IMAGE: Jason Quigley
[WHIMSICAL POP STORYTELLING] Describing an artist’s songs as “all over the musical landscape” is one of the small clichés of music journalism—but for Andy Combs and the Moth, it’s not just apt, it’s literal. Combs’ songs are a landscape.
“It’s like the Enchanted Forest down near Salem,” the curly haired 25-year-old says, referring to the aging roadside theme park. “This is where cowboy stuff happens, and this is where the Olde English towne is, and this is a tunnel that takes you to some freaky lair next to the sea, where there’s a bunch of creatures.” But Combs’ world can be even weirder: Here’s a tower where a mad scientist builds men with tarantula legs (designed for winning footraces); there’s a mountain where the back-country folk hang murderers—and then hang their ghosts.
Even in a town with some damn outlandish songwriters, Andy Combs’ music—Ween-esque genre-bending eclectica meets Danny Elfman’s dark whimsy—stands out. So does his band. For a long time there was no “Moth,” just Combs trying to play his elaborately orchestrated songs by himself. But this spring the Moth became real—featuring members of Combs’ old group, Point Juncture, WA, ex-Thermals drummer Lorin Coleman and a host of others—complete with accordion, xylophone and, occasionally, bassoon. Not only does it finally do his complex compositions justice, it’s getting a lot more attention from fans and venues alike. “Since the band [formed], I haven’t tried to book a show,” he says. “We’ve been asked by Berbati’s and Mississippi Studios and Doug Fir.”
In Combs’ songwriting, the world-building ethos of J.R.R. Tolkien is just as influential as the spaghetti western scores of Ennio Morricone or the classic Looney Tunes soundtracks composed by Carl Stalling—all music that lends itself well to the songwriter’s twisted narratives. And while he thinks the conceptual worlds he works in are pretty apparent just from listening to the music, he’d like to make an actual physical representation—like a map of Enchanted Forest—for his songs someday. “Like, here is where the General Store is, and the Onion Farm.”
SEE IT: Andy Combs and the Moth play Jade Lounge on Wednesday, Nov. 26, with Grey Anne, and Backspace on Sunday, Nov. 30, with The Ugly Suit and Quail Lungs. $7. All ages.