Oct. 27 2010 10:18 AM

Whatever you want to label them, Raw Moans live up to their name—and the hype

Joseph Vorachack and Jeff Graves (with umbrella) of Raw Moans
At some point, music fans got a little too greedy with subgenres. In music, everybody wants to be different. Everybody needs to be an individual. Everybody believes his band or her music is special when, in reality, it’s probably just a copy of a copy of a copy with easily pinpointed influences. How else can you explain categories like “shitgaze” and “mushroom jazz” when rock and jazz would have sufficed?

Take “witch-house,” for example. Also known as “drag,” “Goth electro” or “haunted house,” Pitchfork has all but declared it the greatest music since, well, whatever its writers liked last year and abandoned once it became too mainstream. To let Pitchfork describe it, it’s “a group of young, geographically scattered artists concurrently exploring ghostly, slow-moving electro-pop, each with their own unique spin.”

“Personally, I pay attention to what people say, but I try not to say too much about what we sound like because it’s going to constantly change,” says Joseph Vorachack, one half of local duo Raw Moans. “Whatever they want to label it as, go for it.”

And with band names like oOoOO, AIDS-3D, B L M C B, How I Quit Crack, Sleep ? Over, //TENSE// and, appropriately enough, Salem, Vorachack and musical partner Jeff Graves might consider their name alone too anticlimactic to be pigeonholed into the witch-house genre. After all, the name Raw Moans sounds more appropriate for an all-female Ramones cover band.

Still, Pitchfork’s description of witch-house is apt when it comes to the sound Vorachack and Graves are producing. A lot of poncey music critics like to use the term “bedroom project” when describing anything that wasn’t produced in a studio, but for Vorachack, it would be more appropriate to describe Raw Moans as a closet project.

“I knew I was an artist. I did fashion and hair and stuff, but it wasn’t satisfying to me,” says Vorachack, who started Raw Moans a year ago. “I just started smoking a whole bunch of weed and locked myself up in my walk-in closet and fucked around with sounds. I started sending it out to blogs, and it started getting all this hype.”

That hype recently led to a deal with Disaro Records, a Houston-based DIY label that’s home to other witch-house bands like White Ring and How I Quit Crack. Graves has been in and around the scene for years, working as a nightlife promoter and DJ, among other things. He met Vorachack seven years ago, after they started noticing each other at the same parties and shows, but it never occurred to either of them to start a musical project—not to mention that their personal musical histories didn’t seem parallel at first.

“Joseph was way more into electronic, rave and techno stuff, and I would have been the opposite,” says Graves, who came on a few months ago to help round out the Raw Moans sound. “In my past, I was hanging out with skinheads and listening to Oi and reggae music, and we’re supposed to hate ravers. So it’s kind of ironic that we ended up being friends. It was like two different worlds in our past.”

They did, however, bond over their appreciation of ’90s R&B. Vorachack grew up as a first-generation American in Southeast San Diego, listening to almost nothing but top-40 radio since his parents never really bought records. This isn’t immediately noticeable when you listen to Raw Moans tracks like “Aqua Net” and “You’ve Got Mail,” both off their recently released double CD-R album, We Want it Beautiful Not Real // RW RMX. Listen a little closer, though, through the distorted samples and synths, and you’ll hear hints of vintage R. Kelly, Jodeci and Boyz II Men. Graves even likes to brag that he uses the same keyboard as ’90s jazz-funksters Jamiroquai.

Even though they’ll be playing their first live show on Thursday, Oct. 28, they’ve already booked a mini West Coast tour and a winter European tour with Disaro labelmates that includes stops in London, Rome, Paris and Milan. Both anticipate that playing together onstage will help reinvigorate the songs and perhaps even reinvent their sound, whatever people want to label it. “Everything’s kind of blurry still, but it’s taking shape,” Vorachack says.

“The genre doesn’t define the sound,” Graves adds. “We’re not catering to that.”

Raw Moans will do a DJ set at Til-Two (formerly Beauty Bar) on Thursday, Oct. 28. They’ll perform as a band with White Ring, King Dude and Nike 7-Up at Tin Can Ale House on Friday, Oct. 29. myspace.com/rrawmoans