At initial glance, Jeff Pearce doesn't seem to have aged much since ten years ago, when he first broke onto the scene as the bassist of alt.rock band Moist. But there's a sense of wisdom and maturity underneath the still-youthful looks -the kind that can only be gained through experience in the music scene. And now, four years after Moist's self-imposed hiatus, Pearce - while playing bass for Moist frontman David Usher's solo touring - has found a new outlet for his accumulated creativity: his new band Rye, which released their debut album 'Wolves' on MapleMusic last June. And though Pearce has been working on Rye in his spare time since 2002, it's not just his individual project anymore - Rye has become as much of a collective as Moist once was.
"Rye is definitely a band. It feels like a band," Pearce comments over brunch at 7 West Caf». "They're all very creative guys, great people and great musicians. I have faith in how well they all play, and their musical ideas."
And though the members of Rye are all busy with their individual solo projects (guitarist Sean Kelly fronts Crash Kelly - for which Pearce also plays bass - and drummer Steve Nunnaro plays in local band Thunderhawk), Pearce assures with a laugh that, "This is the steady band. There aren't going to be any comings and goings in the lineup because no one wants to leave."
Inspired by the Pixies, the Replacements and REM, Rye is a melodic rock band in every sense of the phrase, though Pearce is reluctant to define it as one sort of genre. True enough, the album spans from the light-hearted "Empires" to the balls-out rawk of "Radio One" and back again. When asked if fans of Moist's rock music will enjoy Rye, Pearce nods and replies, "I think so. Moist was a collective, but our individual influences always surfaced in the songs. Whereas David's thing was the singer-songwriter aspect, mine was more the altrock side of things. And that comes through in Rye's music."
But there's no doubting that Pearce successfully fills the singer-songerwriter slot in Rye. As the principal songwriter of the band, he speaks at length about the "intentionally scrambled" meanings in his lyrics, and alludes to the catharsis he finds in writing songs.
"It's like therapy for everybody," he says thoughtfully. "You have to confront a lot of things, and writing music is like that - you're putting something out there for people. I'm putting a part of myself out there for people to see, but at the same time, I don't want to get too personal. For example, "If It's True" is about a close friend of mine who died of a heroin overdose. But I don't want to overtly talk about it because that would be like airing my dirty laundry in public. Once you know the meanings behind the songs, you can see them when you listen, but it's important to make your own conceptions as well, because I want people to share in the process of creating the songs."
But what of Moist, a rock band beloved to thousands of fans in the late 90's? The official word being used is "hiatus," yet after so long - and three solo albums released by former frontman David Usher - there seem to be looming doubts that Moist will ever return. However, Pearce is quick to shoot down those rumours. "Hiatus is the truth. There is always a possibility for a new Moist record. Why would we have broken up? We all still work together, but the time just isn't right at the moment. There may still be a day when we all come together and decide to make the next Moist album, but that day's just not now. It's not a lie to say that we're on hiatus - we are not covering up a breakup. We're just all happier doing what we're doing now."
And it's hard to doubt that statement. Pearce is quite obviously pleased and proud with his accomplishments, both past and present, but Rye is his most personal pursuit thus far - and its music is quickly gaining momentum across the country. Perhaps the most illuminating statement comes when he describes the rather philosophical meaning behind Wolves' opening track, "Alcohol and Nicotine": "It's about me being myself...it's about no one being able to understand what it's like to be someone else. And that's not just me, but everyone." He pauses. "You go through life trying to be the best person you can be, and you do the right things, but it's only through creating something that you come to terms with yourself."
Writer: Caitlin Hotchkiss