When reached by phone in early September, Shae Moseley takes a break from working in his home office in San Diego, California. After a recent heat spell, he says he's turned off the air conditioning and is letting his adopted city's famously mild weather drift through the house; one imagines the faint fragrance of lavender or jasmine on the breeze.
Or maybe that's just some typical California dreaming from the other end of the telephone in St. Louis, where the afternoon temperatures routinely crack the 90s even after Labor Day. Moseley, who grew up in tiny Kinmundy in southern Illinois but spent the better part of his young adulthood in St. Louis, remembers the heat and the humidity well. He doesn't miss it.
It's not clear if Moseley named his latest musical project Perfect Weather for Humans as a tribute to southern California or a mild dig at his native Midwest. But St. Louis was clearly on his mind as he assembled the songs and players for this project; for a pair of recordings released this year — a self-titled full-length and the just-released Echo V EP — Moseley worked with guitarist and recording engineer Will Jones to craft a set of songs that merge the propulsiveness of modern rock with the layered, textured swirl of shoegaze. To round out the recordings, locals Micah Parker and Chan Evans contributed drums and guitars, respectively.
"When I moved away I almost immediately started messing with music here on my own," Moseley says. "Will Jones and I had always talked about doing some form of collaboration. The idea we had for this band for years. Since Will has a nice studio, we thought it would be cool to create this collective of musicians who can tap in when we need them."
When Moseley left St. Louis eight years ago to be near his now-wife Toni, he had gained a reputation as an in-demand drummer, keeping the beat for Americana experimentalists Magnolia Summer and heartland soul band Jon Hardy & the Public. But he also took a stronger songwriting role in groups such as Ghost in Light and Jovian Chorus, and those bands' love of hazy atmospherics and unconventional rock & roll dynamics inform where Moseley and company take Perfect Weather for Humans.
Moseley serves as the singer, songwriter and guitarist for these tracks, and even though the distance between St. Louis and San Diego made live-in-the-room recording tough, he relies on the input from Jones, Parker and Evans to help sculpt the final form of the songs.
"I guess it has the look of a solo project, but I want to get more and more of our friends involved," he says. "I'd like for it to keep moving in that direction. It keeps it interesting — we're not really a band since we can't play live shows. I think that's something that could keep it fun for everyone and keep inserting people as we move along."
To that end, Moseley would send sketches of songs to Jones and the others — his home studio has a modest setup including a few mics, pre-amps and an entry-level Garageband program on his Mac. He would send his output to Jones, who owns and operates Yellow Hat Studio on Cherokee Street.
"I would make a scratch track, usually, with keyboard or guitars and vocals; sometimes they started with a drum machine beat," Moseley says. "I'd send it their way and they'd play around with it. Other songs we messed with the arrangements or added another section of the song. Sometimes if you have to play everything to a click it can be unfortunate, but this allowed us to share things back and forth."
Moseley had played in a few bands since moving to California — he currently drums in a country-Western outfit — but Perfect Weather for Humans was the first time in years he actively followed his own muse. And while most of the tracks on both releases ride an electric pulse into the stratosphere, some of Moseley's songwriting was borne of turmoil.
"I guess the thing, I think, that really spurred it along as far as me writing a lot more was that I went through some things during that time," Moseley says. "My dad got sick and passed away, and that was a big reason I had more to say than usual. I don't think the music came off as morbid because of it, but I think it came out as more existential or searching."
As an avid music fan (and a former Riverfront Times contributing writer), Moseley has deep crates to pull from, and his avowed love of bands like the Afghan Whigs, the Cure and Slowdive peek through in elements of these songs.
"There's so many things that influence me," he says. "My biggest problem when I write songs is that I hear things all the time and want to write songs like that. 'I want to be a power-pop band! I want to be an electronic dance artist!'
"My biggest challenge has been trying to find a direction to myself and pull all that stuff into something that works together."