By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: According to information on your MySpace page, Luna Blu got together to play for a one-time school reunion show, correct?
Nan: The reunion is what forced us to find a drummer and play out so soon, but it was my (Nan) intention from the start to form an ongoing working project.
DK: Can you tell me about the connection that each of you shares and how you all came across one another’s paths?
Nan: John & I met in 1992 at Second City. Bass-Jeff and I were in an acoustic quartet in ’95 and have worked together sporadically since then. We always wanted to do a project like this together. Guitar-Jeff and I had connections through the band Bottoms Up. John knew Dave from his (volunteer) work at Brookfield zoo.
DK: From that one-time show, how quickly (or how long) did it take before a longer term project was realized?
Nan: Once we started playing together we realized that we truly enjoyed what we were doing and just wanted to keep doing it.
DK: Does the name “Luna Blu” hold any personal significance to any (or all) of you?
Nan: Luna Blu was named after one of my guitars (Luna brand – Dragonfly flip iridescent model) and my dog Blu. I just liked the sound of it and we used to joke that it meant “Blue Moon – the frequency with which we played out” – but that has changed drastically since then.
DK: What would you say that it is that defines you individually as well as a band?
Nan: We love playing music and love who we play it with. Plain and simple. When it stops being fun then we’ll stop.
DK: On your official site, you have individual bio information written in a light-hearted way. Can you elaborate on each of your personal backgrounds?
Nan: I’ve been singing since I was very little (4) – no lessons. I’m self taught on the instruments I play as well, which at times proves to be problematic because when I’ve written something new I feel at a loss in that I don’t have the proper language with which to convey what I’ve done (like being in Moscow and not speaking Russian). I frequently use strange tunings and rarely know what the chords I’m playing are but the guys are good at translating my “grunts and clicks” into something they can comprehend. They’ll tell me the chord I’m playing is a “G sharp 7th sus” and I’ll just nod my head politely and go on from there.
I grew up right here on the NW side of Chicago. Youngest of 3 children in a watered-down Polish family.
My improv training at Second City not only comes in handy for life but is invaluable for jamming and appreciating the people you are onstage creating with. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to play with people I respect and who support each other so completely.
Dave: I’ve been playing since grade school. I studied at De Paul and privately with several excellent teachers – most notably the late Bobby Christian, who is a Percussive Arts Society Hall of Famer. Over the years I’ve played in a variety of musical settings including jazz groups, small combos, big bands, rock, folk, theatre pit bands, symphonic music, R&B, funk, and tuxedo “event” bands. Each of those different settings and experiences have influenced my style in some way. I dip into those styles when I work up drum parts for our material.
Jeff H.: OK…….Personal background. Born and raised in Chicago (S. side). Pathetically unremarkable childhood/teen years. Picked up the guitar late (17 or 18), took a few lessons here and there, but 99% self taught. Married, 2 teen boys, luckily have a wife that accepts the “band life”. I like music that is simple, from the heart and unpretentious. (Blues, Southern, etc). Slick, choreographed “Pop” acts make me want to puke.
John: I went to a Lutheran grade school and choir was pretty-much mandatory if you could sing the scale. I could. The senior choir had four voices and I loved the sound of the different harmonies playing against each other. I was bored with the soprano part so I always learned and sang all 3 of the other parts and probably drove the kids on either side of me nuts. I started playing guitar at the age of 13 and was mostly self-taught. I learned in what I still think is the best way – immersion. I joined up with 2 friends who had also just gotten instruments and we spent all day every day that first summer in the basement. We learned the songs from the records – I am blessed with a good ear. I played in bands through high school but stopped when a job and other interests got in the way. I always played by myself and longed to play out but never did anything about it. Then one day Nan told me she was putting a band together with Jeff Ashcraft. I asked if I could join and the rest has been an utter joy. We are so fortunate that we share the same goals and sense of humor and we have so much fun. Much of the fun comes from still learning all the time and loving the guitar.
Ray (Death) I started in music playing the cello in third grade and knew by seventh grade that music is what I wanted to do the rest of my life. I play all over the Chicagoland area and have performed with groups like the Floyd Wilson Quartet, Chicago Youth Symphony and the Chicago Civic Orchestra. I started playing bass in high School and this started an array of many different groups through the years such as Carousel Bash, Circus Maximus and Remedy, just to name a few. Then I joined a group called Delilah’s Eye and this is where I met Nan. We vowed one day to make this project together and as years went by we finally did, making Luna Blu. I love playing with Luna and performing music in general. I consider myself the luckiest person alive to be able to perform and live my life through music.
DK: What were some previous projects that each of you worked on prior to Luna Blu?
Nan: Bass Jeff and I were in “Tertian Jam” (renamed later “Delilah’s Eye”). I was also in a band called Holly Has A Farm”. Briefly co-wrote some music with Lauretta Tagli of the “Pow-Wows” (I think we called ourselves “Monsoon Tuesday”). Briefly filled in as co-lead vocalist with Bottoms Up. That’s all I can remember…
Jeff H.: Previous projects…..Bottom’s Up, Recall (the best basement band ever) and Route 66 (the best/only band in Harvard, IL)
DK: What are your goals within Luna Blu? What would you like to accomplish in this band?
