This musician knows how to make a scene
Photo by Caleb Plowman
It’s the second night of the Cumulus Festival, a weekend showcase of Pacific Northwest “post-rock” held in venues across Seattle. The moody three-piece band Luna Moth is center stage. Its members are not singing. They don’t pump their fists in the air, either. Instead they build a wiry guitar riff, pulsing bass line and tribal beat into a rolling crescendo of fuzz and clang, pulling the crowd’s attention to the interior of a rock song turned inside out, rebuilt from scratch so the usual instruments sound exotic again. (The term post-rock refers to a genre of music in which long orchestral movements replace songs; there are frequent time signature changes, lots of shifting dynamics and often no vocals.)
Levi Fuller is the bassist for Luna Moth and was one of the principal organizers of the Cumulus Festival. A youthful thirty-two-year-old with short blond hair and a round head, like a skinny Peanuts character, he’s a restless creative soul, self-publisher and musical community organizer. He plays in three bands, edits and publishes a quarterly audiozine and helps run Jack Straw Productions.
I meet Fuller for beers at Baranof in Greenwood, where the greeting painted on the window reads “HOT BEER, LOUSY FOOD, BAD SERVICE, WELCOME.”
We talk about his vision of the current Seattle music scene.
“There is no one Seattle music scene,” he says, “there are all these little pockets, and I’m interested in all of them. Or almost all of them.”
The Fleet Foxes play on the jukebox, and Fuller smiles. “They’re great,” he says of the bestselling band, “but what about Crystal Skulls [a Fleet Foxes side project]; they’re great, too.” He has just come from his job as administrative coordinator at Jack Straw, a nonprofit recording studio and gallery space in the U-district. He’s got a Boston Red Sox scarf wrapped tightly around his neck (he’s a Somerville, Massachusetts, native), and he’s affable and polite to the stumbling bar patron who tries to sell him a hat (“It looks like it could fit your head,” the guy slurs).
Declining the hat, Fuller takes a sip of his beer. In half an hour, he has to head to rehearsal with the drummer and cellist who back his solo act, which comes from a much more traditional singer-songwriter tradition than Luna Moth, the band he’ll practice with later in the week after maybe putting in some time with his jug band (more on that later) and finishing up the latest issue of his audio magazine, Ball of Wax Quarterly (which celebrated the release of its fifteenth issue with a party at the Sunset Tavern in February).
“With Ball of Wax I can share new music I’ve come across that I like, regardless of genre,” Fuller explains, “and also regularly release new music that I make, either solo or with any of my bands. My solo stuff is more song based, and Luna Moth is more of a drony, wall-of-sound kind of stuff, but there is actually some overlap. And then the jug band, well, it’s a jug band.”
The Dexter Street Stompers is perhaps Fuller’s goofiest musical adventure — it’s the house band
(above) The Entourage: Levi Fuller poses with a mix of invaluable creative collaborators and bandmates.
Back row (from left): Gavin Gregory, James Nixon, Josh Engelhardt. Middle row: Casey Alexander, Emiko Blalock, Fuller. Front: Scott Bilstad.