Before DIY-friendly nostalgic fuzz became trendy enough to beget genre labels like “chillwave”, “glo-fi”, and “s**tgaze”, people simply worked around the term “lo-fi”. One of the lo-fi-DIY scene’s most exemplary musicians of recent times is Ariel Pink, who had recorded hundreds of fogged out songs onto cassettes and self-released CD-Rs long before his aptly-named 2010 breakthrough, Before Today. However without archetypal outsider legends like R. Stevie Moore (Pink’s friend and mentor), neither the ‘bedroom’ music scene nor its progeny would exist as they do today. This Thursday, after over 50 years of making music, Moore will be gracing the Vera Project stage for his first tour ever.
Since the dawn of music, there have been outsiders. Simply put, outsider musicians are artists who ignore mainstream standards and training, opting to play and release music on their own terms. The outsider realm has an inherent DIY basis, but differs from general DIY music in its wide-ranging uniqueness. As Irwin Chusid, curator of the fantastic Songs In The Key Of Z compendium, puts it, “the Outsider represents greater creative purity, something closer to a natural state.” Though most outsider musicians tend to remain cult underground figures, some who have found major mainstream recognition include Captain Beefheart, Syd Barrett, The Residents, and Daniel Johnston. Though perhaps not the most famous outsider musician around (yet), with several hundred self-released albums under his wing, R. Stevie Moore is undoubtedly one of the most prolific.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Moore grew up in a musically rich environment. His father was one of Elvis Presley‘s session bassists and gave RSM his first glimpse of musical fame at the age of 9, singing with country superstar Jim Reeves on “But You Love Me, Daddy”. Moore went on to learn the keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums and formed his first band, The Marlborough, at age 15. After spending several years playing with friends and recording songs at home, he released his solo debut, Phonography, in 1976. The album’s critical success eventually led Moore to New Jersey, where he continued to record music and spent a number of years as an early radio personality for the esteemed independent station WFMU. In the decades to come, RSM’s relentless output would lead him to establish his foundational Cassette Club (later: CDR Club) and collaborate with numerous other musicians, including Jad Fair (of Half Japanese), MGMT, and most notably, Ariel Pink.
Moore’s vast catalog defies genrefication in its diversity—ranging from simple and catchy to bizarre and experimental—and the extent of his influence is nigh impossible to peg (or summarize in an article, for that matter). Last year, Sick of the Radio began an ongoing series of R. Stevie Moore tribute albums which call for submissions from any musicians who have been influenced by him. The series has already reached its fifth volume, with over 100 contributions thus far.
Marking the release of his latest album, Advanced, RSM has finally embarked on his first tour with the help of Brooklyn’s Tropical Ooze. There’s no telling when (or if) he’ll emerge again from his home studio for another expedition, so catch this living legend at The Vera on Thursday to start September off right!