists Sarah Ruhnke and mandolinist-vocalist Kenny Campbell did all of the arranging for the harmony for the band's recording session. Other band members are Zachary Hall (trumpet), Joshua Harnden (drums), Joel Renteria (bass) and Nate Dittle (accordion and keyboards).
“One of the jokes in the band is, ‘What is our genre?'” Martin said. “The jazz majors put their spin on some of the songs. ‘You and I' is a jazz ballad. ‘In Blue' is an in-your-face folk song “One of the things I like about our group is that we're able to change genres.”
In addition to Martin's original tunes, Miss Moonshine mixes in covers of other songs. Their YouTube videos include tunes such as “Proud Mary,” “Can't Take my Eyes off of You,” and “Thinking out Loud.”
What's in the future for the band?
“Our hopes are to continue trying to get our name out in the community and build a fan base,” Martin said. “We have some new songs and we want to release a new CD or EP.”
On Saturday, the band will be playing from 1 to 2 p.m. on the Petaluma Stage at the festival, held at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds.
For more information, visit www.missmoonshineband.com.
(Chris Samson is the former editor of the Argus-Courier. Contact him at email@example.com.)