Based out of the indie-pop heartland of Olympia, Washington, Joshua Hoey has been working on his, “lo-fi, small-scale cultural production”, under a variety of guises for the best part of two-decades. Joshua’s latest project is the, “open-source DIY rock band”, Special Moves, a sort of intriguing middle ground between a solo-project and a collective, where anyone is encouraged to turn up at any given moment and do their thing. Somehow that has resulted in not just a thrillingly varied live show, but also an upcoming album, Little Help, released on Joshua’s own Reflective Tapes label, in collaboration with both Jigsaw Records and Solidarity Club.
As you’d expect for someone so rooted in the DIY-world, the Special Moves sound is something of an archive of the great and good of bands who never really made it. Across Little Help’s ten tracks we are put in mind of everyone from No Age to Peel Dream Magazine, Guided By Voices to Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, and a whole lot of early 90’s indie-rock. This is a record that sounds like it is in love with other records, a music fan re-imagining all the music they adore into something fresh and exciting. In the same way Joshua fell for all those wonderful records, now it’s time for others to fall for Special Moves, to learn the joy of music outside of the charts and pass the message on from one generation to the next; where there is passion there will always be a future, and listening to Special Moves it looks very bright indeed.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Special Moves?
Special Moves is an open-source DIY rock band from Olympia, WA. I, Joshua Hoey, am the main songwriter. My musical influences pretty much run the gamut of 80s and 90s US indie rock, as well as indiepop/janglepop and lo-fi home-recorded bedroom indie bands like Spare Snare, Butterglory, Cleaners From Venus etc. The band is really built around collaboration. Theoretically each album or tour would involve a different grouping of musicians. I think there are currently 17 current and former contributors. “We” released ten cassingles in 2018, a split tape with Yeehaw Junction last year, and now “Little Help”. Ethically, Special Moves is an antiracist, anticapitalist anarcho-punk band.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
The first gig was in late 2017 at the world-famous Le Voyeur Punk Museum here in Olympia with the outstanding Brooklyn art-punk band Giant Peach. We played as a trio – Jake from the hardcore band GLOSS on drums, Matt from Blood Orphans on keys. I didn’t really intend for Special Moves to be a band that would play gigs, but I’d already booked the show for GP and none of my active bands were able to play. It was sloppy and lo-fi as hell but people seemed to dig it. Olympia’s kind of a weird place to play these days. There aren’t a ton of active indie bands, especially young indie bands. Hardcore is kinda the big thing here right now but there’s also a lot of great industrial and goth artists as well.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Music is the best cuz of its communal nature. I really, really miss live gigs. Sharing a room with a bunch of friends and like-minded strangers is something of a sacrament to me. Playing in DIY bands is also a really awesome excuse to drive around the country and meet folks. I’ve played supporting parts in punk and indie bands for 20+ years at this point, but didn’t get around to developing my songwriting till my early thirties. I’ve often felt like something of an impostor but I’m getting over it. I do some visual art and writing as well but it’s less of a communal experience for me.
FTR: What can people expect from the Special Moves live show?
I wear a plush shark hat, sit in a beach chair and drape myself in rope lights. I’m in the back room of a cruddy bar, a friend’s basement, or a cafe with the tables and chairs stacked in one corner. A drum machine softly starts clicking and beeping. I play a homemade guitar through a Big Muff in an attempt to emulate Bob Mould’s tone. I sing some words about nostalgia through a reverb pedal and try to maintain eye contact with the crowd (if applicable). There is likely someone playing bass and if yr lucky someone else doing lead vocals. Sometimes I like to try and pass my guitar to buddies in the crowd and encourage them to play a solo. After the 20-minute set I go outside and have a panic attack. However at this point, Special Moves gigs involve a lot of sitting at a computer and cursing at Zoom cuz I’m a luddite.
FTR: What’s next for Special Moves?
I’ve got several albums worth of songs in various states of completion. The second full-length, “Has This Ever Happened To You”, features three songs with vocals by Shayla from Yeehaw Junction, three Weakerthans covers, a guest appearance from my other band LARK, and an instrumental demo of “No Guarantees” from the split. It'[ll be released on Nate from Yeehaw Junction’s new tape label Brilliant Corners at some point. I’ve also got a bedroom synth side project called Left Shark that’ll have a tape out sometime later this year on Portland’s Bud Tapes. As soon as touring is again a possibility I will be touring as much and as far afield as I can.
They Listen To…
Leatherface – Wax Lyrical
Frankie and company are the best and greatest punk band of all time. His breathtaking lyrics and guitar playing are huge influences on my songwriting.
Blood Orphans – I Will Leave
My friend and neighbor Matt Summers’ former band was an amazing combination of 90s emo and weathered slowcore vocals. Matt was something like 18 when this was recorded. It was an early release on my semi-defunct tape label (Reflective Tapes)
Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love
A couple of years ago a switch got flipped in my brain and now I basically only wanna listen to pop music, preferably from the 80s (Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper) or influenced by 80s synthpop (Carly Rae Jepsen, CHVRCHES). I cannot believe I didn’t know this song even like two years ago.
Alien Boy – Somewhere Without Me
This Portland band is pretty much the best thing going on in my little corner of the DIY world. It’s gothy, emo, indie, shoegaze, punk, all in one package. I’ve been lucky enough to book this band several times in Olympia now and they are getting better and better.
Ezra Cohen – The World’s In Love With You
I’ve been on a couple of tours with Ezra’s old band, which recently met with an unfortunate ending. He’s one of my favorite contemporary indie rock songwriters. This reminds me of Evan Dando with alt-country touches (slide guitar, Ezra’s vocal twanginess). Can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Little Help is out August 28th via Reflective Tapes / Jigsaw Records / Solidarity Club. Click HERE for more information on Special Moves.