Nan: Within the band the goal is to have fun and create some really good music. My personal goal is to be playing one of my songs and look out into the crowd and see someone (or a few people) who are not my friends or related to me singing my song back to me. Then I’ll know I’ll have “arrived”. Seriously though, it’s enough just to have a few people come up to us after a show and tell us that they’ve really enjoyed us. In fantasy-land I’d love to work with some of the artists that I truly respect and who have shaped who I am as an artist (Annie Lennox, Ani DiFranco, Colin Hay, John Mayer).
DK: What has each of you brought to Luna Blu that gives you your unique sound?
Nan: I think we all have really diverse influences and styles and it sometimes amazes me that we all blend so well together. My influences are all over the board but I tend towards the folksy singer-songwriter stuff. Bass Jeff is more metal/classical/goth-y. Guitar-Jeff is more straightforward classic rock and blues. John tends towards progressive rock and Dave just seems to me to be a “genre-‘ho” and can play anything. His versatility really serves us well and I think holds the whole lot together.
DK: How often to you get to practice as a band and individually?
Nan: We try to rehearse at least once a week (more intensely when we’re planning to record or working on some new original material). Personally I try to leave my guitar out so that’s it’s easier to just pick it up when the mood strikes.
DK: Since forming last year, how many original songs do you have under your belt?
Nan: We’ve got about 8 songs that are performance-ready;
Terminal Lack Of Responsibilty
Live InThe Moment
Fight The Lie
Leave The World (Jeff A.)
What Do You Care (Jeff A.)
We have a few more that are almost ready (Waiting For Time To Stop, Change Your Mind, The Long Way Home) and more in the works.
DK: Who are the songwriters of the band?
Nan: Myself and Bass-Jeff.
DK: Tell me a bit about some of your songs, like “Terminal” or “Leave the World Behind”?
Nan: I co-wrote “Terminal” with Andy Potts. He had written the music for another set of lyrics I had shown him. I didn’t feel the words and the music meshed but I did really like what he came up with musically so I decided to pen some new lyrics specifically for it. It was written with our “Idiot in Chief “in mind (can you tell I’m not a fan of Bush?!?) I’m really frustrated with the leadership (or lack thereof) of this country and even more so with the fact that the public isn’t holding anyone accountable. We got more worked up about a stained dress than an unjust war where thousands of lives are being lost and billions of dollars frittered away.
Jeff Ashcraft wrote Leave the World:
It is kind of self explanatory. It deals with leaving this cruel warped violent society in the worst possible way. I believe it is kind of a morbid idea but I always take one idea and run with it. There is nothing like a good tragedy to inspire the creative mind I always say.
DK: Do you have plans for an upcoming album or EP anytime soon?
Nan: We are working on an original demo right now but hopefully we’ll be able to work on recording a CD early next year.
DK: If so, do you have a name in mind for it yet?
Nan: I kinda like “Steve”… ;o) Not sure, we may need to wait so it can name itself. I like “Concoction”. We’ve joked about “ Luna Blu – I” or “The Blu Album”, “Kinda Blu”). Maybe “Freebird”? We inevitably get that yelled at us at least once every gig…
DK: Do you feel with digital music sales increasing, that EP’s are even worth spending money on anymore?
Nan: Yes, I think people still like to have something tangible. It’s also helpful at show to have something the crowd can walk away with if they’ve enjoyed your material.
DK: As far as shows are concerned, it seems you’ve got yourself lined up through the remainder of the year here. What are some of the other places you’ve played so far?
Nan: Arlington Park Party in the Park
Galvin’s Public House
US Beer Company
Time Out West
DK: What places would you like to see yourselves play?
Nan: Schuba’s, Martyr’s, Fitzgerald’s, Cubby Bear, Madison Square Garden, Wembley Stadium…
DK: It is good to aim high, right? What percentage of original to covers do you perform?
Nan: Covers: 73.5%
DK: So, what do you do for the half percentage points? Play half a song? (laughs) What are the responses to your original music?
Nan: We get really positive responses to our originals. The best compliment is when someone from the crowd comes up to tell you they enjoyed the original material before they mention the covers. That really means a lot.
DK: Do you think you’d be ready if out of state gigs were to come your way? (or have you played some already?
Nan: Haven’t played out of state but would be totally up for it!
DK: What do you like best about live shows?
Nan: When the crowd is really “present”. When they’re actively listening and responding – we feed off that energy like zombies feed off of brains!!!!
DK: Aside for the shows you’ve already got lined up through the end of the year, what else do you have lined up for the next 6 months?
Nan: We’d like to do a lot more festivals next year – hopefully Taste of Chicago. We’d like to break into the aforementioned venues as well.
DK: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers today?
Nan: GO OUT AND SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC!!!!
DK: I couldn’t agree more! Well, I’d like to thank you very much for your time today and I wish you the best of luck with your career!
Nan: Thanks Dennis for supporting the local music scene!!!
Luna Blu was formed in 2006 to play a 1-off school reunion. When we all got together though, we felt like we really had something. Five people with completely different backgrounds that genuinely like and respect each other makes for a unique sound and vibe that we all feel “at home” with.
To find out more about Luna Blu, please visit their official website at:www.lunabluband.com