In 1997, during spring semester at Parsons School of Design in New York City, Graham Tyler answered a “musicians wanted” flier placed in local record shops by Sammy James, then a student at School of Visual Arts. The team of singer/songwriter Sammy James Junior and lead guitarist Graham Tyler has remained the heart of The Mooney Suzuki since.
After playing on the band’s early recordings, drummer Augie Wilson graduated Cooper Union and relocated to Portland, Oregon, working in graphic design. Recruiting new drummer Will Rockwell and a rotating roster of bass players, the quartet spent the late 90’s playing out relentlessly and building a reputation for explosive and cathartic live performances.
The band self-released its first EP, The Mooney Suzuki, booked its own tours, sent out its own publicity mailings, and by 1999, without the help of management, agent, label, or publicist, was selling out rooms from DC to Chicago. The Mooney Suzuki had become New York City’s premier, self-made, rock ‘n’ roll sensation, whose notoriety could only be attributed to tireless work and word of mouth ignited by its legendary rock ‘n’ roll shows.
The band’s next goal was to sign to acclaimed garage rock label Estrus. The self-titled EP had reached the ear of label head Dave Crider, and the group drove five days straight from NYC (with no air-conditioning in late August) to play a single date in Estrus’ hometown of Bellingham, Washington — unsure if Dave would even show up. Dave was there and sent the band into the studio with producer Tim Kerr (Big Boys, Monkeywrench) to record People Get Ready, The Mooney Suzuki’s debut LP. Released September, 2000, People Get Ready was described by Mojo music magazine as “unrelenting rock ‘n’ soul — an unholy amalgam of Brit R&B, sexy Stax stomp and wild Motor City guitar. . .hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’. . .Perfect”
Touring behind People Get Ready, The Mooney Suzuki strived to earn the title “Hardest Working Band in Show Business,” logging lap after lap around the US in a mini-school bus, and delivering two sweat-drenched sets a day per city. Following each gig, the band would drive all night, reaching the next town early enough to perform at a record store or college radio show in the afternoon before heading to the evening’s venue. There, the Mooney Suzuki would do a full-length set, collect names for the mailing list, and begin the cycle again. This schedule continued for a full year, building the group a strong following along the way.
In the summer of 2001, producer Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Dirtbombs) invited The Mooney Suzuki to his Ghetto Recordings studio in Detroit. Over three sweltering days in late August, the band members laid down the blistering tracks for their second album, appropriately titled Electric Sweat. Hailed as “Ass-shaking, soul-bearing…garage-punk genius…KKKK” by Kerrang!, Electric Sweat was released in April 2002 to equally rave reviews. Shortly after completion of the record, original drummer Augie Wilson returned to the line-up.
An MTV “You Hear It First” profile, as well as frequent airing of the video “In A Young Man’s Mind” on MTV2, helped bring the band to an even wider audience, while appearances on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and the “Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn” continued the band’s national exposure. The Moonies went to Europe and the UK for the first time, joined The Strokes and The Hives on their respective tours, and appeared on the main stage at the Coachella Festival. Dubbed “It Garage Band” on Entertainment Weekly’s “It” List for 2002, The Mooney Suzuki experienced an ever-growing swell of enthusiasm following the release of Electric Sweat, culminating in the band’s signing to Columbia Records, who re-released the album in 2003.
After completing Lollapalooza that summer, the group relocated to LA and began feeling out new material. Fittingly, as the band wrote and rehearsed in the Hollywood hills, Paramount Pictures’ School of Rock starring Jack Black was released, featuring the title track, “School of Rock,” written and performed by The Mooney Suzuki, who debuted on the big screen with a cameo in the film.
For the third record, The Mooney Suzuki teamed up with teen pop producers The Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Liz Phair) best known for penning Avril’s multi-platinum hits. Eschewing the raw, stripped-down minimalism of previous Mooney Suzuki recordings, the band, inspired by The Matrix’s modern-day “wall of sound,” set out to fashion an unabashedly colorful and ornate new sound: MAXIMALISM. Accustomed to completing an album in less than a week, the Mooney Suzuki spent a full 4 months with The Matrix in LA, exploding forth with a dense, layered and kaleidoscopic collection of songs and sensations: an aural experience.
The resulting album, Alive & Amplified, erupts with brand new sounds and ideas, indelibly marked by the band’s patented sass and swagger. Tracks include: “Primitive Condition,” “Alive & Amplified,” “Legal High,” “New York Girls,” “Shake That Bush Again,” “Sometimes Somethin’,” “Loose ‘n’ Juicy,” “Hot Sugar,” “Messin’ In The Dressin’ Room,” and “Naked Lady.”