Viking Moses
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Viking Moses

Band Folk


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"DiScover: Viking Moses"

Viking Moses is a man and a band – a man called Brendon Massei and a band called, well, Viking Moses. Where the line between Brendon and Viking lies, we’re not really certain, but the fact is that it matters not: the man’s music is as wonderful when played by one name as it is the other.

Although his MySpace page will tell you that Massei is from Missouri, he’s recently been residing in the Midlands of our own Great Britain. Which is particularly good for us, as he’s kindly making the trip down to London to play at tomorrow’s DiScover Club @ RoTa,’s semi-regular free afternoon of new music at Notting Hill Arts Club (run in conjunction with Rough Trade). He’ll play alongside Adam Gnade, Ape Has Killed Ape and The Monroe Transfer - full details of the show can be found here.

Viking Moses’ debut album proper, Crosses, was released in the UK earlier this year via Poptones; it received a series of rave reviews, such as this one here. Brendon kindly answered a few questions via e-mail; we’re calling the subsequent piece DiScover: Viking Moses. Hey, you’re reading it! Enjoy, and come on down tomorrow for some great times and brilliant music.

What do people mainly call you at shows – Brendon or Viking? Also, you’ve performed and recorded under a variety of pseudonyms, right? Care to run through some of those? Why pick ‘Viking Moses’?

I guess it would depend who's doing the calling... most friends call me by my given name. Viking Moses is a band name, although originally it seemed to be more of a title, or position, given by my friend Spencer Kingman, so you'll have to ask him where he came up with that one. If I had to be called by one of these names, I feel more partial to Moses. I feel more like Moses than a Viking, but what do we know of either, really?

How did you come to work with Poptones? Were they fans of the Crosses record already? Do you think your profile here, pre-official release of said record, was aided by the company you’ve previously kept – you’ve played with Cat Power and Will Oldham, right?

I could be totally wrong about this, but I think DJ Cherrystones came across some of my music, and passed it along to Poptones. At any rate, they wrote me in America with interest to release Crosses, which was already out in the States on Marriage Records. I've supported three shows of Will's in the Palace days, and two of Chan's, and as much as I admire them, and their work, which has, no denying, inspired me, I wouldn't say we've really ‘kept company’, or that we are even that close for that matter. There's no doubt that touring more extensively with other certain friends and artists that I've had the privilege to work with has brought on more attention, but I don't know if any of that really had much of anything to do with Poptones or any other labels wanting to work with me or release my music on an individual level. I would hope that it wouldn't.

Crosses is very focussed upon a central character, Emma. People have obviously come to their own conclusions as to who Emma is (I think it’s meant to be obvious, isn’t it?), but did you have any reservations at all about releasing a record that’s so tied to a certain stage of your life? Or do you see it as a diary entry of sorts, or a necessary act to close a ‘chapter’ of your past?

Haha, I guess people will always come to their own conclusions about most things, or at least be led to them in one way or another. I know who ‘Emma’ was, and anyone else may try to fill those shoes with whomever they see fit, but the idea wasn't so much to paint a picture of a woman as it was to offer tribute to an encounter, which was set not only by two selves, but by time, place, and weather. I am feeling more reserved now about releasing that story than before, as that encounter was so personal.

But the fact that the story is delivered as vaguely and simply as it is, as far as the time, place and weather are concerned, encourages me to share it with others, as they're simple thoughts, that most anyone, I reckon, can relate to. The writing of a few certain Crosses songs on their own, perhaps, dealt with or assisted that transition. But as a whole, releasing this story was in no way necessary to adjust to that change. I wouldn't have shared it had that chapter not been closed. To do otherwise would contradict the story itself, and would seek an attention I'm not after, a rather unhealthy attention that I deliberately steer myself from, and hope to encourage and inspire others in a more positive way to do the same, however they choose to occupy themselves and view the world around them. I have no aim to invalidate pain or emotions we express with suffering of any kind, but i feel it's important to also express life's other emotions to paint an honest picture of life's events. To respect and understand this balance in a realistic manner is my idea of doing the same for life itself, which I find so little in popular culture and media today - Drowned In Sound

"My Top Tips for 2007 by Alan McGee"

1. Viking Moses
The most uniquely talented American musician since Kurt Cobain. He played down my club Death Disco in November and it was the best gig anybody has played there since we started - and that includes The Hives, The Libertines, The Killers, Kasabian, Razorlight and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Brendon is an absolute genius, and one of the best musicians I have ever released. - Guardian

"Viking Moses!"

Gary Corrin recommends the 'bohemian electro folk" of Viking Moses!

Firstly, let’s note that Viking Moses is not new to the music scene; in fact he has been around since 1996 under a plethora of different names gigging continuously with the likes of Will Oldham, Cat Power, Songs Ohia and Devandra Banhart in the states where he hails from.

