Paige IIsley and Dave Kemper, both of local band MoonRunner, lead practice for their upcoming show Friday at The Blue Note. The group will release a new album at the show.

Justin Pierce/Senior Staff Photographer

Local band launches last album before hiatus

"Epic indie-rock” band MoonRunner will play Friday at The Blue Note.


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The members met at Hickman High School, just a short drive from The Blue Note. From there, they formed a band that would go on to play at venues around Columbia and throughout the Midwest. And on Friday, they will play their last show.

MoonRunner, the band in question, got its name from one of the dystopian New York City gangs in the 1979 cult film “The Warriors.” Comprised of guitarist and vocalist Dave Kemper, guitarist Nate Haynes, drummer Mitch Hughey, bassist Pat Matticker and vocalist Paige Ilsley, the band hesitates to define itself by just one genre, describing its sound as “epic indie-rock.”

The group’s latest album, Evening Fires, is made up of five tracks, all of which are “songs that started with a guy and a guitar,” Kemper says.

This is MoonRunner’s best effort yet, partly due to its high production value and expert mixing. On the opening track, the soulful “This Fire,” Ilsley croons, “All we are / And all we were / All we ever wanted to be / Goes up in flames / In the dead of night / Like a distant memory … This fire’s gonna save us all.”

Haynes takes the lead on the next song, the folk-rock “Sail out on,” a song perfect for dreaming of beaches and warmer weather.

On the heartbreaking but beautiful “Love of Mine,” Ilsley’s back, singing “My weary heart was bound to break / But you can’t say we didn’t try.”

Next up, Jenny Teator, lead vocalist of Jenny Teator & the Fevers, teams up with Kemper on "Calmer Winds," a track reminiscent of a slowed-down Of Monsters and Men-type jam. The closing track, “Western Sky,” finds Ilsley alone again, singing of her “So badly broken heart / Scattered across the interstate.” The album features influences of alternative rock, blue-eyed soul and introspective pop.

The group “used to be more of a party band,” Hughey says. Since its origin, however, the group has gotten deep –– intellectual, even –– yet it still manages to make entertaining music.

After the Friday show, the band members plan to go their separate ways, scattering across the country to places like Kansas City and Austin, Texas. However, Kemper reassures fans that there’s no bad blood.

“There’s no turmoil, no ill will,” Kemper says.

The group says it’s open to playing again as a band, and that it’s more of a “hiatus” than a breakup.

“I like to think of it as ships passing in the night; we’re moving on,” Matticker says.

MoonRunner’s members all think this hiatus period will be good for any potential future music, as it will allow them all to grow and evolve as artists. The band wanted to end on a good note. Judging by the album, available now for streaming and purchase on Bandcamp, the group is ending on several good notes.

Wherever the individual members end up, they’ll always have a sound that’s native to Columbia: quirky, different yet still tinged with Americana.

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