If you’re a moe. fan you’re all too familiar with this quandary: Chuck’s side or Al’s side?
But if you’re a fan of high-caliber guitar work you know that Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier are a matched pair: Their distinct and differing playing styles are actually the whole point.
And these guys can flat-out play.
(photo courtesy of moe.org)
Garvey once told an interviewer that Frank Zappa was the one influence that most of the band had in common. The rest is a pretty eclectic mix drawn from everything from Eddie Van Halen to American folk music. The result is an often unpredictable catalog of music that draws largely on the two guitar players who anchor moe.
“I was a big fan of Eddie Van Halen, but I never really aspired to play like that,” Garvey told Modern Guitars Magazine in a 2007 interview. “To tell you the truth, Duane Allman isn’t really a huge influence; although the songwriting of the Allman Brothers is. Duane wasn’t that big of an influence on me. I appreciate it, but I guess that’s just someone else’s interpretation. They kind of see those parallels.”
Garvey was one of the band’s founders, first playing at a Halloween jam session in 1989 with future bandmates Rob Derhak and Ray Schwartz. That session evolved into moe., which went through a variety of name changes before the band settled on the name.
Schnier was playing elsewhere when he heard the band, and later said he moved to Buffalo to hear more. In 1991 he got to sit in with moe., filling in for guitar player Dave Kessler. Schnier officially joined that band about a year later.
When Kessler quit the band later in the year, the now-legendary Chuck & Al tandem was set in place, and remains one of the band’s draws to this day.
“It’s such a diverse group,” Schnier told Modern Guitars Magazine. “Within the jam band context, you have bluegrass bands, rock bands, and you have various kinds of hippy bands. You have bands geared to electronic music; you have some that are more prog rock than others. Of all of the jam bands, we’re probably one of the more straight ahead rock bands.”
The dilemma, of course, remains in place at the band’s live shows: Chuck’s side or Al’s side. Maybe it’s best to just sit in the middle. I mean, who can choose?
(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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