The man behind the name is Brendon Massei, a Missouri born bohemian electro folk musician currently residing in the Midlands in England where he being cited as the most talented American performer since Kurt Cobain - high praise indeed for a man most people have heard little about.

His newest release Crosses under his current moniker has been available since late 2006 and has been accredited with very little commercial acclaim despite being released on Poptones under Alan McGee’s Creation Management. The Album is simple yet sublime, melodic yet stirring, acoustically brilliant and written in an almost childlike manner with lyrics such as “last night I found a kids head on my bike” insists that it’s not to be taken too seriously.

Massei has been likened to Nick Cave with a similar deep and hollowly vocal sound, although he is incredibly difficult to pin down in terms of a definitive sound.

His casual attitude is nothing short of remarkable and he is clearly not an artist who is in it to make fame and fortune - in fact when on tour, fans are never sure if he will turn up with a band or play solo during a set as most of the people he plays with have other commitments he doesn’t expect them to cancel to play with him. Even more astonishing is his he rarely takes more money than his travel expenses. - Artrocker Magazine

"Viking Moses"

Fans of folk music like Devendra Banhart and Sufjan Stevens take notice, Viking Moses might be your ears new best friend. The man behind the Viking Moses name is Brendon Massei, who has played with the likes of Cat Power, Songs:Ohia, and Will Oldham. Be on the lookout for the new Viking Moses release Jahaliya, which features the songs below.

I’ve read that a live performance by Viking Moses usually results in him performing the majority of his tunes while kneeling, you’ll have to head over to his Myspace site for a picture and more info.

Here are a few MP3’s. I can’t recommend these enough.
Viking Moses - In Servitude [mp3]
Viking Moses - Sandstorms [mp3]

- Muzzle of Bees

"Viking Moses Interview"

The Endless Travels of Brendon Massei

Brendon Massei at Fresh Up Club, Austin, TX

For longer than most people do anything, Viking Moses has been on the road, driving back and forth across the country, playing wherever there's a show to be played. This is not what people who thirst after acclaim call "paying your dues" at all. This is a committed way of life for Massei, and it's from this deep commitment that he draws such intense imagery and such a wrenching voice. Massei does not tell; he conjurs.
Listen to Viking Moses on our compilation.

W & A: The show I saw in Austin recently really hit me pretty hard. There were times when your knees would pound against the floor as you sang and it reminded me of Catholic ascetics from the old days who would crawl across town on their knees whipping themselves and all that. In addition there was the bellowing voice which was very different than some of the more quiet recordings I've heard. I was wondering are you ever in actual, physical pain after a show?

B.M: O yes, there's much physical pain after i sing songs, normally, especially that show at the Fresh Up Club in Austin! concrete floors, and had been doing this nightly since January, and what was this, late May? whew! yes, that night was particularly painful, my knees were quite swollen and bruised, and it brought a few yelps and tears while i sang, which i usually can tough my way through without even feeling until afterwards.

I've heard that you've been on the road pretty constantly for the last couple years. What's the longest time you stayed put since 2000, and what's the longest you kept traveling?

i left Chicago, the last stable home i had, March of last year to do this awesome tour with my dear friend Dylan Metrano who does music called Tiger Saw. we toured for about three months, which didnt leave much of a homelife to return to, not surprisingly, so i've pretty much been touring since, with an occasional weeklong break. since 2000, this home i just spoke of was the steadiest i'd had since childhood, which lasted nearly two years. this tour i just finished in July has been the longest perpetual tour i've undertaken, which ran at over some six months. my vacation from this tour officially ends tonight, after a very much needed six weeks, however it proved to be as much, if not, more work than touring.

Living perpetually on the road must give you a really different take on things. What are some of the biggest distinctions between you and the normal folks who live in one place most of the time? What's the hardest thing about living this way? What's the best thing?

i dont know that touring would cast the greatest distiction between myself and somebody else. i feel in many ways closer to some folks i know who never leave the house, than many i meet in similar shoes as mine, traveling often. the most difficult thing for me about a long tour is achieving proper rest and nourishment, and the void of healthy, stable relationships. The greatest reward has been being able to meet people and travel to lands i'd otherwise have to miss, due to not having money or qualifications for much else.

If you weren't a musician, are there any mundane jobs you'd secretly like to work at for awhile?

well, to me, nothing feels more ordinary than what i'm doing now, but the fact that it's in my heart to do this, as surprising and unpredictable and invigorating as it is, there's a sense of comfort and familiarity and confidence much of the time. i dont think it would matter much what it was, any job could be just as fullfilling or imprisoning, depending where the heart was at. when music becomes overwhelming, or out of reach, i find myself washing dishes, or tending to children, or setting up tours for friends, or cooking, or screenprinting, or mowing lawns, or answering phones, or running a cash register, or doing construction, or countless other things that i'm limited to as a high school dropout in our place and time. i don't foresee any escape from the service industry, no matter what we do, but lately i discovered, we can choose who we
serve, so regardless of what it is i choose to accept as my task, i'll take it with full confidence and have the more to give, accordingly, as anyone would. up to now, i've never put too much planning in any of my undertakings, as far as a common job, which is all i've ever done, so i can't imagine ever putting any more thought into it than this.

