Interview: Mad Moon Riot

Mad Moon Riot – it immediately draws to mind images of something a little crazy, a little wild. And that’s a name well-suited for the riff based, bluesy feeling rock and lead singer Mia Von Glitz’s Steven Tyler meets Shirley Manson feel. With songs like “Running on Empty” and “Knock At The Door” the vibe is a little mad – and a whole lot of fun.

Mad Moon RiotMMR has a bit of a convoluted “origin” story. Hailing from London, bass player Matt Hitchens and Drummer Ru Hazell have been friends since they were five. About a year ago they decided to ditch England and make the trek to Los Angeles, looking for greener pastures and perhaps a more accepting and varied music scene. “We came here with 19 instrumentals recorded and mixed, me and [Matt], mixed and mastered,” says Hazell. “I did all the drums, he did all the bass, we shared the guitars. And we just scrapped all the vocal and we just sort of wrote them when we were out here.”

They brought Von Glitz – a recent New York City transplant – on board after meeting in a coffee shop in November 2012. In February, MMR found its final piece –  guitarist Pou Piam, the only Southern California native in the group. A month later they released their first EP, Make Me, on Bandcamp to a stellar reception. According to Hitchens, “We haven’t had any negativity, it’s surprising.”

So back to that great name.  Where does Mad Moon Riot come from? “There’s no great answer to that,” quips Von Glitz. Originally, Hitchens and Hazell were calling the group Tobinhouse, after a history teacher they had in grade school. You know, kind of like Lynyrd Skynyrd did, only apparently no one thought it was funny. So they played around with words a bit. Originally they were going to use the word Moonshine, Von Glitz liked the word Mad, and in the end, Mad Moon Riot was the first name that “didn’t sound awful.”

Mad Moon Riot - Matt HitchensWatching MMR interact, it’s hard to believe they’ve only been together a short time. With their inside jokes, and spontaneously breaking out into song, they have the kind of great chemistry – both onstage and off – that you just can’t manufacture. And the band agrees, it’s one of the things that makes them special. “We have a good vibe socially with the band,” says Hazell. “We’ve already been on three or four holidays together.”

That bond is clearly a driving factor in the energy the group exudes, and they all bring their own unique brand to the group. “All different elements come together,” says Von Glitz. “We have hard ass rock and roll drums, and then we have funky ass bass lines, and then we have driving Pou – ” (Piam quips, “Pou’s a great driver even though he’s Asian.”) “ – we all have our own individual strengths and then all together it just makes an interesting sandwich.”

“We all have similar musical tastes, but when it comes to us as players, we all bring different things,” says Piam.

As MMR bonds and grows musically, Von Glitz and Piam are adding their own unique sound to the group. No longer afraid to step on any toes, Von Glitz admits she’s added a verse here or there to some of the original tracks Hitchens and Hazell had written. And it’s the newer music that represents more of a collaboration between the group as a whole, with each piece evolving as they do.

“People who know the EP really well will notice there’s some changed lyrics here and there,” says Piam, “A couple different parts, different bass and guitar lines. The idea is to keep growing between now and when we release the album. Not that everything is going to necessarily be different, but things will grow the more we get to know each other as a band.”

Mad Moon Riot - Piam and Von GlitzWhen asked about the album, they firmly state there’s no definite date in mind. “We’re not even close,” says Piam, “Even a month would be too specific. But absolutely 2014.” Tracking on the album will begin in November, and the band are clearly excited about the producer they’ll be working with, though they won’t give a name just yet. The words “epic” and “awesome” are thrown out to describe the person, and it’s clear that whomever they are, it’s a name people may recognize.

While fans have to wait for that album, the elusive video for “Running on Empty” isn’t quite so far away. “It’s done,” says Von Glitz. “It’s been done, we’re waiting to debut it until everybody is really wet.” Hitchens adds that there are “a couple other things to go with it that we need to get finished up, and they should be finished up in the next week. So I think two weeks.” (Note: Interview was conducted on 11th September.)

When questioned about her role in such a male dominated industry, Von Glitz scoffs at the idea that being a female fronted band makes things more difficult for them. “I do think it’s unique, not a hard thing,” she says. Though she does add, “In rock and roll it’s hard to be a woman and have that rock and roll sound, which has been a challenge for me because I don’t have a natural rock and roll brewery voice, that came out when I met these guys.” Hazell and Hitchens vehemently disagree. “That’s the reason we got you in,” says Hitchens. “That’s exactly what you have.”

“If you look at bands like Queen Caveat and Dead Sara (two local bands), there’s female fronted rock bands but even there, those examples are pretty different from us,” says Piam. “We’re more riff rock and bluesy and funky, whereas they’re more like 70s throwback kinda stuff, and I think once we get going a little bit more we have and can continue to carve out a pretty strong edge for ourselves.”

Mad Moon Riot - Ru HazellHazell thinks again that sound is part of what makes them so unique. “I think also ‘cause we wanted to bring back riff rock, there’s a not a lot of riff bands out there. So we just have some unique riffs. And then with Mia’s rock and roll gravely sort of female Steven Tyler voice, I think it’s pretty unique.”

“I think that’s why we’re quite pleased we moved to LA,” says Hitchens. “It feels like there’s a bit of a gap ready. There are some good bands, but it’s not overrun with amazing bands, but it’s looking for it. We’re pretty pleased with it, there’s a gap to be taken advantage of.”

So what’s next? The album, clearly. And there’s another date already lined up opening for a band at The Viper Room on November 3rd.* The band seems pretty excited about the female fronted band they’re opening for, but can’t divulge the details yet. Once the album is released in 2014, there are hopes to tour – mostly local Southwest area shows (more of California, Arizona, and Nevada), the possibility of South by Southwest, and perhaps some dates in NYC because of Von Glitz’s roots there.

The group wanted to wrap up the interview with a shout out to the fans they’re so very grateful for. “Thank you to everybody who has been listening and keeping an open mind,” says Von Glitz, “And liking rock and roll, and something different, and being so supportive. Like for some reason people have just been so incredibly fucking loving toward us and that does not go unnoticed. We’ve tried to do these group participation things – incentives, t-shirt contests, and naming the album – because we’re just so overwhelmed by everything we’ve gotten from everybody that is paying attention that we just want to give everything. I would give my home, but not my bass collection.”

Piam adds, “We’re regular people. I am more than happy to grab a beer with anyone after the show.” Well, he’d rather a whisky sour, if he’s honest. “We like to keep in contact with people who support us.”

“Don’t be afraid to say hi,” says Von Glitz. “We do the opposite of bite, we lick. Well, except Pou. He bites.”

Mad Moon Riot

If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Mad Moon Riots 5 Song EP Make Me at BandCamp, where you can download the tracks for free.

*Anyone who purchased tickets for the show in April should contact the band to get those tickets transferred to this new date.


Reporter: Valerie Parker

Photographer: Matt Wheeler