The name Moses Campbell means plenty to a lot of people, but there is no singular person with said name. There’s a small group of musicians from Echo Park and elsewhere who march under the Moses Campbell flag, who put out music, play shows, scream, holler and make small talk between songs.
Sean Solomon began making music under the name Moses Campbell at the age of 16 in his childhood home in the San Fernando Valley. He and bassist Pascal Stevenson met in high school, found other like-minded musicians and made a record in Solomon’s home.
“The first album was recorded in my bedroom with a mic and a computer,” says Solomon, now a 21 year-old living in Echo Park. “We’d skateboard and do the things kids in high school do and on top of that we made an album.”
At last weekend’s Jubilee Music and Arts Festival, which moved to the Downtown Arts District from Silver Lake, Moses Campbell played to a modest crowd who sang along to their songs.
Fans howled with Solomon’s choruses, his warbling vocals searching for his pitch, his guitar high on his chest. Songs like ‘Saturday’ and ‘Wallflower’ sound poppy and cheerful, but the underlying messages they convey dance around topics of suicide and isolation. Distortion and careful guitar plucking collide with Pauline Lay on violin, Andrew MacKelvie on drums and Miles Wintner on rhythm guitar. Solomon ended their set by climbing onto the side of the stage and hung off with one hand while the other held the microphone to his face.
Talking to him in person you don’t get any of those loud, brash emotions he conveys on stage. Stevenson and Solomon speak in blasé tones when talking about themselves and constantly make jokes about their friendship.
“If Sean and Pascal break up romantically Moses Campbell is over like Sonic Youth,” Solomon says.
“It’s like a Fleetwood Mac situation,” Stevenson adds.
Moses Campbell’s first gigs were at all-ages venues, places like The Smell, Pehrspace and the now-closed Echo Curio, because most of the band were minors. They found a way to play and developed a ravenous fan base that seems to keep renewing itself as the years go on.
“Back then the fans were much older and we were much younger,” Solomon says of the first couple of years after their debut album, “All the fans were like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so cute’ and now we’re now we’re not as cute.”
Solomon said that the bands’ fans these days are more likely to say, “‘Oh my god, these ugly dudes are playing music, WOW!’”
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Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.