Poor Moon's Christian Wargo on how Danielson Famile and Pedro the Lion led to Fleet Foxes
Poor Moon is a side project of Christian Wargo of Fleet Foxes fame, who before joining that outfit toured with both Danielson Famile and Pedro the Lion. Through his time playing guitar in David Bazan's band, Wargo became friends with the guys from Fleet Foxes and ultimately ended up joining that group, where his talents as a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist subsequently became integral to the Fleet Foxes sound.
Currently touring in support of the band's self-titled, debut full-length, Poor Moon is taking its dreamy, soothing, impressionistic pop songs around the country. We were able to talk with Wargo about the trajectory of his creative career and his imaginative songwriting.
Westword: You were involved with Danielson Famile for a little bit.
Christian Wargo: Yeah, a long time ago. I grew up in Jersey, and Dan [Smith] is from Jersey. We had another band back then, and we just started playing shows together. Then a tour came around, and at that time it was the Danielson Famile, with his brothers and sisters and stuff, but they were still in school. I came on to play drums and the glockenspiel, and I did a lot of the high singing vocal parts. That was one of the first full U.S. tours I went on. I was twenty years old at the time, and I would have to sit outside most of the clubs until it was time to play because I wasn't old enough to go inside.
What instrument did you start out playing growing up in Jersey?
My first instrument was a bass, when I was about eleven. I had this little band called the Ambassadors, and it was just me and my two buddies -- keyboards, bass and drums -- and we would just jam. It was mostly instrumental music. I would sort of pick up anything I could get my hands on. I had this Hawaiian harp. Any kind of weird, stringed instrument that I could find for cheap or borrow from somebody. And I had a four-track pretty early on, and I was making sounds. I started out pretty early making stuff in my bedroom.
Did the Ambassadors ever play out anywhere?
Oh, yeah, we played, like, flea markets and a couple of birthday parties -- whatever kinds of gigs little kids could get.
Was there any particular music that inspired you to pick up bass in particular?
I wasn't interested in bass, per se. I knew I wanted to play a guitar. And a bass was something somebody gave me because they knew I was interested. My mom got me into the the Beatles, the Animals, Steppenwolf. I was really into the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack at that time. I found an ABBA tape and played the heck out of that. I was into all kinds of stuff, but mostly older music.
At that time, '90s R&B was huge in New Jersey, so it was hard to escape, but I gave a couple of records to people around me because of the proximity. I was in a bit of a rough neighborhood. So when I would be in my bedroom checking out some stuff, I tended to like older sounds. I was a huge Beatles fan from an early age.
You were also a member of Pedro the Lion for a while as well.
I was. I was actually making a record with Dave [Bazan] for my band. I was living in Chicago at that time. So I was commuting from Chicago back and forth to Seattle to work on the record with Dave. Eventually he was just like, "I need somebody to come on tour with me. Do you want to move here?"
It seemed like a good idea at the time. There was a lot more music going on in Seattle that I connected with. It was a paid gig, you know, so I moved out, and we ended up not putting out the record that we worked on for like three years. For some reason, Dave felt I was a better guitar player than him at the time, and he switched over to bass, and I played all the guitar parts. It was around the Control album.
[I met] Dave the same way I met Dan. He was interested in my music, and he asked if he could record my album. At that time, I didn't really have any studio equipment, and Dave had a pretty good studio going on, so I moved out. I had gone to school for cabinetry and fine woodworking, so I was helping him build out his studio in exchange for recording time.
Were you a founding member of Crystal Skulls?
That was my band, yeah.
That name is very suggestive of many things. Why did you give the band that moniker?
You may or may not know of the religious associations between Danielson and Dave.
I've always been interested in spiritual things. But I wasn't necessarily finding that Christianity was the thing that was resonating the most with me. So I was exploring a lot of different histories and a lot of different sort of cultural things, and crystal skulls was one that always fascinated me. It's another sort of crazy explanation for how humans got here. It resonated with me, and I thought it was interesting and fascinating, and it has a snap to it. I read a couple of books about it.