“Wow, THAT just happened,” exclaimed singer and rock guitarist extraordinaire Josh Kennedy on more than one occasion last week as The Black Moods (currently of Tempe, AZ by way of Missouri) spread their talent across Rocky Point. In addition to playing in nearly every nook and cranny around town, Josh’s echoes of what “just happened” could have been the group’s rousing session with Roger Clyne at the 1st Anniversary of Clyne and friends’ Banditos, or maybe the afternoon Kennedy along with bassist Ryan Prier and drummer Danny “Chico” Diaz quickly set up their gear in Plaza del Camarón and played a set for students from the community’s Fine Arts Initiation Program associated with INBA (National Fine Arts Institute). Or could it have been the moment Jonny Rosch (of Blues Brothers fame) joined the group on stage for an over 7 minute jam to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Call me the Breeze”, or possibly the breathtaking sunset cruise over the Sea of Cortez alongside singer/songwriter Steve McCarty? Whatever it was, one thing is for certain – The Black Moods in and of themselves HAPPENED to Rocky Point.
After meeting them for the first time last June at Circus Mexicus, and welcoming them back to play at last November’s Rocky Point Rally, not to mention again in January, I FINALLY had the chance to really talk with the guys, along with tour manager Nicholas Grammatico, over the course of their recent adventure in Puerto Peñasco. Though most of our conversations took place informally – and the one “scheduled” meet up had to compete with Spring Break house music around the Old Port while the band prepared for their final rock explosion, we somehow got it done.
“Chico’s definitely the one in the morning saying, ok guys – this is where we need to be,” jokes Grammatico. Diaz, who is originally from Phoenix, does appear to keep track of everyone and could even be found getting a certain “seemingly timid” bassist off the swings after a recent seaside gig. Yet all three have a chemistry both on and off stage, communicating easily through a nod or a glance – whether that’s moving from one song to another, loading up gear, or taking in stride whatever situation is in front of them – like the AC going out in the van as things are just starting to warm up in these parts.
“I joined the band about 5 years ago, after like a 4 day audition” explains Chico amusingly. “Josh and Ryan are both from the small town of Wheaton, Missouri [population just under 700]; they knew each other growing up and came out to Arizona to study at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS). Nicholas was also at the Conservatory, that’s how they met. At the time I was playing more Latin and jazz, but a friend had recommended me to the guys after the drummer they had suddenly left. They had gigs lined up all weekend and so I just started playing with them – it was difficult at first to get back into rock, but after the weekend they were like – ok, so you’re our drummer.” Well Chico, we’re sure glad about that!
When Diaz joined Josh and Ryan the band went under the name “Chalmers Green”, which they eventually changed to The Black Moods. Curiously, Josh didn’t start as the singer as that role went to Ryan’s brother Kevin until just about the time when they were ready to record their self-entitled debut album (The Black Moods ).
“We were about to go into the studio and deciding who would be the singer. So we went with Josh,” recalls Chico. Good move, with a nod to 70s rock-n-roll plus quintessential flying through the air guitar riffs, not to mention the hair – oh yes, and that raspy take me “right now, anywhere” voice (if I may borrow lyrics from their song).
“The name, “The Black Moods”, actually comes from something Josh read in a biography about Jim Morrison,” Chico explains, “People would say ‘Jim’s in a black mood today’ and first we named a song ‘Here’s to Black Moods’ and it was just a good name.”
In a 2013 interview with Phoenix New Times, Josh said he found out that Paul McCartney used the term ‘black moods’ as well.
So, how did The Black Moods make their way from Missouri to Phoenix and end up on the Rocky Point scene?
Chico recalls visiting Rocky Point frequently while growing up in the Phoenix area – plus his grandfather, originally from León, Guanajuato, had a place in town and so Diaz was already familiar with the area. However, as a group The Black Moods were really introduced to Rocky Point through Roger Clyne – and specifically at last year’s Circus Mexicus.
Josh joins the conversation, “Roger actually invited me down to play one of our songs the year before at Circus (2013). I was good friends with PH Naffah (the drummer for Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers), and he shared our song “Don’t Let Them Get You Down” with Roger and then Roger wanted to do that at Circus. I remember it was my birthday and I had worn all white, not even knowing they had called for a “white out” – asking everyone to wear white. I showed up in my white pants and shirt and they all joked with me – saying, ‘you were going to wear that anyway?’ But it was great, playing with Roger and the band on stage – on my birthday! The next year they brought our whole band down and we opened for Roger on the main stage Saturday night. It was amazing!”
“It really launched us,” Chico says while nodding his head, “We are so grateful.”
“Yes, we are really grateful to Roger,” agrees Josh, “and then he had us play with him at the Banditos anniversary on Saturday (March 14). We practiced earlier with him and I was still so nervous, wanting to make sure I did the songs well.”
“It was so great looking up to see Roger counting me down,” beams Chico. “So cool.”
Even more cool things are in store for The Black Moods, including a return to Circus Mexicus this summer (June 11th – 14th) – that’s after they romp through Rocky Point again over Memorial Day Weekend. Bassist Ryan Prier is also beaming these days as he recently picked up the endorsement of Ibanez – which he says he’s dreamed about since he was about 11 or 12 when he and Josh started playing. Diaz (chicodiazdrummer.com) himself has the endorsement of GMS Drum Co. and Saluda cymbals while Kennedy (joshkennedy.com), who dons a tattoo of his first guitar from when he was 12, is endorsed by Fender, In Tune Guitar Picks, Dean Markley, and Foppstar. The group has been with Street Smart Management since 2014.
“After signing with Street Smart,” remarks Diaz as we walk down the main street from Beach Bum to Boo Bar in the malecón before their final Spring Break gig in Rocky Point, “The next thing is a record deal, and then radio, and possibly looking at markets overseas.”
Though they call Tempe, AZ home base for now, The Black Moods have basically been on an ongoing tour for nearly two years.
Just before they take the stage again I ask, “Don’t you get tired of all the travel and then setting up to play night after night (which by the way they appear to have down to a science, and record speed)?”
“You would think so,” says Chico, “but, you know, music is our medicine.”
See The Black Moods @ Circus Mexicus 2015 with RCPM (June 11 – 14) in Puerto Peñasco: www.circusmexicus.net
Contact: The Black Moods www.theblackmoods.com