The South Austin Moonlighters (SAM) play an eclectic mix of songs, from heartfelt soul to “sh*t-kickin’ country,” and from funky New Orleans funk to raucous rock-n-roll. Somehow it all comes together; creating a magical essence that has earned the band a loyal following.
Some of The Moonlighters have known each other for longer than others. Lonnie Trevino Jr. (Bass) and Phil Bass (Drums) toured together extensively with Monte Montgomery from 2001 to 2003. Josh Zee (Lead Guitar) was Phil Hurley’s (Lead Guitar) first real Austin guitar hero after discovering the Mother Truckers soon after his arrival in town. Hurley made a strong mental note to try to get to play with Lonnie upon witnessing him perform with Deadman for the first time.
The exceptional musicianship and chemistry the band shares were immediately apparent and they began adding original songs to their repertoire of deep cuts and classic covers. The Moonlighters’ collective musical experience (with artists as diverse as Gatemouth Brown, Stephen Bruton, Bo Diddley, Jimmy LaFave, Fastball, Papa Mali, Mike Zitto, Tracy Bonham, Joe Ely, John Popper, and Lisa Loeb) allows them to segue from Memphis blues, to classic Americana, to straight up rock-and-roll, effortlessly…and it insures that no two Moonlighters’ shows are alike.
Aaron Beavers from Shurman was a big part of bringing this group together. All of their groups–Shurman, Deadman, Mother Truckers and Stonehoney–were performing together at Shilah Morrow’s Sin City SXSW 2011 showcase at Maria’s Taco Express. They were all fans of each other’s bands and a part of a unique community, when Lonnie and Aaron had the idea of putting together a side group (where they could all “moonlight” on their steady gigs-thus the band’s name), just for the pure joy of playing music. Lonnie had the guts and connections to book a series of Tuesday evening happy hour gigs at The Saxon Pub and things took off from there.
The joy of music making the band shares is a tangible and contagious part of Moonlighters’ shows, allowing them to quickly build a solid fan base through their Austin residencies. During SxSW 2012, buyers from as far away as Europe were anxious to catch a bit of the South Austin Moonlighters’ “magic”!
Since The Moonlighters first put this idea into motion, Phil Hurley’s group Stonehoney has called it quits, the Mother Truckers are on hiatus and Lonnie has left Deadman. Phil Bass is still rocking periodically with Monte Montgomery, The Whiskey Sisters and other bands.
The inspiration of SAM stems from the band members’ mutual respect and admiration for each other’s skill and mastery of their instrument. Musicians are always seeking out others who inspire them and challenge them to improve. This group is an amazing example of what can happen when you put a bunch of talented guys in one room with an emphasis on joy and no egos involved.