Interview | FFS 5 with Moon and Bike

Moon and Bike produce instrumental treats. Boone and Michael, the men behind the project, first met in Oregon. There, they waxed eclecticism, showcasing a broad love and penchant for myriad musical stylings. Now, they create cinematic guitar music under their aforementioned stage moniker, influenced from the likes of Daniel Lanois and Peter Buck. While ‘Moon and Bike’ can easily be seen as an in-kind for their own real-life initials, their titular composition was first written in 1995. Subtle, heartfelt, and engaging, the tune strikes a balanced chord in showcasing what the duo is all about.

Following the release of their self-titled 2020 LP, Moon and Bike are already at work on their next endeavor, another LP set to be released this year. Ahead of its release, both Boone and Michael sat down with us to take part in our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ series.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to the present day?

BJ: I grew up in Eugene, OR, and my first memories of being involved with music were with my grandparents, who were both very musical. They used to live down the street from us, so when I was four or five years old, I would wander down to their house and we would listen to music and sing. My parents were always listening to music in our house also. I remember spending lots of time just diving into their vinyl collection, putting random albums on as a way to explore music. We also had a piano, which my brother and I got to dabble around with whenever we wanted. It was a great way to experiment with sound, texture, and melody without any structure.

I started piano lessons when I was about ten years old or so, but didn’t love it. My parents let me switch over to guitar and I took lessons from various teachers throughout middle school and high school. One defining moment for me was when I bought the amazing album, Aerial Boundaries by Michael Hedges. I always tended to compose my own stuff instead of learning songs, so when I heard this musician playing in his own unique way, I felt justified in my desire to compose my own songs in my own style.

MS:  I grew up all over California, one suburb after another, but mostly in the East Bay Area. I never gave a moment’s thought to playing music, even as a hobby, until I had an epiphany at 17. In early 1988, I grabbed my headphones and cassette player and walked 40 minutes to Wherehouse Music in Fremont, CA. I bought Sting’s Nothing Like The Sun, and before I had finished side B I decided I wanted to write original music. I bought a $25 acoustic just a few weeks later. 

I think the defining moment for the whole 30-plus years of playing music was really early on—and it’s that I didn’t quit. As a kid and young adult, I flitted from one grand idea to another, giving up as easily as dreaming big, and music was a struggle. For a long time it didn’t come naturally. I realized one day that I’d been playing for a couple of years, and it was still really hard, but that I remained devoted to it, playing for hours a day. 

As an artist, how do you define success?
At this point in my life, success to me is being able to share my musical creations with the rest of the world and make some type of living from it. It’s definitely my passion. Michael and I have always worked amazingly well together, and as you get older, you realize these types of relationships are rare, so to be able to revisit this creative experience with him by my side is truly wonderful. To get to work with someone who brings out the best in me and challenges me, and whose work truly moves me, that feels like a huge success.

MS: Even what Moon and Bike has accomplished so far feels like success to me. We’re both very proud of One, and, although people are just beginning to hear it, the response is overwhelmingly positive. If I can move someone the way that my favorite music moves me, then I’m on top of the world. That said, I would certainly like to make more money from music and quit my day job. 

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

BJ: I think the greatest struggle in business in general is finding ways to launch your product into the world without breaking the bank. If you truly believe you have something exceptional to offer, how do you most efficiently share it with people who will connect with it and want to engage with it? I’m a pretty impatient person, so when I have a vision and see how to achieve it, it’s hard to wait. I want to take all actions now and get it where I envision it, but the process of business takes patience, dedication, and hard work. If you want to be in it for the long haul then you need to take the time to do things right. That’s tough for me.

MS: Getting into it at all. I’m painfully shy. Boone’s playing inspires me to write better things than I ever have before, but he’s also my connection to actual human beings, and is a natural go-getter. Without him I’d just be someone making recordings on my computer and sharing them with my friends, or playing coffee shops a few times a year. 

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

BJ: I think it’s healthy for goals to be changing all of the time. For example, with this project, our first goal was to actually record the song Moon and Bike. We had written it in 1995 and had always talked about doing something with it. At the end of 2019, when we finally recorded it, we had achieved our first goal. We realized how much we enjoyed working together and we had both written a ton of material over the previous years and had developed our individual styles and sounds. We knew we wanted to do something more, so we committed to a full album, which became One. Soon after, we talked about our new goals, and at this point they are really limitless. We both have tons of songs written, we have scored music for visual works, and we want to be career musicians, making our incomes from music. Our plan is to keep recording albums, playing live when we can, and scoring music for bigger projects like movies. Sky’s the limit!

MS: I want to be able to keep writing, recording and, post-Covid, performing music indefinitely. We’re both approaching fifty and have families, so we’re not about to buy an old van and hit the road for two hundred shows a year, but if we can keep releasing music, do some mini tours and find our way back into soundtrack work, I think we’ll be very happy. 

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

BJ: For me, music just tends to always be there, ready to come out. I feel like I’m just a conduit, so almost any situation seems to bring about some type of musical creation. The best thing about this project, and any collaboration, is that I get to bounce my ideas off of Michael and visa-versa. Working in a vacuum gets old really quickly, so getting to talk about ideas and hear actual, musical responses to passages I’ve sent to him is amazingly energizing. I also get a lot of inspiration from just listening to birds– their whole world is so musical and they freely share it with all of us!

MS: I live in a busy, noisy and dirty part of Portland, and I spend too much time reading about our precarious political situation and the environment, so I try to spend my down time doing quiet restful things like birdwatching or going on little adventures with my wife and our dog. I write to express the peace and tranquillity that I’m looking for, but have a hard time finding, and then I hope others will feel the same when they hear it.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm