Moondoggies frontman Kevin Murphy lives in a house in Seattle with a pool in the back and a speakeasy in his garage. The speakeasy is adorned with the sort of distinctly masculine flotsam you’d expect to find in someone’s garage: retro advertisements, string lights that look like footballs, leopard-print handcuffs, and, of course, retro beer signs. It’s also impossible to get to the bar without practically long-jumping over a couch and a coffee table crammed next to an old piano.
There’s a good reason for the clutter: Come October, Murphy will move out of this house and into his parents’ home in Everett. For most young adults, moving back in with the folks is a last resort born of dire economic circumstances. But in Murphy’s case, the change is actually a positive one: With so much touring in the Moondoggies’ imminent future, paying rent on a house with a pool and a speakeasy in the garage doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Tidelands, the Moondoggies’ second full-length and the impetus for the band’s upcoming national and European tours, comes out October 12. In many ways, the band and its label—the Sub Pop imprint Hardly Art—are using the release as a national coming-out event. Don’t Be a Stranger, the Moondoggies’ Hardly Art debut, undoubtedly made them one of the most popular bands in town, among the few who can pack bellwether venues like Neumos and the Tractor. But their popularity wanes considerably outside western Washington. Hence, the band hired proper management (Red Light, which also represents Phish and Tim McGraw), and the label brought in an outside publicity firm (Press Here, the folks behind the White Stripes and Grizzly Bear) to enhance the Moondoggies’ national image.
Tidelands is a more ambitious record than Stranger, both sonically and thematically; it has a sense of flow enhanced by tricks like beginning and ending songs in the same key and running all the keyboard parts through a Leslie amplifier. Unlike Stranger, which was cobbled together from pre-existing songs, Tidelands was constructed with deliberate care, a bona fide album in an era of singles.
“When we made the first record, we knew that Hardly Art was going to put it out, but we didn’t know if they’d like it or if we’d have another opportunity [to make an album],” Murphy says. “This time, we knew that some people liked it and we could put our attention into crafting a record rather than just, like, tracking it and throwing it out there. So there was more of a conscious effort.”
The result is a classic rock-and-roll album which takes an extra listen or two to really absorb; most of Tidelands does not achieve the instant appeal of songs like Stranger‘s “Changing” and “Bogachiel Rain Blues.” There’s more to chew on, musically as well as lyrically. Murphy has made substantial progress as a songwriter, and the emotional themes of isolation and frustration that pervade the album come through in the instrumentals as much as the lyrics.
“I feel that this [album] actually represents us as a band more [than Stranger], if you had to compare the two albums,” says keyboardist Caleb Quick. “From beginning to end, I feel like it has all the parts of us, whereas maybe the first album [was] just the best tracks to fit into that album.”