How did you come to play music with John McCauley? That kid is rad.

John McCauley is one of the most outstanding persons of our age! i just got to his folks' house, in Providence this afternoon, actually! i'm sitting here now! well, i met Johnny at the AS220 gallery/showspace here in town. i was playing bass with Andy, Devendra and Alyssa for Vetiver, and he came up afterwards and shared some words with us. i bumped into him again a few months down the road in New York City, and - Whiskey and apples

"Viking Moses’ Golden Apples are Delicious (Live review)"

By Ethan Goldwater

Viking Moses rose up in the center of the Zeitgeist. His face moved sharp under a scraggly beard, welcoming the Tuesday night crowd to circle round holding hands. “Tonight I’d like to sing you some songs about abandonment,” he said. “Everyone here knows that feeling in some way...I would just like to offer some hope and courage… to not let go...” The room felt well froze.

The feeling he brought felt so old. It marinated for a second then, before his less sober singing voice took hold. “Without Love, life is gone...without life love goes on and on” went the refrain of “Crosses.” Many in the circle around him seemed to recognize that song—it is featured in the Golden Apples of the Sun compilation, which was released in conjunction with Arthur Magazine last spring. The record includes many of the best contemporary folk/acoustic/psychedelic players out there, and was put together by one of the best: Devendra Banhart. So yeah, for real, no matter your opinion about hipster trends or Woodstock Nation*, you should check this stuff out because his voice is like no other.

- The Student Underground


"Swollen and Small: The Songs of Neutral Milk Hotel EP"
CD - Fire Records (UK)
released March 5, 2007

"Werewolves In The City" b/w
"Threshold Of Man"
7" single - Poptones Ltd. (UK)
released November 5, 2006

CD - Poptones Ltd. (UK)
released August 7, 2006

"Sandstorms" b/w
"I Will Always Love You"
7" single - Poptones Ltd. (UK)
released May 1, 2006

"Cold Rock/Dull Grass"
Oldham Tribute CD
Tract Records (USA)
features the song:
"When Thy Song Flows Through Me"
released February 27, 2006

CD - Marriage Records (USA)
released February 14, 2006

"Is Orange Birds"
v/a CD - Marriage Records (USA)
features an early version of
"Toss And Roll"
from the forthcoming album "jahiliyah!"
released March 2005

"Golden Apples Of The Sun, comp selected by Devendra Banhart"
v/a CD - Bastet (Arthur Magazine) (USA)
features the premier of the song "Crosses"
released July 2004



The words of Jon Pitt from Dusted Magazine describes Viking Moses pretty damn well:

Many balls-to-the-wall musicians adopt a bohemian persona to fit their music, but Viking Moses is the real deal. Living a nomadic life for nearly a decade now, Brendon Massei has released banjo and acoustic guitar albums under several names. Perpetually on tour (since 1996), he has played with Will Oldham, Cat Power, Songs: Ohia and Devendra Banhart, to name a few, yet Masseis body of work has received little commercial or critical attention. His newest full-length under the Viking Moses moniker, the story-song cycle Crosses, is by far his most accomplished work, and ranks among the best of the newest crop of American folk recordings. For anyone who has seen Massei perform live, the delicate mood of Crosses may come as a bit of a surprise. While a Viking Moses show often finds Massei on his knees wailing like a man possessed, Crosses consists of nothing more than a softly picked nylon-string acoustic guitar, a bass, and some piano flourishes, with Masseis trademark baritone rarely reaching its cathartic heights. While Massei may be accused of holding back, Crosses is actually strengthened by his reserve; otherwise, these odes to a girl named Emma could have come across a bit too earnest. Masseis simple, and thoroughly endearing lyrics complement the breezy melodies. On Little Emmas Smile he sings, I love the fishes that swim around me / God made the fishes and God made me / I love Emma, her smiles so free / God, may little Emmas smile find me against a melody that could just as well be a nursery rhyme. There is a sense of childlike wonder throughout reminiscent of another of Masseis old touring partners, Little Wings. But where Little Wings Kyle Field turns his wonderment outward towards nature, Massei is content to wonder at the ways in which love alters ones perception, as he sings on Little Arms: When you hold my little arms wrist out / you show me just how little I really am. The simplicity of the music allows Masseis lyrics, with their roughly sketched narrative, to be the albums centerpiece. In My Husbands Hand, Massei imagines himself in Emmas place, watching a group of children and feeling his/her biological clock ticking. At just a minute and a half, it epitomizes the albums precision just over 30 minutes without a single unnecessary note. While it can sound overly precious at times for the pysche-folk crowd, Crosses is a quiet piece of lamentation and joy that is hard not to embrace.