Q&A: Local band Moogatu talks guitar duels and GW jazz

Interview by Hatchet reporter Kelsey Renz

Local band Moogatu is well known in Northern Virginia for its distinctive sound, an energizing mix of dueling guitars and improvisation. They take the stage at Bayou for the first time this Friday.

The Hatchet recently caught up with bass player and GW alumnus Brian Zupruk, as well as his bandmates Brian Raubacher, Chris Lee, Steve Jacyna and Brian Dodds, to hear about Moogatu’s risin

Courtesy of Moogatu.

g success and plans for the future.

Hatchet: The band’s name calls to mind Will Ferrell’s character “Mugatu” in Zoolander. Is this just a coincidence? How and why did you decide on “Moogatu?”

Zupruk: I just polled the band, and nobody is really sure if they’ve even heard of that movie. Is it available on Amazon Prime Streaming Video? We canceled our Netflix subscription a few months ago. As the newest member of the band, the story I’ve been told is that it came to our drummer Steve in a fever dream after contracting swine flu in the spring of 2010. He woke up with the name just burned into brain. He lobbied for weeks, and the guitarists finally relented and named the band Moogatu.

Hatchet: Your music has been described as “face-melting, wonky, progressive rock.” How would you describe your music to those who are listening in for the first time?

Lee: Guitar-driven progressive rock with an improvisational streak. We try to keep the music flowing through the entire set and focus on rapid transitions between songs with some funky jams thrown in to keep people moving.

Hatchet: Brian Raubacher and Chris, the band is known for your dueling lead guitars. What does this add to the music and performances?

Raubacher: (laughing) We just do that because we are greedy.  On a serious note though, it’s a throwback to the big guitar bands of yesteryear like the Allman Brothers Band, Iron Maiden, Television and Derek and the Dominos. All of our favorite bands that we grew up listening to were innovators on the guitar. We are just trying to do what we would want to listen to.

Lee: Live, it’s all about the interplay between the guitars. Sometimes we’re playing in unison, and sometimes it’s a battle between the two of us to see who can shred harder that night.

Zupruk: Also, the competition is definitely friendly but it gets pretty crazy. I’ve seen guitars played with beer bottles and lighters, guitars played behind heads, them playing each others’ guitars…. the shred-fest sometimes includes guest players, and our keyboard master Brian Dodds even gets into it with them.

Hatchet: Brian Zupruk, you graduated from GW in 2009. How did your experience as a Colonial impact your journey to Moogatu?

Zupruk: I have to tip my hat to the absolutely fantastic faculty that run GW’s jazz program. They taught me so, so much that I use at every practice, song-writing session and gig. Bass professor Herman Burney taught me that by far the most important thing for any bassist is just to listen (a valuable life lesson in general, I think), and I got hours of practice at the jazz department’s weekly open jams, which frequently play host to some phenomenal players.

Hatchet: You are known for playing all over Virginia and Maryland, but rarely in D.C.. What do you look forward to most about this Friday’s performance at Bayou?

Zupruk: Recently, D.C. has earned a reputation for having a weak music scene, despite its huge college-aged population, incredible history as a jazz and gogo mecca and plethora of fantastic venues. The Bayou is one of those venues – great vibe, great sound, tasty cajun food and drink. And if you pack the place, it feels like you’re playing at the 9:30 Club with how raucous the crowd gets.

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