No one likes to hear a successful musician complain about their work or their life.
But that doesn't mean those complaints are without merit.
Christian Wargo — principal songwriter in Poor Moon, the folk-pop band that kicks off Les Schwab Amphitheater's free Summer Sunday Concerts series this weekend (see “If you go”) — is aware of his good fortune, and its relation to his own diligence.
“I really don't have any business being in this industry. I have no musical training,” he said last week in a telephone interview from his home in Seattle, a day after playing Washington's giant Sasquatch! music festival. “So I'm only getting better because I keep doing it. And that's all I'm trying to do is satisfy myself by getting to the next level for me.”
When he emphasizes those last two words — “for me” — you get the sense that Poor Moon is indeed about making music with friends and touring the country and playing for people, but also about Wargo getting back to doing something for himself by playing music on his terms.
You see, for the past four years, Wargo has been a permanent, full-time member of one of the world's best and most popular indie-folk bands, Fleet Foxes, which rocketed to international success on the strength of its 2008 self-titled debut and then released an outstanding sophomore album, “Helplessness Blues,” in 2011.
And while Wargo (and other talented songwriters in the group) contributed to Fleet Foxes' music, there is no question the band is primarily a vehicle for frontman and songwriter Robin Pecknold.
With the Foxes' success came bigger tours, bigger venues, bigger buses, and an increasingly impersonal feel to touring. And that's why, for Wargo, Poor Moon is the perfect antidote right now.
“It has been a real breath of fresh air for us,” he said. “Being in the van together with your bros, you get to see where you're going, as opposed to a bus tour, where you go to bed and then you wake up in the next backstage area and it can be a little monotonous.
“You know, being in charge of getting yourself to the show and finding hotels, it's been fun,” he continued. “We really have enjoyed it a lot. I couldn't actually see myself getting into a bus right now.”
Besides being closer to band mates, touring on a smaller scale also provides more opportunities to meet and make connections with fans, he said.
“In the smaller clubs, (there's) just an energy that you can't quite get when you're playing theaters,” Wargo said. “It's all around just been great. I love it.”
And then, as if he is suddenly hearing himself and seeing you, the reader, rolling your eyes, he further explains how big-time touring, for all its benefits, can also become a grind.
“Getting to the stage where you're playing a lot of theaters and flying everywhere and touring in a bus and having a crew that does the setup for you,” he said, his voice beginning to trail off. “I mean, that's what you ...”
And then: “Everyone's like, 'Oh what do you have to complain about?' But honestly, the thing I have to complain about is boredom. I get bored out of my mind. It's like, I have nothing to do. You can only watch so many back-to-back episodes of 'Game of Thrones' in your bunk.
“Sometimes you just feel like 'Oh my God, what am I going to do today?'” he said. “I like to be busy.”
But enough about Fleet Foxes. Seattle's Subpop Records didn't sign Poor Moon because of another songwriter's skill. Over the past 15 years, Wargo has helmed a number of good bands, including the New Wave-y combo Scientific and the indie-pop outfit Crystal Skulls.
And now rises Poor Moon, which is rooted in Wargo's sharing of songs via email with fellow Fox Casey Wescott and his friends Ian and Peter Murray, two brothers with their own band, The Christmas Cards.
Eventually, the quartet decided to turn their digital exploits into a real band that, so far, has drawn heavily from the “ton” of songs Wargo has stockpiled while busy with Fleet Foxes. Their first release is the five-song “Illusion” EP, which finds Wargo mining a beautifully downcast vein, where fingerpicked guitars flutter around gauzy oohs and aahs. The songs are quiet, but the band injects enough pop and melody to keep things from dragging.
A full-length album is due in August. Beyond that, who knows?
“This group of songs ... has been mostly coming from my bedroom,” Wargo said. “Developing a musical language with a new group of people is difficult. You have to ... have a lot of trust and the ability to communicate musical ideas. So I thought it would be cool to release this stuff and start playing with the band and then see what the future holds in terms of more collaboration and exploration.
“Start off with this batch of songs and then leave yourself some room to become anything.”