Achille Lauro speaks frankly about what it's really like to be a struggling musician in Denver

Categories: Music News

A.H. Goldstein

Over the past seven years, Achille Lauro has become a band that's essentially synonymous with the Denver scene. A founding act in the Hot Congress collective, the quartet has been witness to an exciting evolution in the scene, watching fellow acts rise and fall while its own sound has evolved in eclectic directions. But now the outfit has decided to permanently dock its musical vessel. Before the final voyage this weekend, we caught up with Matt Close, Ben Mossman, Luke Mossman and Jonathan Evans to discuss their time in the scene, why it's become harder to make it as a band in the last decade and what they'll miss the most about playing together.

See also:
- Saturday: Achille Lauro farewell show at Walnut Room, 7/6/13
- Achille Lauro sets sail with a whole new batch of Indiscretions
- Achille Lauro Finds Smoother Waters

Westword: Typically, interviewing bands is such an uplifting affair, celebrating an album or a big show. I must admit, it's a bit sad sitting here asking you questions about your breakup.

Matt Close: I prefer saying that we're "discontinuing" as opposed to "breaking up," because there's no hard feelings between any of us. I mean, I plan to implement every one of these guys on future projects in the studio.

Luke Mossman: It does require effort to rehearse something that's not going to be performed again.

You nearly broke up in 2008, but decided you still had music to make together. What's different now?

LM: To be honest, it's been a real struggle to write songs together for the last six months. We've had to scrap so many songs.

Ben Mossman: In the past, our greatest strength has been that we come from different points of view, and that created very unique sounds. But now it's gotten to the point that we're in such different places, everyone is pulling in different directions.

Is this the end of making music for any of you? Any plans to move on to graphic design or accounting?

Matt Close: Absolutely not. How could anyone be done with music? Once this decision was reached, I started writing harder than ever. I feel like it opened up some energy in me. There was no more of that, "Here's an idea, can we use this?"

What's more difficult: Breaking up with a lover or breaking up with a band?

Jonathan Evans: The band, because we're all really good friends. We've been through a lot of shit together. Way more than any significant other. I've opened up about things with the band that I would never open up about with a significant other.

MC: Over the last seven years, these three guys have become the closest people to me. They know all my dirty laundry, and it's not a problem to them.

Is there something about making music together that bonds people in a deeper way that friendship or even sex can't compare to?

BM: It's the pursuit of a common goal. There's personal interaction that's going to happen, and there's financial cohabitation, but those are side issues to the reality that we're all pursuing the same thing. And that's a unique dynamic.

LM: I've had some of the best moments of my life when I'm on stage with you guys. We learned to thrive in an environment where circumstances will be stacked against us, when our back's together, circling the wagons, fighting an audience.

MC: I realize that I'm going to miss screaming at you guys on stage a lot. It doesn't even have to be words; it's just leaning over and pumping up each other's energy.

Looking back at the last seven years, what stands out as some of your favorite Achille Lauro moments?

MC: Oakland. We ended up in a real hard part of town, in this collective warehouse, playing on a poor setup to an uninterested crowd and responded by playing harder than we've ever played. We consumed a liter of Jim Beam on stage between us. No one else in that room was having a good time, but we sure did.

LM: I would say UMS at 404 -- one of my favorite shows ever. It was like three years ago; we played at midnight. Matt's bass broke, and some guy in the audience fixed it. He still comes to our shows.

MC: I was drinking Cabernade that night.


MC: CaberNADE. Half Cabernet, half yellow Gatorade.

That sounds...horrible.

MC: I cannot recommend this enough.

Having been in the Denver music scene for seven years, have you guys seen a lot of things change, for better or worse?

MC: It's beautiful, the evolution that I've seen. We've had a unique window into that, rehearsing in our space at the Olympic Auditorium, where there are twenty other studios. We've seen the makeup of that building shift over the years. The bands have gotten more and more diverse.

We just hear them through the wall; you hear it accidentally walking through the building. When we first started, it was all metal -- really bad metal -- and now you hear hip-hop, or folky bands. I've seen that as a microcosm of the Denver scene.

For me, personally, the evolution of Hot Congress has been incredible. Whenever people ask me about Denver music, I usually hand them an HC sampler. What has your experience been working with that label?

LM: I think it's stronger than ever now. I love the bands that are on it. I'm really proud that it's continued on for so long.

MC: The whole reason for that getting started was sort of a jealousy of watching momentum gather in other cities and seeing that turn into a nationally recognized force. And then we saw some collective momentum here and were like, "Well, let's all push the cart."

JE: It's amazing what it's become from what the original idea was. We had our first couple of meetings here [at City, O' City]. There was no talk about a record label; we were just combining resources. Who has a van? Who can help set up shows in other cities? It was pretty disorganized for the first year or two, but Lucas Johannes really molded it into something more than just musicians drinking beer and talking a big game. Before him, it was just people talking about stuff that was never going to happen.

BM: His effort has been amazing. He's kept it alive.

Location Info

The Walnut Room

3131 Walnut St., Denver, CO

Category: Music

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steppesmusic 2 Like

Slow clap for the honestly expressed here.  Everyone playing music locally can completely sympathize with each sentiment.  I wrote an article recently (no, I won't link it), where I argued the only positive attribute of Kickstarter is that it's educating the public on how expensive even playing in a small band is, let alone one with ambition.  It's really hard to commit so much of your income to doing all of it once the initial idealism fades.

If anyone wonders why low overhead acts, like DJs and EDM "performances", are so plentiful now, you can attribute it directly to how unprofitable all but the most successful groups of musicians are.  It's much easier to make money with it's one guy walking into a venue and plugging a laptop in.

Congratulations to Achille Lauro for sticking it out this long and making some badass music in the process.  I'll be there on Saturday.

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