Smile Politely

Exploring the undying spirit of rock music with The Black Moods

Artistic photo of the three members of The Black Moods standing next to each other. The band member on the left is facing left, but his head is turned toward the camera. The middle member is dressed in a white long-sleeved shirt and looking directly at the camera. The member on the right is facing right and looking right.
The Black Moods

From the get-go, there’s an undeniable camaraderie and chemistry between the members of The Black Moods: Josh Kennedy (vocals, guitar), Jordan Hoffman (bass), and Chico Diaz (drums). Their conversation with me is as layered as their music, full of ribbing and laughter, but also thoughtful insights into their creative process and the journey they’ve undertaken together. This band has been a staple in my music-listening diet for the better part of six months, and it was fascinating to hear their take on rock music, the nostalgia of holding a physical manifestation of music, and finding out new music is on the way.

This unlikely fusion of musical influences is crucial to understanding The Black Moods’ sound. Kennedy grew up in the Ozarks, drawing inspiration from country and southern rock legends like Merle Haggard and Creedence Clearwater Revival, while Diaz found his rhythm in the heavier sounds of Tool and bands from the Phoenix industrial rock and metal scene. Rock icons like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Who also have a heavy hand in the hard rock sound of The Black Moods.

The name of the band came from a phrase Kennedy first read in a book about The Doors. It describes Jim Morrison’s unpredictable moods, something that resonated deeply with the band. Kennedy elaborates, “They just referred to Jim as being getting these black moods and he just didn’t know what’s gonna happen. It kind of stuck with me.”

The guitarist for the Black Moods jumping in the air on stage with a packed audience.
The Black Moods

The band also shared that they have been busy in the studio, and they revealed that they have been recording in Los Angeles and have accumulated an album’s worth of songs. The band has also recorded a cover of “Roadhouse Blues” with Robbie Krieger from The Doors, a piece they were excited to release within the next two to three months.

Having toured extensively around the country, I asked the band members to give their perspectives on the current climate of rock music. They actually expressed their love for the current state of rock, highlighting a few new bands that have caught their attention, such as The Blue Stones, Dirty Honey, Plush, and The Warning. Despite some recent grumblings by some that rock is dead, these rockers believe that the genre is more alive now than it’s been in the past decade. “There’s a lot of new bands out there. I love it. I think it’s alive and strong,” said Jordan. “We played with The Blue Stones. They play a little more rock with a modern edge that I really like; it’s kind of groovy. Then we can play with the Dirty Honey guys, who are really good. There are a lot of new bands out there, like the girl bands that are coming out: Plush and The Warning. They’re awesome. I know Warning is from Mexico, but again, I feel like the rock scene around the world is alive and well. I think it’s alive more now than it ever has been like in the past 10 years for sure.”

“And you always hear that shit [rock is dead],” adds Kennedy. “I mean, it’s since the Beatles came over, they always say,  every few years ‘rock is dead, rock is dead’. Somebody writes that shit and whatever. It’s always gonna be there. I’m not concerned anyways. You still go out and you play good music, and you’re good dudes.” This is a sentiment that encapsulates their philosophy—rock is not just a genre; it’s a way of life. Diaz even shared an anecdote about his son, a 16-year-old Led Zeppelin fan, and how it underscores the enduring appeal of rock music, suggesting that it’s far from being lost in the annals of history. 

3 Members of The Black Moods sitting at a wrought iron table, drinking wine at dusk.
The Black Moods

Diaz candidly expressed his frustration with the lack of variety in radio programming. “I listen to radio a lot in Phoenix when I’m there, but on the road, I listen to playlists on Spotify. There’s a lot more new stuff on Spotify that I’ve never heard before, because most radio stations, their formats are the same. We learned this from going to radio: you may have 100 slots per day and there’s only room for 10 new ones for that day. So, you’re still listening to Ozzy Osbourne and you’re listening to great songs, but you’re not hearing anything new.”

Diaz pointed out the diverse music he discovers through streaming platforms like Spotify. In his opinion, there’s more innovation and exciting talent emerging in the rock scene than traditional outlets showcase. “I like what’s coming out. It’s almost surprising how much new talent is out there,” said Diaz.

The band still values traditional radio in their promotional efforts, noting the relationships they’ve forged through appearances on shows like Bob and Tom. Diaz opined, “I think a lot of what we’ve gotten out of radio is developing those relationships with those people because that goes a long way.” Kennedy concurred, recognizing the role of terrestrial radio in helping the band connect with audiences and participate in festivals and radio shows.

We also discussed some of the struggles and changes they faced in the music industry, especially regarding the transition to digital media. Despite the digital music era’s conveniences, lead singer Kennedy and bassist Jordan expressed a shared nostalgia for physical albums and their accompanying liner notes. “I miss the days of…packaging and that kind of thing. I’m a big liner notes guy,” Kennedy confessed, harking back to a time when the tactile experience of handling an album, poring over its artwork, and studying the liner notes was a cherished ritual. However, there’s hope, as Jordan noted: “Vinyl is so popular now, and that gives you the opportunity to express yourself artistically on the liner notes or the album covers.”

Black and white photo of a rock band drummer with his hair flying and his sticks poised to hit his drums. His eyes are closed and he is wearing a black tank top.
The Black Moods

Incidentally, the band just received the first shipment of vinyl LPs for their latest album, Into the Night, and they are available on their website

The group acknowledges that the music industry landscape has drastically changed, with social media playing a pivotal role in band promotion. They have a love-hate relationship with it, understanding its benefits while also lamenting its influence on the industry. “Everybody lives on their phones”, as Kennedy put it succinctly. But despite the changes, their dedication to their music remains the same. They value their craft and that classic rock n’ roll spirit that has propelled them on their journey so far. The band does cater to the very necessary struggle of keeping up with the fast-paced world of social media. “Nowadays it’s just like, if you’re doing anything, film it. If you’re breathing today, film it,” laughed Kennedy, expressing both the challenges and the benefits of social media in promoting their music.

Their live performances are a key element of The Black Moods’ persona. Describing their stage presence, Kennedy describes, “We just play as hard and as emotionally aggressive as we can. As soon as the count-off goes, we just kind of check out and just be in the moment.” Diaz adds that there’s a fair amount of improvisation and impromptu jamming, as their close understanding of each other’s styles enables this organic musical dialogue.

It’s clear that The Black Moods are not just a band, but a brotherhood bound by music. As they continue to mature and evolve their sound, it’s certain that their unique brand of rock and roll will continue to captivate listeners. After all, with every note they play, it’s evident that they are not just making music, they’re living it.

Royal Bliss with The Black Moods and Citizen Soldier
The Castle Theatre
209 E. Washington Street
Th June 1st, 8 p.m.

Music Editor

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