The MoonlightersView In iTunes
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Despite their core members' noise-rock pedigree, the Moonlighters were something of an anomaly on the New York music scene: a group dedicated primarily to vintage Hawaiian music, played with respect but also a sense of fun, not unlike the Squirrel Nut Zippers' approach to small-group hot jazz. In fact, the Moonlighters shared the Zippers' affection for ‘20s and ‘30s hot jazz, as well as Tin Pan Alley pop from the same era, which made for a nicely varied repertoire. The Moonlighters were formed in 1996 by Henry Bogdan, who was on the verge of wrapping up his stint as the bassist for alt-metal noise merchants Helmet. In the meantime, Bogdan had developed an incongruous love of Hawaiian music, and taken up the Hawaiian steel guitar. Bogdan happened to meet up with Bliss Blood, former lead singer of the Houston-based goth/industrial/noise outfit the Pain Teens. Blood had moved to New York when the Pain Teens called it quits in 1995, and in the meantime had developed her own incongruous interest in playing the ukulele (she eventually picked up the singing saw as well). The teaming was a natural one, and the duo soon added jazz-trained bassist Andrew Hall, who'd performed with the likes of Kenny Drew Jr., Valery Pomonarev, and Wallace Roney, as well as indie-rockers Sparklehorse. Singer and baritone ukulele player Daria Klotz (formerly the bassist in God Is My Co-Pilot) completed the inaugural lineup, and the group made its live debut in New York in 1998. They gradually became a word-of-mouth local hit, thanks in part to a year-long residency at Tramps Cafe, and set up their own Onliest label to release their debut album Dreamland in 2000, which mixed covers and originals. Klotz subsequently left the band and was replaced by singer/guitarist Carla Murray. The Moonlighters played the CMJ and South by Southwest festivals in 2001, as well as the Floating Jazz Festival on the Queen Elizabeth II, which earned them praise in Down Beat magazine. In early 2002, they issued their second album Hello Heartstring, and supported it with a month-long tour of Germany featuring guest trombonist Michael Arenella. While there, they recorded a live radio broadcast that was released in 2004 as their third album, Live in Baden-Baden. Founder Bogdan left the band in the meantime, and was replaced by steel guitarist Bob Hoffnar, who'd recently worked with Hall on a Crash Test Dummies album. The group's next promotional gambit was an appearance on Food Network host Bobby Flay's cooking show.